The continued rise in sea levels, which is expected to occur in the current century worldwide due to the expansion of the sea and the melting of glaciers in the world resulting from climate change is a challenge for policymakers in Israel and around the world.
The discussion about this challenge at our doorstep hardly seems to get a place in Israeli public discourse – and worse, it does not receive the attention and preparation of the government and local authorities.
Results of a joint study, conducted by the Rupin Academic Center's Faculty of Marine Sciences and the University of Haifa's School of Marine Sciences on three main beaches along the shores of Israel – Ashdod Beach, Tel Aviv Promenade Beach and Dado Beach in Haifa – show that they will be flooded and disappear as a result of the sea level rising by only 40 cm, something that is expected to happen later in the current century.
"Raising the sea level by only a few tens of centimeters will dramatically change the beaches and landscapes familiar to everyone in Israel. The main conclusion is that we must prepare at the national level and allocate resources for this," warns the study, led by Prof. Dov Tzvieli, head of the Marine Resources Management Program at Rupin. The study was conducted by student Menashe Bitan, under the supervision of Prof. Ehud Shapnir of the University of Haifa.
"The sea will not rise by three to five meters in our time, but rather in a few thousand years," Tzvieli told Maariv. "But by the middle of the current century, the level will rise by 25 cm. compared to 2000. This is the rise that was recorded throughout the [entire] 20th century.
"This comes along with a much more immediate danger that occurs at the same time – when the sea level rises, the waves break closer to shore. Our beaches are flat, so we are exposed to extreme storm surges with waves of more than five meters. We have had four storms that are considered extreme in just twenty years," he said.
"Floods will continue in this generation, and my assessment is that at least one extreme storm will enter our area this year," Tzvieli predicted. "We have not had an extreme storm in five years. In 2001, when it was as dry as today, we caught the biggest storm of recent years."
Although a storm surge does not have the power of a tsunami, which can cause floods a few dozen meters to a hundred meters from the shore, it will have a great impact on the shores of Israel. "If the width of most of our beaches is about 30 meters, then a serious storm is nothing less than an attack – damage of tens of millions of shekels," he said. "It is enough to see the damage done by the extreme storm on the shores of Eilat in March 2020, which no one predicted or prepared for."
The study not only sets a price tag for the lack of preparation but offers decision-makers courses of action, from building hydraulic dams in the sea in front of cities and infrastructure, to tightening the ban on building facilities and infrastructure on the waterfront, improving existing promenades using non-reinforced building materials and more.
"The more storms the beach absorbs, the more vulnerable it will be. A tens-of-centimeter rise in the coming decades means that at a tide of several dozen centimeters, our beaches are already flooded today. Each of these storms will not only destroy restaurants and promenades, but also activities of essential infrastructure facilities, etc.," the professor said.
If you want to reach 2050 ready, you have to start working today – and unfortunately, it is not part of our culture."