The Heschel Center, together with the Porter School of Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University, and the Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Studies (ISEES), initiated a campaign to recruit leading Israeli scientists to publicly declare their support for the implementation of the Paris Accords, and to spur the Israeli government to fulfill our obligations, and to go beyond the required minimum in both mitigation and adaptation. The document received over 500 signatures of leading scientists, and was published in a full page ad in The Marker, Israel’s leading economic supplement. Read the full story.
This was one of the ideas that was spurred by the Heschel Center’s special guest this spring, Prof. Andrew Light, of George Mason University and the World Resource Institute, and former senior climate advisor in the U.S. State Department, and member of the strategic team of the United Nations for negotiations leading to the Paris Accords. In addition to several public lectures, he assisted the group to create a strategy to promote both public engagement with the issue of climate and how to encourage leading academics to take a stand, bringing their knowledge to bear on the direction of public policy.
Here is the English translation of the call for action:
Climate change is not a theoretical scientific matter. It is happening here and now, and its effects are clear and palpable: each of the past forty years has been warmer than the average in the 20th century. The year 2016, for example, was the warmest year in thousands of years, and 2015 and 2014 ranked second and third respectively.
Scientific research shows that the main cause of this change is human activity (industry, transportation, agriculture, waste, etc.). By burning fossil fuels for energy: coal, natural gas and oil, these activities emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, trapping heat and raising the Earth’s temperature.
The scientific evidence is clear: climate change is indeed happening, and human activity is the main cause of this change. Unfortunately, voices around the world calling for the denial of climate change and the human impact on it, and for the return to polluting fossil fuels, have found their way onto Internet platforms and even into the mainstream media in Israel, threatening to roll back the important progress achieved in the long battle to slow down climate change and mitigate its effects.
Climate change has already had dramatic effects on people’s lives, which can be seen in Israel as well: global warming has accelerated the rate of sea level rise and increases the number and intensity of coastal flood events; studies show that winter in Israel is being shortened, the number of rainy days are decreasing, the dry season is lengthening leading to extreme forest fires during the dry winter months. Likewise, the number of extreme rainfall events leading to flooding has increased, while maximum temperatures recorded at day and at night have also risen significantly. These developments will only get worse as the Earth continues to warm.
The State of Israel is by no means immune to the effects of climate change, and without adequate preparation, the economic cost of coping with the effects of climate change will increase. Climate change will adversely affect health, agriculture, water, energy, biodiversity, and more. Climate change will also have both political and security implications, and likely affect stability in the Middle East.
In passing Resolution 2041, the Government of Israel ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, in November 2016. This step subjects Israel to the agreed mechanisms of the Paris Accords, binding the government to act to meet its targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
To slow down climate change we must significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. The best way will be to transition to clean and renewable energy and to reduce the impact of travel and the transport of goods. Besides slowing climate change, reducing emissions will also lead directly to less air pollution, which causes thousands of deaths in Israel every year, and leads to unnecessary illnesses, with costs of billions of shekels every year to the Israeli economy.
Steps to reduce emissions will contribute to the Israeli economy, both directly and indirectly, through economic savings, energy efficiency, energy independence and the narrowing of social gaps. Unfortunately, there is no way to completely stop climate change today, only to slow down the pace of deterioration. At the same time, however, there are huge economic opportunities to be had for Israeli technology, innovation and knowhow. This is an unrivaled opportunity for the “start-up nation” to lead global industry, for example, in the development of desalination technologies, re-use of water and reclamation of effluents, development of plant varieties resistant to drought, heat and salinity, smart and precise farming, innovations in renewable energy production and storage, smart transportation, and more.
In light of all this, we, climate and environmental scientists in Israel, call on the Israeli government to take the following immediate steps:
1. Implement the Paris commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
2. Promote local production and use of renewable energies in Israel.
3. Prepare urgently for the implications of climate change at the national and local levels.
4. Recognize climate change as both an economic and scientific opportunity.
5. Establish a monitoring and reporting mechanism of greenhouse gas emissions.
6. Advance educational efforts to raise public awareness about climate change.
We, the Israeli scientists involved in climate-related research, call for the establishment of an independent scientific committee to advise the Israeli government on the issues of climate change. The committee will be composed of climate and environmental scientists from a wide range of disciplines and research institutions across Israel. The committee will assess global and local impacts of climate change, support the implementation of a science-based government policy, work to advance Israel’s preparedness for climate change and its ability to meet international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We commit ourselves to harnessing the rich and varied knowledge of the scientific community in Israel, the accumulated professional experience of its members, the extensive connections we have made throughout the world- driven by our sincere desire to contribute to Israel’s coping with the challenges presented by climate change.