My word: a change of weather

About 30 years ago, when I was a relatively young environmental reporter, I had a discussion with my physical uncle about the concept of global warming. After I expressed my concerns, he explained that as the temperature rises in one place, it will cool down in another. I wish I could continue that conversation with my late uncle today.

The term “global warming” is almost extinct, replaced by the more precise but no less threatening “climate change.” And there has been a global shift toward accepting that extreme weather events are felt everywhere. Think of the fatal floods in Germany, the heat wave in Canada, the wildfires in California, and a bit of everything, combined with wild winds, in Australia.

Worse still is what happens when drastic weather events hit poor countries where they are exacerbated by underdeveloped infrastructure, lack of budget and limited means to cope with a disaster. Images of people anywhere in the world facing the most primitive fears of fire or water scream like an emblem of climate change.

This week I remembered the old joke: “Everyone complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” All eyes were on Glasgow, Scotland, where the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, took place.
The idea was to finally do something about it, or as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson put it, echoing teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg: without action, “all those promises will be nothing but blah blah blah.”

An image of Earth is projected at the COP26 summit site in Glasgow, Scotland, Great Britain, on November 1, 2021. (Credit: REUTERS / HANNAH MCKAY)

I’m not a fan of Thunberg, but when Sir David Attenborough speaks, I listen. The 95-year-old nature filmmaker has the perspective, and sense of proportion, that Thunberg lacks. Attenborough’s compelling documentary A Life on Our Planet (available on Netflix) shows how the world has changed in his long life.

At COP26, Attenborough delivered a moving speech in which he said: “Everything we have achieved in the last 10,000 years was made possible by stability during this time. The global temperature has not fluctuated during this period by plus or minus one degree Celsius, until now. Our burning of fossil fuels, our destruction of nature, our focus on industry, construction and learning are releasing carbon into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate and scale. “

Attenborough repeated his theme that the solution lies in using nature “as a key ally” and the need for a new clean industrial revolution.

This idea was warmly welcomed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, dubbing Israel the “Nation of Climate Innovation”.

“As the country with the most start-ups per capita in the world, we must channel our efforts [in]save our world, ”the former high-tech entrepreneur told delegates and repeated later in a meeting with Bill Gates.

Bennett highlighted the government’s “100-step plan”, which includes phasing out carbon by 2025 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, an essential component in the global goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 ° C. He also described the “Green Sandbox”, to provide funds and cut red tape, established in a cabinet decision approved last week.

But watch that moment. The Glasgow climate conference has been on the agenda for years, with many mini-conferences on the way, but the government’s response was hastily approved to allow Bennett to travel to Scotland with something to show. We don’t need more hot air from recycled politicians and slogans. Laws and regulations are worthless if they are not implemented and enforced.

Net zero carbon emissions are very ambitious. But words come easily, especially to a politician who, even with Attenborough’s longevity, does not expect to remain in the Prime Minister’s Residence 30 years from now. And this is the problem that environmental policy often faces, just like other planning policies. Government ministers who cannot be sure of completing even a four-year term in office want to cut as many red ribbons as possible, as soon as possible. This leads to short-term statements and actions rather than strategic steps.

The National Security Council recently adopted the issue of climate change under its auspices, recognizing that drastic changes in the climate, from drought to torrential rains, are indeed a threat and need a comprehensive response. They are disastrous for agriculture, wildlife and marine life, which could wreak havoc on the food chain. They contribute to fires and floods and damage infrastructure. (Already the erosion of the cliffs along the long Mediterranean coastline presents a danger in different places). And at the geopolitical level, the effects include “climate refugees” and the scenarios of wars fought over food and water shortages, even among Israel’s neighbors, cannot be ruled out.

When Johnson met with Bennett, the British prime minister congratulated Israel on the way the country had handled its COVID vaccination campaign and said he wanted the UK boost campaign to “go with Israeli speed.” There is no vaccination for climate change but there are measures that can and should be taken such as: prioritizing renewable energies over fossil fuels, improving energy efficiency and using part of the income from the country’s gas fields to help develop renewable energies and a gradual transition. to green energy.

Israel can be the bright light when it comes to solar energy, desert agriculture and desalination. Public transport must be improved to make it an attractive and viable option over the use of private vehicles. Construction must meet green standards, including green buildings and conservation of green public spaces. As Attenborough pointed out, planting trees is an essential part of the solution. But trees need not be restricted to forests and woodlands like endangered animal species in a zoo.

One of the best ways to contribute to the battle for climate control on an individual level is to cut down on meat and preferably go vegetarian or vegan. Switching to a plant-based diet reduces greenhouse gas emissions (methane is the climate equivalent of gas warfare) and is more efficient than growing food to feed to animals that are then slaughtered for consumption. Israel is blessed with food technology companies working on alternatives to meat.

In a recent interview with me and Gil Hoffman of The Jerusalem Post, the Minister of Environmental Protection, Tamar Zandberg, emphasized: “It is very important to expand the use of solar energy without taking open space … There are some amazing solutions,” he said. , “Including the use of parking lots and even cemeteries, roads and agricultural land. Israel can lead the way with the technology we are developing. ”

Zandberg noted: “The Minister of Energy, Karin Elharrar, and I cooperate on renewable energy. It is part of our obligation not only to Israeli citizens, but to the entire world. ”

Elharrar made headlines at the conference for the wrong reasons when the wheelchair minister was literally left in the cold in Glasgow, where conference organizers had failed to take the necessary steps to ensure accessibility. The British Prime Minister later personally apologized to her.

Shortly before the conference, President Isaac Herzog announced the establishment of the Israel Climate Forum, which is chaired by former MP Dr. Dov Khenin and will operate with Life and Environment, the umbrella organization for environmental groups. The participation of the prime minister and two other ministers in this week’s climate conference is a positive sign, but they need the full backing of Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman. Bennett rushed back from Glasgow to participate in the budget debate. It is a fitting reminder that protecting the environment and fighting climate change are not a matter of left and right.

Caring for the world in which we live and the one we want to leave to future generations should not be the competence of one political field or another. Rain or shine, participating in the fight against climate change shouldn’t be a question of which way the wind is blowing.

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