Over 100 Leading Israeli Scientists Demand Climate Change Action

Contrary to the image the gas companies try to cultivate, natural gas is very damaging to the environment and to public health, the scientists argue

An aerial view shows the foundation platform of Leviathan natural gas field, in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Haifa, Israel January 31, 2019.
POOL New/ REUTERS

More than 100 senior Israeli scientists submitted a petition to Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz Monday, demanding that Israel stop planning to make the country dependent on natural gas and to focus instead on renewable energy sources.

The letter was signed by Nobel laureates Robert J. (Yisrael) Auman and Dan Shechtman and over 100 other scientists from the environmental and energy fields. The manifesto was drawn up by Prof. Alon Tal of Tel Aviv University. The statement was issued following Steinitz’s declaration in the Knesset Sunday that the country’s goal was that by 2030, 30 percent of the country’s electricity would be “green.” But these scientists say these steps were insufficient given the climate crisis and global changes in the energy market.

The scientists said that today renewable energy is actually less expensive than any other energy source. At the end of 2018, they said, the average cost worldwide to produce 1 megawatt-hour of electricity was $151 for nuclear energy, $102 for coal, $59 for natural gas, $42 for wind turbines and $36 for solar energy.

“That’s the reason that during 2018, 66 percent of the new electric installations throughout the world were for renewable energy and not fossil fuels.” According to the statement, the cost of storing energy, which in the past was an obstacle for increasing the volume of solar energy, has been decreasing.

“The future electricity economy will not scenario of varied production sources, the delivery infrastructures can rely on one another, and combined with the intelligent management of demand there can be an significant improvement in energy efficiency and a broad deployment of inexpensive storage solutions,” the scientists wrote.

As a result, they argue, heavy investment in building power stations based on natural gas is an environmental and economic error.

“Use of the station will end prematurely, while the state will continue to pay the developers for many more years, based on contractual obligations,” they wrote.

Contrary to the image the gas companies try to cultivate, they said, natural gas is very damaging to the environment and to public health.

“During the process of producing, treating and delivering the gas, much higher amounts of methane are emitted than previously estimated. These emissions contain volatile organic substances, some of which are recognized as definite carcinogens.”

The scientists added that 50 countries have committed to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy, “And that was before the recent drop in prices, while sunny Israel remains with low goals.

“The government’s decision to set up a new network of private gas-powered power plants is inconsistent with the current economic trends in the energy market, is an economic risk for the country’s citizens and does not conform to Israel’s international climate change commitments and sustainable development goals,” the scientists said.

“This decision is in effect a commitment of several more decades to technologies and assumptions that are no longer valid regarding the economic advantages of natural gas at the expense of a cleaner, less expensive and more decentralized energy economy in the future.”