Amidst the welter of ever-worsening news about climate change which has been falling on us like acid rain of late, the recent report of the IPCC, which warned that we have 12 years left to act dramatically to limit climate change to 1.5c sounded more of a wailing siren than a mere alarm bell. What does this mean for Israel, a country located amidst other Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries which many scientists project may soon become uninhabitable?
Well, first let’s back up and briefly canvas the larger picture. The IPCC report warns that we are (at least) on track towards 2c of warming, which will be absolutely catastrophic, ushering in fatally extreme weather, drought, famine, disease, migration, and wars on a massive scale and result in (at least) hundreds of millions of deaths. Please read that again: hundreds of millions of deaths.
Hundreds of millions of deaths (I said it again) because the wealthiest tier of humankind wanted to have a good time for a hundred years or so while ignoring, covering up, or lying about the price all of humanity would pay.
Unfortunately, many scientists think that the IPCC report is overly conservative and optimistic, a necessary result of being the product of a consensus between a thousand scientists who all had to agree to it. Some say we are in fact already on track towards 3-4 degrees of warming and would need to go to zero emissions immediately to have any hope of reigning it in closer to 2c. That amount of warming will radically restructure both the earth ecology and human civilization, along the way rendering much of the planet uninhabitable for humans.
Israel appears to be square in the middle of the uninhabitable zone. One 2016 study on countries in MENA, which typically include Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen, among others, predicts that along current trajectories, “On average… the maximum temperature during the hottest days in the recent past was about 43 °C, which could increase to about 46 °C by the middle of the century and reach almost 50 °C by the end of the century, the latter according to the RCP8.5 (business-as-usual) scenario.”
In that scenario, says the report, “night time temperatures will increase further to above 34 °C by the end of the century.” The “average duration of warm spells is 16 days, with a projected increase to about 80–120 days by the middle of the century, while under the RCP8.5 scenario their number may exceed 200 by the end of the century.” As this terrifying report calmly concludes, “If these projected high temperatures become reality, part of the region may become inhabitable for some species, including humans….”
That’s a summer daytime average of 47c, nighttime of 34c, with warm spells growing from 16 days (harsh) to between 80 and 200 (unbearable for everything that lives).
What does it mean to say that the cradle of three major world religions, and the land of hope and promise for Jews, will become nearly intolerable by 2050 and uninhabitable by 2100, when, for instance, my 6-year-old son is — God willing — an old man?
For anti-Zionists, this will look like poetic justice: Israel will have succeeded in removing or disempowering Palestinian Arabs and establishing a military-technological rightwing Jewish superpower just in time to inherit a desert wasteland no one in their right mind would want. For those Zionists who celebrate the safe refuge and national center Israel has provided for Jews and its amazing cultural and infrastructural accomplishments in creating a largely modern state in 70 years, it will be a tragic blow, a bitter irony. The reaction of religious Jews is anyone’s guess: apocalyptic expectation? Validation of ultra-Orthodox opposition to the state? Loss of faith?
Who knows. What we do know is that addressing climate change is a priority. That’s true for all human beings, of course, but those who consider themselves Zionists should surely be dropping everything and throwing everything they have towards stopping the juggernaut heading toward the land of their dreams.