As part of a global survey, a questionnaire was sent to 14 Israeli government officials in relevant fields. The five who responded admitted to not taking the consequences of rising sea levels into account

רגל שמאל
Bat Galim beach promenade in Haifa. Only Gambia, Liberia, Namibia and Israel do not have a policy regarding the expected rise in water levels.Credit: Rami Shllush

Lee Yaron Oct 9, 2022

A survey of dozens of countries around the world found that Israel and three West African countries – Gambia, Liberia and Namibia – were the only states whose planning policies do not account for the future rise in sea levels caused by climate change.

The survey, which was conducted at Utah State University, examined 51 countries’ level of preparedness for the future rise in sea levels as well as more frequent storms and flooding. The study, the first worldwide survey of its kind, polled 253 practitioners engaged in shoreline planning.

It found that 72 percent of the respondents have formally adopted policies that account for the projected rise in their coastal planning. Another 23 percent reported that they are attempting to make use of such projections but don’t yet have formal policies in place.

Some states are preparing for a range of scenarios based on statistical models, while others are prepared for a single scenario. Some have focused on passing laws requiring the use of sea level projections, while others have merely recommended it.

In Israel, the questionnaire was sent in 2021 to 14 Israeli government officials working in relevant fields. The five who responded admitted to not taking the implications of rising sea levels into account when it comes to policy or planning for construction or infrastructure along the coast.

Mediterranean coast, archive.
Mediterranean coast, archive.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The study was directed by Prof. Daniella Hirschfeld of Utah State University, with the participation of Prof. Michelle Portman of the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning at Haifa’s Technion Israel Institute of Technology and Orly Babitsky, an expert in coastal management and sustainability. It was conducted for an international study due to be published in the coming weeks in the journal Communications Earth & Environment.

A separate Haaretz investigation based on conversations with nearly two dozen scientists and employees in local authorities and government agencies revealed that Prof. Noga Kronfeld-Schor, the chief scientist in Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry, has made an upward revision to the projected rise in the sea level in Israel. The ministry’s latest forecasts suggest that within three decades, significant swaths of Israel’s Mediterranean shoreline are expected to disappear as a result.

“Not everyone can join a community center with a pool, buy a home with views of the sea or take a beach vacation abroad,” Kronfeld-Schor said.

“Sea-level rise is likely to cause flooding, as well as stronger and more frequent extreme weather events.” Portman added. “They damage infrastructure, property, cause instability and collapse of cliffs and the like. The combination of a higher sea and floods from inland will endanger property and life. In addition, contamination of groundwater by polluted and saline water can also occur, which will reduce freshwater sources.”