11/05/2013 1

The conditions could also result in outbreaks of transmissible diseases from pests such as mosquitoes

Rising temperatures and climbing sea levels due to climate change could be putting more than five million Israelis at severe risk, a special Environmental Protection Ministry report has indicated.

The rise of the Mediterranean Sea’s levels as well as the flooding of rivers could gravely impact five million Israelis as water barrels into their communities, the study warned. In addition to the flooding dangers, the conditions could also result in outbreaks of transmissible diseases from pests such as mosquitoes, the report explained. Escalating temperatures combined with population growth will also undoubtedly lead to an increased demand for water from decreasing aquifer supplies, it said.

The report was assembled at the request of the Environmental Protection Ministry by the Knowledge Center for Climate Change, with researchers from the University of Haifa, Tel Aviv University, the Technion and the Shmuel Neaman Institute for National Policy Research.

“Climate changes have for some time already been no longer just a theoretical threat beyond the horizon – it is much closer and much more real,” said Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz.

“They are also not inevitable or predestined, but processes that are influenced by the actions and deeds of human beings, and therefore, we must address this issue seriously and comprehensively in order to contribute our part toward coping with this.”

Within the report are maps that define in detail which areas of cities and the exact streets where flooding will likely occur due to the rising sea and river levels. In Tel Aviv, the flooding could reach up to the Ibn Gvirol Street thoroughfare in the city’s center, while similar problematic events could affect Acre, Haifa, Bat Yam and several other coastal municipalities, the report warned.

About 2.5 million people are located in these seaside risk prone areas, while another 2.8 million also may be in danger due to their proximity to rivers, the study explained.

In order to weaken the impact of extreme weather events, the report recommended erecting barriers against flooding as well as increasing the diameters of drainage pipes so that they can handle greater amounts of water at a time. For every $1 invested in flooding preparation, cities will save about $8 worth of damage and compensation costs, according to the study.

Despite the rising sea levels that climate change brings, reduced rain events and escalating temperatures will reduce available groundwater for an increasingly thirsty population, the report warned. To cope with some of these challenges, the study suggested using treated wastewater for firefighting and for cleaning streets, as well as collecting rainwater from roofs for gardening purposes and spreading messages about the importance of water conservation.

The government should be encouraging green building, which reduces about 30 percent of electricity consumption and 10% of water consumption, the report added.

Potential heat waves in the future could lead to an increased presence of invasive species, such as mosquitoes, which could bring with them malaria outbreaks and intestinal diseases, the study said. The report recommended that all public institutions be properly air conditioned and that the public always receive timely warnings ahead of extreme heat or cold events.

In light of all the potential hazards described in the new report, Peretz has called for an inter-ministerial committee to convene in the near future and address the subject of climate change in Israel, to be led by Environmental Protection Ministry director-general David Lefler. The committee will include senior officials from 16 relevant government ministries, such as the Health Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the Construction and Housing Ministry.

Together, the representatives will determine ways to prepare for ongoing climate change and rising temperatures, in order to reduce and prevent the anticipated damage, the Environment Ministry said.