Editorial |

The House Is Burning, and That's Not a Metaphor

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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Residents watch a forest first move closer in Quilpue, Chile, January 15, 2021.
Residents watch a forest first move closer in Quilpue, Chile, January 15, 2021. Credit: Andres Pina / Aton Chile via AP
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

NASA scientists and the European research organization Copernicus summed up the data last week. As expected, 2020, like all the years before it, ranked as one of the hottest years since such measurements began. It actually shares the title “hottest year ever” with the year 2016. Heat wave, drought, floods and storms were the lot of humanity this past year as well.

There is no reason to think that things will improve in the coming years; if anything, the opposite is true. If almost every year is warmer than the year before, what does that say about the Earth’s climate in another 20 or 30 years? What will life look like in such a world?

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The real meaning of the headline is that humanity is in a state of emergency. The house is burning, and that’s not a metaphor. This insight is slowly penetrating the ranks of the world’s decision makers. Among U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s first decisions was to appoint John Kerry, one of America’s most experienced politicians, as climate czar. The new administration’s economic recovery program is also based on comprehensive moves to adjust the American economy to the climate-crisis era.

Europe also understands that the coronavirus crisis is small potatoes compared to the global climate crisis. Almost all the countries in the progressive world have committed to a sharp reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions during the coming decade and to totally eliminating such emissions by 2050. All this is in addition to plans to adjust to living in the climate-crisis era.

Israel, unfortunately, is lagging behind. A month ago Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared at the 2020 Climate Ambition Summit that Israel was committed to a total transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy by 2050. But this declaration did not include a timetable nor a clear commitment to the quantity of emissions to be reduced.

As of now, based on a cabinet resolution, Israel plans to produce 30 percent of its electricity through renewable energy by the end of the decade – a significantly lower percentage than in other countries. The Environmental Protection Ministry has submitted to the cabinet a much more far-reaching proposal, for an 85 percent reduction in emissions by 2050 and other commitments to be met by 2030, but the proposal has yet to be debated and some government ministries oppose it.

Israel is now in the midst of its fourth election campaign in two years, and as in the past, the climate crisis and its impact is barely mentioned in the campaign or in the parties’ platforms. It’s about time that Israeli politicians study the issue and begin to act swiftly and determinedly, because the house really is on fire.

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

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