Editorial

The Climate Decade in Israel and Everywhere

A child in a gas mask at a protest against evacuating residents from their homes after the Leviathan gas field began operations, December 31, 2019.
Ofer Vaknin

The last day of 2019 epitomized the entire year. In Australia, thousands of people were trapped on the beach after fleeing enormous fires that surrounded them. In Moscow, the municipality had to bring in truckloads of artificial snow to decorate the city, whose residents, even the oldest, say they can’t remember a New Year without snow. And in Israel, natural gas began flowing from a giant field that will be in use for decades.

These three events are interconnected; they’re all related to the climate crisis, which has become tangible over the past year. Storms, floods, droughts, fires, heat waves and cold waves were the lot of people, animals and plants on every continent. For many years, neither the crisis nor humans’ responsibility for it has been a subject of scientific dispute. Climate scientists, scientific agencies, progressive governments worldwide and all international organizations are united in saying that what happened this past year is just the beginning.

The year saw the start of an encouraging awakening among young people and civil-society organizations worldwide, one that pressured governments to address the crisis. But this pressure hasn’t produced sufficient results at the international level. The last UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid dispersed without significant decisions, and conservative, populist governments around the world have avoided dealing with the crisis.

But even against the backdrop of this global inaction, the Israeli government’s apathy regarding the crisis stands out. The Energy Ministry recently promised to increase the proportion of renewable energy to 30 percent by 2030, but this is an embarrassingly low level for a country that presumes to be a leader in technology. Moreover, the government keeps increasing its dependence on fossil fuels, above all natural gas, which began flowing in large quantities Tuesday.

Scientists leave no doubt that in the decade that has begun and the following ones, Israel will face severe economic, social, security and ecological crises stemming from the climate crisis. To cope with this, the government must take action on two levels. It must prepare the country and its infrastructure for the changes this crisis will bring, and join the international effort to prevent it by reducing emissions of planet-warming gases.

Thus, for instance, the government must work quickly to set up infrastructure to produce, store and use renewable energy, while working to rehabilitate natural ecological systems that help moderate the climate. With the beginning of a new year and a new decade, we must ignore the ignorant scoffers and say clearly that this plan of action isn’t just the only chance of ensuring a decent future for our children, but also the government’s obligation to its citizens and humanity as a whole.

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