We have five years, maximum, before global warming becomes irreversible.

With the benefit of several thousand years of hindsight, I’d like to suggest that Noah was the luckiest guy on the planet. But not for the reason you might think.

He’s the luckiest because he had 120 years, five generations, to warn and save humanity before the flood waters came. We – the most privileged, powerful, educated, networked and prosperous generation since the dawn of humanity – are not so fortunate.

We have five years, maximum, before global warming becomes irreversible.

In the Torah portion that will be read in Jewish communities this weekend, it is written that God says to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to all flesh, for the earth is filled with lawlessness because of them: I am about to destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark…” (Gen 6:13-14).

And we all know what happens next: the most devastating destruction ever, and by the Creator of the created.

Whatever Noah thought of God during the watery massacre of all those creatures created in God’s image, the text does not hint. His silence, his lack of rebuke, is so startling. Could any of us, even the most apathetic or obedient, not curse God, amid the cries of a drowning world? Noah was no Jew. But Abraham, the first Jew, was only a little better; he argued for the welfare of Sodom and Gemorra but expelled Ishmael and Hagar to the wilderness and came within inches of stabbing Isaac to death.

(We need better role models than these two if we are going to save the world!) Yet even without human rebuke, as the sun began to shine again, God eventually wises up. (Was it the floating corpses of humanity and all animal life?) “Never again,” says the Destroyer, “shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood. Never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Genesis – eerily – 9:11).

Interestingly, there are over 500 ancient Noah-like flood stories from around the world, from many cultures.

The tragedy is not a Jewish story, but a universal one. We have so focused on teaching about all those cute pairs of animals that hop, slither, crawl, stampede, trot and fly into the ark, that lost is the drowned cry of the unlucky millions of the past – and, therefore, their corollary echo in our generation.

To stop the melting of the ice caps, the rising seas, the dramatic increase in extreme weather, the extinction of thousands of species of animals, and killer droughts our atmosphere needs to return to having 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide. We are at 392 parts today, and this number is growing quickly because we burn increasing amounts of fossil fuels.

According to Bill McKibben, the climate expert behind the movement, “We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn.”

Meaning, the world as we know it is going to be washed away if humanity keeps burning oil, coal and gas. (Yes, gas kills; fracking kills).

THIS BRINGS us to this week’s reading from the Prophets, which provides a strong counter-balance to Noah’s complacency. Isaiah is the prophet par excellence: He admonishes people to change their behavior, speaks truth to power, and lifts the spirit of a nation with visions of redemption and covenants.

Specifically, Isaiah says this week that just as God promised that “the waters of Noah nevermore would flood the earth,” (Isaiah 54:9) so does the Creator promise never to abandon Israel. Isaiah is the leading light of “social justice prophets,” and whose “light unto the nations” (Isaiah 42:6) designation imparts on us, as Elie Wiesel teaches, a special burden: the responsibility and privilege to rebel.

Noah is the luckiest guy on the planet.

Yet not for other reason you might think.

Noah had a non-burning source of light.

“Tzohar ta’ase lateyva” (Gen 6:16), which some of the commentators say was a precious jewel that glowed and provided light in the ark.

The future of life on the planet is wrapped up in the number 350. To prevent the “end of the world” by adding more than 350 parts per million carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, there needs to be non-fossil-fueled “rays of light.”

We have today all the renewable technologies necessary to power and light the world, yet missing is Isaiah’s fiery spirit. Noah’s spirit of acquiesce dominates; therefore, the waters are rising.

So let’s rise to the challenge. Are there any prophets or rabbis – indeed, any Jews – out there willing to decree solar power a mitzvah and burning the fossil fuel remnants of lost and drowned worlds an abomination? Or perhaps, within five years, a crime against humanity?

The writer, named recently by CNN as one of the six leading green pioneers worldwide, serves as president of the Arava Power Company, Israel’s leading solar developer. He can be reached at