Richard H. Schwartz
Vegan, climate change,and social justice activist

Climate Change: An Existential Threat to the U.S., Israel, and the World 

The greatest threat to humanity today is climate change. The world is on a path that would lead to an uninhabitable world by the end of the century unless major changes soon occur. And it might happen much sooner because of positive feedback loops (vicious cycles) that could result in a tipping point when climate change spins out of control.

An outrageous exaggeration, like those in the past that predicted an end to the world? Not according to science academies worldwide, 97% of climate scientists, and virtually all peer-reviewed papers on the issue in respected scientific journals, that argue that climate change is largely caused by human activities and poses great threats to humanity. All the leaders of the 195 nations at the December 2015 Paris Climate Change conference, including Israel and the U.S., agreed that immediate steps must be taken to avert a climate catastrophe and most of the nations pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. While this is an important step forward, climate experts believe that even if, and it is avery big if, all the pledges are kept, it would not be enough to prevent future severe climate disruptions.

A 2018 report by the respected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change argued that there is very little time left to make the major changes needed to prevent climate disasters. A 2018 report from the Trump administration indicated that the world is now on a path that would result in a seven degree Fahrenheit (almost four degree Celsius) increase (since the beginning  of industrialisation) by the end of this century. This is almost four times the current increase of one degree C, and would mean an uninhabitable world.

Another major negative factor is that the Pentagon and other military groups believe that climate change will increase the potential for instability, terrorism and war by reducing access to food and clean water and by causing tens of millions of desperate refuges to flee from droughts, wildfire, floods, storms, and other effects of climate change.

The world is already seeing the many negative effects of climate change. Contrary to the views of many climate-change deniers, the world’s temperature has significantly increased in recent years. Every decade since the 1970s has been warmer than the previous decade and all of the 17 years in the 21st century are among the 18 warmest years since temperature records started being kept in 1880, the only other year in the top being 1998. 2016 was the warmest year globally, breaking the record held previously by 2015 and before that by 2014, the first time that there have been three consecutive years of record world temperatures.


Just as a person with a high fever suffers from many of its effects, there have been many negative effects of the increased global temperature. Polar icecaps and glaciers worldwide have been melting rapidly, faster than scientific projections. This has caused an increase in ocean levels worldwide with the potential for major flooding. Glaciers are “reservoirs in the sky,” providing important water for irrigating cops every spring, so their retreat will be a major threat to future food supplies for an increasing world population.

There has also been an increase in the number and severity of droughts, wildfires, storms and floods. Of course there have always been such climate events but climate change has made them more destructive. For example, there are three climate-related factors that increase the severity of hurricanes:

1. More moisture evaporates in warmer temperatures and warmer air holds more moisture;

2. The seas have risen which increases storm surges; there is already ‘sunny day flooding’ in coastal cities like miami, Florida due to higher tides;

3. The waters are warmer, which adds more energy to storms.

California has been subjected to so many severe climate events recently that its governor, Jerry Brown, stated that “humanity is on a collision course with nature.”

Unfortunately, prospects for the future are truly terrifying. Climate experts believe that we are close to a tipping point where climate change will spiral out of control, with disastrous consequences, unless major positive changes soon occur. The potential for such a tipping point is increased because of self-reinforcing climate events (positive feedback loops). For example, when there are major wildfires, which is happening increasingly in our warmer world, trees which are a sink for CO2, are destroyed and much carbon from the burning trees is released into the atmosphere, increasing the potential for additional wildfires and other climate events. Also when ice, a very good reflected of the sun’s rays melts, the darker soil or water that is revealed absorbs much more of the sun’s energy, causing more ice to melt, starting a potentially very damaging vicious cycle.

Another alarming factor is that, while climate experts believe that 350 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric CO2 is a threshold value for climate stability, the world has now reached 414 ppm, and the CO2 level is continuing to increase, although recently at a slower rate.

Reducing climate change is an especially important issue for Israel as it is in the sixth year of a drought, the Sea of Galilee is at a dangerously low level, a ricing Mediterranean Sea could inundate the coastal plane where much of Israel’s population and infrastructure are located, and an increasingly hot and dry Middle east makes terrorism and war in the region more likely.

Many people believe that climate change has become a political issue, mainly promoted by liberals like Al Gore. However, the conservative group ConservAmerica (, formerly known as “Republicans for Environmental Protection,” is very concerned about climate change threats. They are working to end the denial about climate threats and the urgency of working to avert them on the part of the majority of conservatives, but so far with very limited success.

Given the above, averting a potential climate catastrophe should be a central focus of civilization today, in order to leave a liveable world for future generations. Every aspect of life should be considered. The world has to shift to renewable forms of energy, improve our transportation systems, produce more efficient cars and other means of transportation, produce far less meat and other animal-based foods, and do everything else possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

As president emeritus of Jewish Veg, formerly Jewish Vegetarians of North America, I want to stress the generally unknown or disregarded importance of shifts toward vegetarian and vegan vegan diets. Animal- based agriculture its a major contributor to climate change, largely due to the emission of methane from cows and other farmed animals, since methane is from 72 to 105 times as potent as CO2 per molecule in warming the atmosphere, during the 20 years that the gas is in the atmosphere.

Two studies support this conclusion:

1. A 2006 UN Food and Agriculture Organization study, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” found that livestock agriculture emitted more GHGs, in CO2 equivalents, than all the cars, planes, ships and other means of transportation worldwide combined.

2. A 2009 front-page story in World Watch magazine, “Livestock and Climate Change,” by two environmentalists associated with the World Bank, found that the livestock sector was responsible for at least 51% of all human-induced GHGs.

So, a major shift away from animal-based diets is essential to efforts to avert a climate catastrophe.

Because the threats are so great, it is essential that everyone make this issue a major priority, and make every effort to make dietary and other lifestyle changes, in order to help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path. Unfortunately, “denial is not just a river in Egypt,” and most people today are, in effect, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, as we head toward a giant iceberg.

When I hear of a couple getting married or a baby being born, I wonder how their lives will be affected by our rapidly warming world, with its rising oceans and increasingly severe storms. This is especially relevant to me as I write this as I have happily had three grandchildren married in the past two years.

You would do a great public service by using your excellent writers and editors to help increase awareness of the seriousness of climate threats and the steps necessary to help avert a climate catastrophe.


Sources supporting some of the statements above:

1Article about the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change’s major warning:

2Article about the Trump administration’s statement that the average world temperature will be seven degrees F by the end of the century:

3. Article about the 2015 Paris climate change conference attended by 195 nations:

4Article about the importance of reducing meat consumption to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

5Article about climate change making hurricanes more severe:

6. Article about how positive feedback loops may lead to a disastrous climate tipping point.

     Other sources available upon request.

About the Author
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D., is the author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal our Imperiled Planet, and Mathematics and Global Survival, and over 200 articles and 25 podcasts at He is President Emeritus of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) and President of the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV). He is associate producer of the 2007 documentary “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World.” He is also a Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the College of Staten Island, which is part of the City University of New York.
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