Climate change will hit Israel especially hard, study finds

Drought / Photo: Shutterstock,

The average temperature in Israel is projected to rise 1.2 degrees by 2050.

A new report by the Israel Meteorological Service (IMS) presents for the first time a comprehensive analysis of temperature and precipitation trends, based on data for various areas in Israel, and an analysis of projected climate models for the coming decades. The report states that the average temperature in Israel rose by 1.4 degrees Celsius in 1950-2017, with the past 30 years accounting for the bulk of the increase. According to an optimistic scenario, the average temperature in Israel will rise by a further 0.9 degrees Celsius by 2050; according to a pessimistic scenario in which no action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the increase will be 1.2 degrees Celsius.

An increase in the frequency of hot days and nights, and a decrease in the frequency of cold days and nights, was observed, a trend that is projected to continue. The warming trend is more prominent during the summer, both in past measurements and forecasts, with the Israeli summer becoming hotter every year. The general quantity of precipitation in Israel has fallen over the past 30 years, and reduce by 15-25% by the end of the century, according to the models' prediction, putting Israel's water sources in danger of drying up.

"The findings clearly show that Israel is becoming warmer at a faster pace than the increase in the average global temperature, especially during the summer. The upward trend in the coming decades is also clear. It appears that towards mid-century, the heat burden that we will experience during the summer will be heavy," IMS director general Nir Stav told "Globes." "If moving around in the coastal plain in the August sun causes little pleasure now, in a few decades, when the temperature is one or two degrees hotter, it is liable to be so uncomfortable that we will try to avoid it."

Stav added, "The findings also show an alarming trend in precipitation - a downward trend. There is no significant change between the recent years and mid-century, but in the second half of the century, the trend towards less precipitation will probably gain momentum. Together with the expected population growth, this is not good news for the water sector, and certainly not for agriculture. If the climate has been unfavorable for farmers in recent years, towards the end of the century, agriculture will probably require comprehensive revision in order to continue existing on any significant scale. The water sector will probably be unable to forego very large desalination facilities."

In line with the global warming trend, Israel is also getting warmer, and by an even faster higher rate. According to measurements, the average temperature has been clearly rising since the 1980s. The average increase in the past 30 years was 0.53 degrees Celsius per decade. The increase in the 1990s stood out. Both the long-term warming trend and the short-term trend are statistically significant. The average temperature in 2021-2050 is projected to be 1.5-1.8 degrees Celsius higher than the average in 1961-1990. The average summer temperature in 2021-2050 is projected to be 1.9-2.2 degrees Celsius warmer, and the average winter temperature is projected to be 1.3 degrees Celsius warmer.

A significant increase was found in the number of days in which the maximum temperature was hotter than 30 degrees Celsius. According to climate forecasts, this trend will continue in the coming decades. The number of hot days in the coastal plain is projected to increase by 20 days in the optimistic scenario, and by 40 days if no action is taken to reduce greenhouse gases emissions and limit the increase in temperature.

The economy is not immune

The economy is not immune to the effects of climate change; both the global economy and the Israeli economy will shrink by the end of the century. The effect on agricultural crops is clear; their quantity and quality are liable to be substantially affected. Water sources are also not immune to damage. Salinity and reduced quality of groundwater are expected, and potential water production will fall. The quantity of water in the Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) drainage basin will decrease and the salinity of the water in the lake will change.

The IMS report highlights the urgency of not only cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but also of practical preparations for dealing with the effect of the climate crisis. The cabinet adopted Resolution 4079 last year, "Preparing Israel for Adjustment to Climate Change," in the realization that adjustment is a long-term process. The resolution calls on government ministries to devise an adjustment and preparation plan in order to "reduce the health, environmental, and economic risk, and maximize the benefit from the emerging opportunities."

A climate change administration was created to take responsibility for integrating the work by government ministries in the matter. At present, this administration has no budget or personnel. Former Ministry of Environmental Protection chief scientist Dr. Sinaia Netanyahu, who led the national plan for preparing Israel for adjustment to climate change, says, "Implementation of the plan must be led by led by a climate scientist, and must be budgeted at least for establishing a national think tank that will regularly provide high-resolution data, information, estimates, and research on climate and hydro-climatic issues for government ministries and research agencies in general whose work contributes to understanding of climate changes in Israel and the region. Otherwise, we cannot know how quickly to prepare and what for. This lack of investment borders on irresponsibility on a national scale."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on December 3, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

Drought / Photo: Shutterstock,
Drought / Photo: Shutterstock,
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