Eitan Yudilevich
Eitan Yudilevich

How can Israel combat the climate crisis?

Israelis tend to minimize, even ridicule, the country’s potential contribution to combating climate change. The claim is that Israel is a small country, and its reduction of hydrocarbon fuel consumption will not contribute significantly to carbon dioxide emissions and the global warming that results from it. If the attitude in Israel does not change, the country will lose its opportunity to join the global effort necessary to combat climate change and prepare for its imminent effects.

The good news is that the leadership in Israel is changing its tone. Following the meeting with US President Biden, it was reported that PM Bennett said: “one needs to be blind not to see that it’s real” and referred to Israeli technologies that can support the effort to mitigate the effects of climate change. In addition, in a recent meeting with cleantech entrepreneurs hosted by the Ministry of Energy, the PM said: “I want to go for it with all my might, first and foremost by allowing the market to do its thing. The State of Israel must do everything to ensure that your projects are successful, and where we as a government can help – we will act in this way. The field you have chosen is not easy. Still, it is also interesting and has significant economic potential, alongside the fact that it contributes to where we all live and is of global importance. It is our responsibility to leave the planet in a better condition for future generations than we received it, and we will work together to do so.”

It has taken a very long time to realize that the world is facing a severe crisis, and yet, there are still those that doubt that it is the result of human behavior. In the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics announcement, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences explained that Syukuro Manabe and Klauss Hasselman demonstrated decades ago how increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to human emissions lead to increased temperatures on Earth.

There are numerous instances around the globe that demonstrate the severity of the situation. One extreme example is the Yukon River in Alaska, where an unprecedented decline in salmon has caused significant damage to Alaska’s native communities. There have been warnings about the effect of climate change on this giant river (more than 3,000 Km) for some time now, but the fear is that it will continue and the crisis will have an irreversible effect on the food supply of Alaskan Native communities.

Israel has announced its target of reducing the annual carbon emissions by 85% by 2050 (relative to its emissions in 2015). This is an important goal, but Israel’s contribution to climate change can be even more valuable by applying technology and innovation, specifically in the cleantech sector. Advanced technologies that support renewable energy, including storage, cleaner transportation, energy efficiency, energy-water nexus, agrotechnology, and others can significantly impact the effort to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.

The pandemic has taught us an essential lesson about scientific and industrial collaboration. A prime example is the collaborations that led to two of the most widely used vaccines, BioNTech/Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca. A young German company and a university partnered with major pharmaceutical companies to develop and produce vaccines with government support in record time. The acceleration of what had previously been a decades-long process led to a successful response to an existential crisis facing humanity.

Given the urgency of the climate situation, similar to that of the vaccines, only robust and international collaboration will bring about meaningful wide-scale development and the implementation of critical solutions. The role of Israel is obvious: it must apply its comparative advantage in developing innovative technology and, at the same time, set an example by keeping its commitments in the adoption of renewable energies and the reduction of carbon emissions.

About the Author
Dr. Eitan Yudilevich completed his doctoral studies in computers and systems engineering in the field of medical imaging in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He earned his Master's Degree in mathematics at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in electrical engineering at Haifa's Technion. Dr. Yudilevich assumed the Executive Director position at the BIRD Foundation on January 1, 2006.
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