KKL-JNF at the 2010 Herzliya Conference

Summaries of Mr. Stenzler's and Ms. Karassin's lectures can be found in a previous article. The following is a summary of the additional lectures and the ensuing discussion, which was expertly moderated by the KKL-JNF World Chairman.

February 9, 2010 15:57

kkl. (photo credit: kkl)


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Adapting to a Changing Climate
KKL-JNF World Chairman opened and chaired the special session on climate change at the 2010 Herzliya Conference. 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 the 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.

Summaries of Mr. Stenzler's and Ms. Karassin's lectures can be found in a previous article. The following is a summary of the additional lectures and the ensuing discussion, which was expertly moderated by the KKL-JNF World Chairman.

KKL-JNF and Geo-engineering
Professor Pinhas Alpert, head of the Porter School of Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University, noted that there have already been a number of exceptional climate phenomena over the past couple decades: "Last summer, there were ten straight days that were exceptionally hot. In the past, a heat wave like this might have lasted two or three days at the most. Moreover, there have been a lot of unusual occurrences like this during the past twenty-five years. Rainfall is down, but paradoxically, there are more floods due to large quantities of rain over shorter time periods. Incidentally, one of the few places where annual precipitation has not changed is the northern Negev, and studies have shown that this is directly related to KKL-JNF afforestation activities in that region.

"In the future, we will be hearing more and more about 'geo-engineering', which means human intervention to change the face of the globe. In the most recent edition of 'Nature' magazine, Professor Paul Crutzen recommended seeding the stratosphere with particles that would lessen solar radiation and cause global temperatures to drop. In the past, such ideas were angrily rejected, but today, people are starting to take them seriously. Of course there are great risks in such extreme steps, but this is a reality we have to face. Sometimes geo-engineering is less radical – KKL-JNF's water reservoirs would be a good example. Harvesting floodwater is a smart way of taking advantage of increased flooding on the one hand, and dealing with drier winters on the other. In fact, I would say that KKL-JNF has been unconsciously geo-engineering for quite a while!"

Water Strategies and Israeli Technologies
Professor Arnon Sofer, Chaikin Chair in Geostrategy, Haifa University, spoke about the ramifications of the rising sea level and the increasingly dryer climate for the region: "I just returned from a 48 hour visit to New Delhi, where I met with 120 officers from various Muslim countries. Four months ago, I met many of them at another conference, and they were very cold towards me. This time, they were begging me to visit their countries and to advise them regarding water strategies and Israeli technologies.

"In Israel, the Kinneret and the Dead Sea are drying up. Due to climate change, we have a real problem with illegal immigrants on the Egyptian border who are looking for work in Israel, to the point where this presents a strategic threat. In Egypt, the Nile is drying up and the Mediterranean is rising, which could lead to the displacement of three million people. In Syria and Jordan, the water faucets are dry most of the day. Turkey, on the other hand, which has diverted water from Syria, feels it is strong and a major player in the region, all because of water.

"In my opinion, Israel must extend her hands towards her neighbors. I believe that this crisis provides us with an opportunity to forge ties based on real and immediate needs, overcoming ideologies and past enmities. KKL-JNF, which has greened Israel and helped keep her beautiful, can and should play a major part in this effort."

Adapting to a Changing Climate
Dr. Yeshayahu Bar-Or, Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, spoke about the challenges facing the globe as a result of climate change and how we are adapting to dealing with it: "We are talking about reducing carbon in the atmosphere, which is important for the future. At the present time, we need to adapt, and there is a major question of financing. Another factor influencing climate change politics is the growing rivalry between the United States and China.

"We need to prepare various environmental scenarios, and we need to think about their ramifications for different sectors. For example, if we project an increase in mosquitoes, this will affect soldiers who sleep outside more than urban dwellers who can put screens on their windows. Israel's challenge is to map out possible changes and to create a strategy for dealing with them.

"These changes usually have far-reaching effects and are not only local. Global warming and drying-out means an increase in harmful bugs, which affects agriculture. As a result of the Suez Canal, warmer water has been flowing into the Mediterranean, which has led to previously unheard of amounts of jellyfish. Bacterial diseases proliferate in a warmer atmosphere.

"In the bible, God blessed Abraham that he should be a blessing to other nations. Israel should take full advantage of her knowledge on a local and international level, and KKL-JNF should play a major part in this effort."

In the ensuing discussion, Mr. Stenzler asked the lecturers to relate to specific issues and to answer questions from the audience. The following is a short summary of their responses:

Dr. Or Karassin was asked why it was so important to adapt now, since there will certainly be better and more efficient technologies in the future: "That is called 'mal-adaptation'. We need to take immediate advantage of practical tools, such as urban planning, to prepare for the future. For example, instead of energy consuming air conditioners, homes can be built in ways better suited to the climate. When there is less rainfall, if we let rainfall flow into the ocean, our situation will only get worse. Every reservoir KKL-JNF builds costs a lot of money, but we must allocate funds and resources." When asked if adaptation would not be at the expense of mitigation, she agreed that there was a certain tension between trying to change reality and adapting to it, but "we need to intervene at the seam between the two. There are solutions that are 'win-win'. For example, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels is critical for the atmosphere and also absolutely necessary for the future, since these sources will be depleted in a few decades anyway. Israel has developed a lot of cutting-edge technologies that are being implemented abroad, but for some reason are not being used here. Taking advantage of them in time is not such a drastic change and can be done with less expense now than it will cost in the future."

In response to a question about how climate change would affect our region, Professor Alpert said that all studies agreed that the Mediterranean basin was in for major changes: "The rate of climate change in our region is faster than other regions in the world. With the sea level rising, our coastline will change and we may have to evacuate buildings built on the beach. There is a lot of uncertainty regarding the future, and some scholars believe that things might become worse than what is currently being predicted. Israel does not have the resources to carry out studies on the necessary scale, so we must rely on findings of other countries, and the more experiments carried out now, the better prepared we will be for the future."

Professor Sofer gave an example of how increasing water pressure could have a positive effect on obstinate positions: "In the past, we have offered Jordan desalinated water, which they have refused, insisting on only receiving water from the Kinneret. As the situation in Amman becomes increasingly unbearable, they will have no choice other than to accept desalinated water, which will alleviate some of the pressure on the Kinneret."

Dr. Bar-Or was asked about how the Ministry for Environmental Protection was preparing for climate change: "Unfortunately, the environment has not been very high on Israel's priority list, which means that we haven't been allocated anywhere near the budget we should have. There are maybe one and a half researchers working on adaptation. I do, however, see a change happening, and in the future, as we expand our water reservoir network and build more desalination plants, I believe we will become a model that will be studied by countries throughout the world.'  

KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler concluded the session, wishing everyone "pleasant, not overly hot weather, and lots and lots of rain."

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