THE FUTURE is hot.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The extreme heat we experienced this week provides us with a sad glimpse of what life will be like for future generations in Israel. We can all feel the heat here. We feel it right at the beginning of the summer, on our flesh and in our ever-increasing electricity bills. However, beyond the senses, the memories and the unusual temperature that appears on the thermometer, we must look at the meteorological service’s records to get a good view of climate change in the country.
Meteorological service findings verify the global trend: While global temperatures have increased by an average of one degree Celsius in the past hundred years, in our region, the increase is 1.5° – 50% more than the global average. This particularly serious trend in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin has won us the title of “climate change hot spot.” In just the past 30 years, the average temperature in Israel has increased by 0.5°-0.65°. Over a longer period (1850-2016), the increase ranges from 0.14° to 0.20° per decade. These three trends basically complement each other: the acceleration of global warming, the worsening of climate change and the particular worsening in our region – the Eastern Mediterranean Basin.
The explanation for the acceleration of global warming is complex, but well understood and deciphered by the scientific community: We are burning more and more fossil fuels (natural gas, oil and coal), which are responsible for about two-thirds of human greenhouse gas emissions. If that is not enough, people are also accelerating the destruction of essential ecological systems in the world, such as the large forests being cut down for exploitative industries that use the ground to raise cattle or manufacture palm oil. The result of deforestation is that our world is reabsorbing much less carbon dioxide than it used to.
The acceleration of global warming is accompanied by a worsening of climate change for a very simple reason. Most of the surplus heat in climate change is absorbed by the oceans, which changes the air and water currents, and, in general terms, the entire climate machine. The result is that there are more days of extreme heat, and more drought.
A recent study conducted by a group of Israeli researchers warns that if we don’t start working now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in Israel and around the world, we can expect that toward the end of the 21st century, the summer in Israel will last 49% longer, while the winter will be 56% shorter. Such an increase in the number of hot days compared with the decline in the number of cold days will exacerbate the seriousness of drought and the dangers of wildfires and air pollution. This is a trend in which the average autumn and winter temperatures will be 2.5° higher than what they are today, and where the average minimum temperature will also increase significantly.
Due to the fact that our region is particularly sensitive to climate change, a change in Israel’s policy is not only possible, but necessary. It is essential because the struggle to save the climate does not depend on the relative weight of each country, but on an answer to the following question: Which of the two camps – climate realists or climate skeptics – will succeed in creating a stronger dynamic, which will create clear international norms that will win over the entire international community? Ten years from now, we could be in a situation where there is no new oil or gas drilling anywhere in the world, or in an unprecedented race to turn over every rock to find the fossil fuel underneath it.
Israel is far from being a junior partner in this perspective, and it is worth much more than its 0.2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Israel’s policy, and particularly that of the Energy Ministry, is currently advancing a number of destructive plans: oil shale extraction, fracking, oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean, building a pipeline for gas exports to Europe and planning dozens of power stations fueled by natural gas. In this way, Israel is dramatically strengthening the climate skeptic camp and negatively impacting the global possibility of energy transition.
The writer is Greenpeace Israel’s campaigns manager.
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