National Security Council says will ‘coordinate preparatory measures’ following Haaretz investigation revealing that Environment Ministry predicts one-meter rise in sea levels by 2050 due to climate change, possibly decimating Israel’s coastline

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.
The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.Credit: Google Earth

Lee Yaron Sep 20, 2022

Following Haaretz’s investigation into the danger posed to the Israeli coastline by the rapid rise in sea levels, the National Security Council announced that they will “coordinate preparatory measures” and order the writing of attribution scenarios in preparation of the issue. Ministers, mayors and MKs also said that they promise to take action.

On Tuesday morning, a few hours after publication of the investigation, sources in the NSC informed a series of government ministries, including the Defense Ministry and the Environmental Protection Ministry, that they will convene an urgent discussion on the subject in the coming weeks.

This is the first discussion to be held by a government ministry or a security organization on the subject of rising sea levels in Israel. Haaretz learned that senior officials in the NSC have expressed concern at the new forecasts for the rising sea level in the coming decades and the government’s lack of preparedness – and have decided to coordinate the preparation.

“In the context of the Climate and National Security Forum that was recently established in the council, the subject of rising sea level will be analyzed in depth in the coming months, and will include, among other things, determining an attribution scenario, the principles of the national response and so on,” the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed to Haaretz.

On Tuesday morning, during a discussion of the Climate Administration at the Environmental Protection Ministry, many government officials discussed the subject.

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg said that the investigation by Haaretz “illustrates that the climate crisis is one of the greatest risks to Israel. We are issuing a warning and ringing alarm bells to all organizations — we must prepare,” she said. “Already this week I will hold a meeting with the NSC on the subject. We will also promote preparation in the regional councils and the planning authorities, and with Prime Minister [Yair] Lapid,” she added.

The Haaretz investigation, which is based on discussions with over 20 sources in government organizations, local councils and scientists, and on information received from many authorities and government bodies, reveals that the rise in sea levels is expected to be worse than was known until now – and that the government has done nothing to prepare for it.

The mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Ron Huldai, told Haaretz on Tuesday evening in response to the investigation that he is “waiting to receive an official notice regarding the forecasts from the Environmental Protection Ministry. In the event that the official figures really do point to this disturbing trend…I expect the government ministries to prepare seriously for the scenario and to instruct the local authorities accordingly.”

In the coming days, the chief scientist of the Environmental Protection Ministry, Prof. Noga Kronfeld-Schor, is expected to update the government bodies that Israel must prepare for an estimated rise in sea level by a meter (3.28 feet) by 2050, and by 2 to 2.5 meters (6.5-8.2 feet) by 2100.

Herzliya Mayor Moshe Fadlon told Haaretz that the new data proves that climate change-related measures must be “an integral part of any urban activity in all areas of life,” adding that the Herzliya municipality is “operating powerful urban systems in order to meet the pace of the changes arriving at our doorstep and to be prepared for a broad range of scenarios.”

A number of Knesset lawmakers pledged to act on the issue in light of the findings. Meretz MK Mossi Raz told Haaretz that the first proposal he plans to bring up for discussion in the next Knesset will be on the danger of rising sea levels, and that he will advance the establishment of a subcommittee that will deal only with the protection of Israel’s coasts against this danger.

“The investigation shows that the danger of rising sea levels…must be put at the center of the [Knesset’s] plan of action for the next term,” Raz said, listing a number of issues that the Knesset must focus on: “Reducing the use of fossil fuels, switching to renewable energies and preparing to protect the country’s coasts.”

According to the chairman of the environmental lobby, MK Yorai Lahav Hertzanu of the Yesh Atid party, the climate crisis “is the biggest challenge we face and it is one of the biggest threats to members of my generation,” he said.

“The worsening of the forecast for sea level rise in Israel is another one of the [several] dangerous consequences of the climate crisis, and requires urgent preparation by the state. In the upcoming Knesset, I intend to promote the integrated preparation of all the bodies concerned with this – in the government and in local authorities,” Hertzanu said.