Sever Plocker
Our 'green' mission
Israel should spearhead effort to discover oil alternative, fight global warming
One element is responsible for global warming and all its negative implications: Oil. The burning of oil in order to create energy emits into the atmosphere a huge quantity of polluting gases, which create the "Greenhouse Effect.": Their accumulation in the air creates above us a sort of a "greenhouse roof" that prevents the earth's heat from continuing to the depths of the universe.


An ongoing global discussion is taking place regarding the rate of global warming we had experienced so far and can still expect, as well
as its implication on humanity's way of life. With the exception of radicals on one end and a bunch of blind people on the other end, general agreement is being formulated within the community of scientists and researchers: The negative climate change is not insignificant, it is not a result of an unavoidable natural disaster, and if we fail to address it soon, it may lead to the destruction of wide parts of civilization the way we know it.


The scientific consensus is reflected and expressed by the two parts of the Fourth Assessment Report on climate changes, published by the United Nation's Climate Panel – the first one in February in Paris and the second one over the last weekend in Brussels. The first part outlined the likely – and less likely – scenarios regarding climate change until the end of the century, based on two types of assumptions: Ones regarding the socioeconomic regime that would be prevalent on earth, as well as assumptions regarding greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The second part outlines, in general terms, the physical results of global warming scenarios.


The scientists and politicians managed to agree, following nights of arguments over every character in the report, that the overall balance of climate changes is negative for most of humanity (with the exception of residents of the coldest and northernmost areas) and for most flora and fauna.


More than anyone else, global warming will hurt "the poorest of the poor" residing in wretched geographical regions of Africa, Latin American, and in East and Southeast Asia. In the next dozens of years they can expect long dry spells, advancing desertification and a shortage of clean drinking water on the one hand – as well as storms, hurricanes, and floods on the other hand.


The report's third part will be published at the beginning of May and detail the approaches humanity must adopt in order to achieve two objectives: Adapt to the climate changes that have already taken place, or that will very likely take place in the coming decade – and thwart the realization of destructive scenarios at the end of the 21st century. Millions of words are expected to be written and uttered about these two subjects – adaptation and prevention.


Residents of the West can expect to receive advice on how to cut down on pollution by shifting from plastic bags to paper bags or the other way around, and how to feel good about purchasing a vehicle that runs on corn oil, even though its production requires much energy and raises the price of corn meant for consumption.


All of this, to be honest, is completely minor. The only significant change that would thwart – within a short period of time, in our own lifetime – the trend of global warming would be an alternative energy source that is cheap and non-polluting that would replace oil.


Simple geopolitical equation

Such energy source has not yet been discovered or invented. Governments, businesses, and individuals are investing hundreds of billions of dollars in Internet ventures (with the Internet itself being a heavy consumer of electricity and oil) and only a few billions on finding oil alternatives.


Environmental activists are demonstrating, justifiably, against the Bush Administration and demand that he adopt strict standards when it comes to gas emissions, but only few of them, if at all, also protest in favor of diverting resources, as well as scientific thinking and creativity, to search for an energy source that would free the world once and for all from the dependence on oil – and turn oil into an unnecessary natural resource.


Here, Israel can come into the picture. In the struggle to thwart the current global warming, our national interest and humanity's interest are completely commensurate. The geopolitical equation is very simple: The less oil the world burns, the less money it would be transferring to Israel's enemies, thus weakening them and their ability to threaten us.


With a price tag of USD 40 to 60 per barrel, Muslim oil-exporting countries have already accumulated about USD 2,000 billion currency reserves, and there is no doubt they shall be using this wealth in order to advance their objectives. With an oil barrel costing 8 dollars, Iran would not even be able, economically, to dream about developing nuclear weapons; Islamic zealots in Saudi Arabia would not be able to afford to transfer huge sums to Hamas; and Hugo Chavez would not be bothering himself with condemning Zionism, because Venezuela's citizens would have kicked him out of office by now.


The disappearance of oil as the main global energy source would also make the weapon of oil, which in the past has been directed mostly at us, disappear.


Israel consumes too much energy relative to its economic profile; we do not save on electricity, we fail to make use of sunlight, and we do not encourage use of transportation means that do not devour oil. There is much that can be done in those areas, and Shari Arison should be praised for her noble intentions to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in various ecological businesses.


Yet beyond climate economics, we have climate politics – and there, Israel's voice is not adequately heard. I do not see us – and we do not lack the elbows – pushing our way to the top of the global climate outcry and leaving our mark on it. New York Times Journalist Tom Friedman called on the US president many times to initiate a comprehensive research project that aims to seek an alternative for oil, and compared its necessity to the Manhattan Project – the development of the American nuclear bomb against the Nazis.


President Bush did not take Friedman's advice, of course; however, Israel's leaders can take it.


Israel's image in the world is very bad. No action that we take today would reward us with international opinion sympathy aside from one dramatic move: Earmarking an Israeli budget of two to three billion dollars to investment in research aimed at finding an alternative to oil that would save humanity from the terrible warming of the earth.


Israeli universities can be the centers of thought and research in those areas; today we are a wealthy country and we can afford to carry the banner of global search for oil alternatives.


Our scientists, thinkers, researchers, and economists can and should spearhead the struggle for the climate, because this is also a struggle for the State of Israel and against its enemies. We can, and we must do so: Make the "green" effort blue and white. 


 new comment
See all talkbacks "Our 'green' mission"
This will delete your current comment