The Environmental Protection Ministry's chief scientist hopes to present a report to the government within a year detailing the effect of global warming on Israel.
Dr. Yehoshua Bar-Or said Wednesday the report would explain "what the effect is, what information we still need to get, as well as offer recommendations." He spoke during the third annual conference on Environmental Pollution and Your Health, sponsored by Hadassah-Israel and Hadassah College Jerusalem.
This year's topic was "Global Warming - Fact or Fiction and How to Fix It?"
Despite the conference's title, it became apparent that the debate over global warming is effectively past and the disbelievers are in the distinct minority. Although one panel devoted two of four spots to skeptics, prompting Prof. Alon Tal to charge that the representation was "disproportionate and inappropriate," it was clear that both the audience and most of the speakers believed the question was no longer whether global warming exists, but what to do about it. Even the skeptics, Professors Nathan Paldor and Nir Shaviv of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, devoted their presentations to trying to show that the data do not prove a correlation between human action and global warming rather than disputing that such a phenomenon is indeed occurring.
Shaviv, a professor of physics, said the real cause of the rising temperatures seen across the world is totally natural and has been around for billions of years - the sun. He theorized that the sun was affecting the Earth's cloud cover, making things hotter on the ground.
He was perturbed by the lack of scientific causal evidence linking global warming to human activity.
"There is no fingerprint. There is no way to trace the carbon dioxide problems to humans," Shaviv told the 150-strong audience, composed mostly of older women.
"The atmosphere should be heating up much more than it is. Just the ground is heating up right now," Shaviv said.
He believes we might be experiencing a natural heating up of the Earth, as has occurred before.
"The Vikings could sail to Greenland and name it that because the Earth was as hot then as it is now. The seas were a quarter of a meter to a meter higher then than they are now," he said.
Tal, founder of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam Teva V'Din) and a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, was quick to dismiss the critics.
"The evidence is overwhelming and accepted across the globe," he said.
He explained the strategy the Jewish National Fund was exploring to combat global warming.
"A year ago, the JNF started to think about operationalizing carbon sequestration," Tal said, a member of the organization's board.
Carbon sequestration is the processes that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon is captured and stored both artificially and naturally. The ocean and photosynthetic plants are natural carbon sequestration "sinks."
"One thing the JNF does well is plant trees. However, in order to get carbon credits one must show additionality - not just replacement," Tal said. Carbon credits emerged out of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Credits offset a country's emissions record or can be sold in special markets if the offset is unneeded.
"The process is not as easy as [former US vice president] Al Gore makes it seem. but it is possible," Tal said. Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth was screened at the beginning of the conference.
The second group of panelists was much less concerned with the debate surrounding global warming theory. They were all practitioners rather than scientists and focused on ways to reduce the phenomenon.
Dr. Miki Haran, head of the MBA Environmental Management Specialization at Ono Academic College, set out to show how Israel is uniquely suited to developing solutions.
Haran claimed reducing greenhouse gases was invariably profitable for all sorts of industries. Furthermore, she brought statistics that showed Israel already has many established companies, as well as start-ups working on these kinds of projects.
"In the water industry, there are 270 companies and 60 start-ups active in the field in Israel," she said.
Tzipi Iser Itzik, executive director of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, said Israel could suffer disproportionately from global warming. Research studies show that Mediterranean summers are expected to get much hotter in a shorter amount of time than the rest of the world.
In addition, "if Israel joins the OECD, then it will have to take on obligations to reduce greenhouse gases," she said.
Reducing greenhouse gases also reduces local pollution, Iser Itzik said.
Finally, she suggested several practical ways Israelis could reduce the 10 tons of carbon they each add to the atmosphere per year.
Her recommendations: Replacing regular light bulbs with environment-friendly ones; making sure your car is in working order; forgoing the car for a bike; using less hot water; recycling; and buying in bulk, which reduces the amount of packaging that ends up in landfills.