Analysis: The recent nationwide storms, heavy rains and flooding are all signs of a growing problem, and while its effects were once barely felt by most, the life-threatening consequences are now inescapable and our leaders need to act

Prof. Adi Wolfson | Published: 12.05.20

After an exceedingly hot summer, Israel’s rainy season finally got underway last month.

Each bout of rainfall has so far proven to be stronger than the one that came before – as reports of floods and damage to property become more and more common during and after each.

הצפות בחיפה
Flooding in Haifa after the heavy rain in November
(Photo: Dudi Mayblum)

In less than a month, Israel experienced four heavy rain storms across the country, each wreaking havoc, creating floods and necessitating rescue of civilians. Between November 18 and 19, more than 200 millimeters of rain fell in northern Israel, and on November 18 alone approximately 100-50 mm of rain fell in several parts of the country.During the entire month heavy rainfall across the country exceeded the annual average by 150-300%. While in various areas of the coastal plain the amount of rainfall reached only about 30-40% of the annual average, this is still a rather large amount since we are only the start of winter.

נחל ערוגות
Flooding near Arugot Stream close to Dead Sea on Saturday afternoon
(Photo: Yotam Sinai )

Therefore, whenever meteorologists predict rain they also warn of flooding, not only in streams in the north or south, but also in Israel’s coastal cities, whose infrastructure simply cannot cope with so much rainfall in so little time.The excessive rain and the floods and the very real dangers they pose to human lives are all merely symptoms of a much larger danger: climate crisis.Warnings of climate change and global warming started immediately after the beginning of the Industrial Revolution somewhere in the 18th century – though real research into the issue started only about 20 years ago.

הצפות בהרצליה
Rescue personnel helping stranded Israelis in Herzliya
(Photo: The National Fire and Rescue Authority)

Concern over climate change and its consequences led the United Nations to sign the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. It was the first international legal agreement requiring signatory countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their territory.The U.S. was noticeably absent from the agreement, while China and India – who were categorized as developing countries at the time – were not forced to abide by it.Almost two decades later, in 2015, a new international contract – the Paris Agreement – was formulated after lengthy discussions, with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reduce global warming.

Israelis attend a 2019 climate change protest in Tel Aviv
Israelis attend a 2019 climate change protest in Tel Aviv
(Photo: Moti Kimchi)

Yet despite the apparent concern of world leaders and climate professionals, greenhouse gas emissions only increased.Until recently, the signs of global warming was barely felt by most people. Lately, however, predictions that seemed apocalyptic at the time are apparently coming true to the extent that they are hard to ignore.There are widespread fires in all corner of the globe, as well as rising temperatures and violent strong storms that are creating waves of immigration and greater risk of epidemics.Unlike outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump, who vehemently denied the climate crisis, his successor Joe Biden has declared his commitment to tackling the climate crisis, appointing former secretary of state John Kerry to head this mission.

Israel’s government has recognized the climate crisis, a ministerial committee has even been formed and a national plan drafted in order to better prepare the populace for any upcoming climate changes.Despite this, everything more or less stays the same, with nothing really coming to fruition.

Now is the time for our leaders to understand that aside from Iran, Hamas and the coronavirus pandemic, they must also take action on the threats posed by the climate crisis.