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April 22, 2021 3:09 pm

Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection Urges Action on ‘National Security Threat of the Climate Crisis’ in Earth Day Report

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avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

The coast of Tel Aviv, Israel from the air. Photo: Ted Eytan.

Climate change represents a looming strategic threat to Israel and the Middle East region, and action must be taken quickly in order to counteract its worst effects, Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a new report published Thursday in honor of Earth Day.

Israeli news site N12 reported that the document covers every aspect of the climate crisis — including rising temperatures and sea levels, increasing drought, and more frequent natural disasters — and makes recommendations for counteracting its effects.

Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel commented, “The report we publish today shows that in order to bring about the necessary preparations and protect property, infrastructure, and the environment, the government must recognize the national security threat of the climate crisis.”

The report predicts that by the end of the century, average temperatures in the region will rise by around four degrees. Israel’s average temperature, says the report, has already risen by 1.4 degrees since 1950, and will rise by another degree by 2050. As a result, the number of rainy days has been consistently falling, and will eventually cause a reduction in precipitation of between 10-20%.

Extreme weather events will become more common, it also said. There will be prolonged heat waves, sporadic major precipitation events, a change in the distribution of these events, and long dry seasons. Droughts and wildfires will become more frequent.

Israel’s coastal waters will also be changing. The temperature of the Mediterranean Sea has already risen 0.13 degrees per year over the last 40 years. Rising sea levels will cause changes in the shoreline and narrowing of beaches, as well as flooding of shallow coastal areas and salinization of rivers and the coastal aquifer.

The Environmental Protection Ministry’s report makes several recommendations for how the government should deal with these increasing environmental threats.

The first is to define climate change as a national security threat and formulate a master plan to deal with its effects. Local governments should be supported in making their own preparations, as well.

The report calls for a risk assessment regarding all aspects of the climate crisis, and especially in regard to various effects on the economy. Economic planning and investment should take climate change into account, and seek to reduce the potential costs of dealing with it. Policies adopted to do this must be properly budgeted and coordinated between various ministries.

Education on climate change should be initiated at the national level, including proper curricula from kindergarten to university, in order to increase awareness of the crisis. In tandem, scientific knowledge and research into the problem should be promoted.

In the short term, says the Ministry, a budget of NIS 2.5 billion (approximately $770 million) should be allocated in order to undertake the first stages of implementing the report’s recommendations.

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