Startup Nation? Not on Climate

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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People at the beach in Tel Aviv in May.
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

What will Prime Minister Naftali Bennett say at his first White House meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden when the latter asks him, worriedly, about Israel’s meager climate targets (a 27 percent reduction in warming emissions by 2030, compared to an American target of 50 percent)?

What will he stammer when the president tries to understand why Israel, a country with a very large number of sunny days, hasn’t managed to meet even its own modest goals for transitioning to renewable energy (6 percent of our electricity was produced from renewable sources at the end of 2019, while the goal was 10 percent)? Will he wriggle uncomfortably when Biden reminds him that chilly Finland has already reached 43.1 percent, while the Swedes are at 56.4 percent?

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In addition to trotting out shopworn slogans like “We’re mobilizing our best high-tech brains on this issue,” Bennett will presumably hide the sorry, embarrassing truth: We don’t even have a computer. Lee Yaron reports that unlike other Western countries, Israel has no reliable forecast of the changes the climate crisis will produce within its borders, because the government hasn’t provided the Meteorological Service with the computing power needed to make such a forecast.

Yes, a high-tech powerhouse hasn’t managed to find $5 million to produce what Nir Stav, the director of the Meteorological Service, described as “a precise database that could be used to make decisions and estimate the damage the climate crisis will cause in Israel – droughts, floods, extreme weather incidents and changes in rainfall patterns.”

In fact, while other countries use models that allow changes to be predicted with a resolution of less than 10 kilometers, Israel’s Meteorological Service is forced to use crude models from a decade ago, which have a resolution of 50 kilometers and have virtually disappeared from use elsewhere in the West.

The missing computer is an allegory for successive governments’ negligent handling of everything connected with the climate crisis. In another four months, a global climate conference will be held in Glasgow. If Bennett doesn’t want to embarrass himself, he should make sure to pass a climate bill and a carbon tax by November. Both steps are essential to effect real change. And he should do so not only because of international pressure, but first and foremost for the sake of all Israelis.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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