(photo credit: HerzliyaConf2)
According to KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, "the fact that the Herzliya Conference chose to devote an entire session to adaptation to climate change is indicative of how high this matter is on the national and international priority list." Mr. Stenzler opened and chaired the special session on Wednesday, February 3, 2010. The lecturers included Dr. Or Karassin, head of the Law and the Environment Program at Sapir Academic College School of Law and a member of KKL-JNF Board of Directors; Professor Pinhas Alpert, head of the Porter School of Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University; Professor Arnon Sofer, Chaikin Chair in Geostrategy, Haifa University; and Dr. Yeshayahu Bar-Or, Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
"At the recent Copenhagen Conference," Stenzler continued, "Israel committed itself to a 20% reduction in carbon emissions by my opinion, the current crisis also presents environmental and economic opportunities. Israel has become a center of innovative technologies and alternative energy sources. KKL-JNF's experience can contribute to the world in the fields of water development, afforestation in semi-arid regions and combating desertification, to mention only a few.
"Desertification is what happens when agricultural lands that were previously productive are no longer fruitful as the result of human mismanagement, for example, overgrazing. When there is less or no vegetation, the land is exposed to erosion and people lose their livelihoods. KKL-JNF invests resources in restoring land that underwent a desertification process, making use of the findings of the world's leading scientists and international organizations that we have special ties with, such as the United States Forestry Service. These achievements echo beyond Israel's borders – groups from abroad come to Israel to study our methods, while KKL-JNF personnel are invited abroad to share their knowledge
and to learn from their colleagues.
"In terms of desert afforestation, we have made tremendous progress. Yatir Forest, which is located in a semi-arid region, is the only forest of its kind in the world. With all due modesty, I can say that KKL-JNF has become a world power in this field. Research conducted by Professor Dan Yakir of the Weizmann Institute in conjunction with KKL-JNF found that Yatir Forest is responsible for the sequestration of of carbon per dunam, as compared to 200 kilograms per dunam in European forests. This means that deserts can be forested throughout the world, which would have a very significant effect on global warming.
"As for water, at the present time we are completing the construction of our 217th reservoir. Building reservoirs is very expensive but well worth the investment. Some of the reservoirs harvest floodwaters, while others store recycled effluents, sometimes refilling twice a year. KKL-JNF can truly said to be 'Israel's fourth aquifer.' This year, we provided 50% of the water Israel used for agricultural purposes.
"In the future, nations will be fighting over resources. Water is
one of the most important resources. Exporting KKL-JNF's knowledge and
expertise can provide answers to desertification processes and climate
change. In a world that is increasingly hungry and thirsty,
implementing our methods can help alleviate present and future crises
and make a significant contribution to Israel's international stature.
Dr. Or Karassin
, head of the
Law and the Environment Program at Sapir Academic College School of Law
of and a member of KKL-JNF Board of Directors, emphasized that climate
change was already a reality: "Today we must be thinking about how to
reorganize in order to address climate change, what we call
Geo-adaptation. We still have the choice whether to adapt before major
changes ensue or only afterwards.
"I would present four arguments:
1. Adaptation cannot be postponed because of mitigation efforts. It
is already too late to avoid climate change, and all the recently
signed international agreements take this into account. Israel is not
really a major player in the international arena, so we cannot affect
climate change, but we must begin making the necessary changes to adapt
2. Adaptation is not only a priority for developing countries; it must also be addressed by developed countries.
3. Adaptation costs money, a lot of it. However, according to a
study published by Lord Stern in Britain, if we adapt before climate
change hits, it will cost 5% of the GNP, as compared to 20% after the
4. It is imperative to determine policy and means of regulation in
terms of governments and governance. There is no time for autonomous
adaptation, which is a natural process. Adaptation strategy must be set
in motion and the necessary budgets allocated for its implementation.
In Australia, this process has already begun. Israel must also face
reality and join global adaptation initiatives."
The conference continued with the presentations of the remaining
distinguished lecturers, followed by a question and answer session
expertly moderated by Mr. Stenzler. We will soon be publishing a
detailed review of their lectures and the ensuing discussion.