Summer in Israel 'may become unbearable' in a few decades

Following alarming report that world will be 1.5°C in next 5 years, director of meteorological service says that in Israel the average temperature already has increased by 1.7°C since the 1970s

Ilana Curiel|
The report of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), published Wednesday, found that the chances of reaching an average increase of 1.5°C by 2027, compared to the situation before the industrial revolution, is almost a foregone conclusion. Unlike the report of the IPCC, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which gives long-term forecasts, the World Meteorological Organization's forecast is for just five years ahead. The reliability of models in such time frames is stronger.
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But what do these forecasts mean for Israel? The Middle East is considered a climatic "hot spot," and temperatures here are already rising at a greater rate.
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Keeping cool on the Tel Aviv beach
Keeping cool on the Tel Aviv beach
Keeping cool on the Tel Aviv beach
(Photo: Moti Kimchi)
"While the world is watching with concern the constantly rising average global temperature, fearing that in the coming years the globe will cross the 1.5°C warming threshold, here in Israel we have long passed it," says the director of the Israel Meteorological Service, Nir Stav. "Our temperatures are rising at a faster rate than the world average – throughout the year and especially in the summer. So far, our average annual temperature has risen by more than 1.7°C compared to the 1970s, and the midday temperature in the summer has already risen by more than 2°C."
He adds that the optimistic scenario of reducing the use of fossil fuels to help stop climate change means that the world is going to continue to warm albeit at a slower rate until at least the end of the century. The pessimistic scenario would see continued consumption of large amounts of fossil fuels so that by the end of the century our summer averages may be higher than those of the 1970s by more than 5°C.
"Summer may become unbearable within a few decades," Stav says.
In the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change, world leaders declared that global warming should be limited to 1.5°C by the end of the 21st century. But we are not expected to meet this commitment.
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מטיילים בגב ימין
מטיילים בגב ימין
Summers are already hotter in Israel
(Photo: Rotem Cohen, Nature and Parks Authority)
"We don't have time," says climate expert Dr. Amir Givati. "We are entering the hot season. In May, we already entered a real summer in Israel. This means there will be more heat waves, extreme weather and record-breaking heat. This report is no longer a historical analysis, but a short-term policy tool. The next five years will not be very rainy. It does not mean that there will be a drought through 2027, but we should expect this situation."
So, why does this happen?
"The frequency of heat waves in recent decades has increased considerably and all the evidence indicates that this trend will continue. Unlike the increase in monthly averages by a few degrees, a heat wave raises the temperature and the heat load considerably above the average. Summer heat in Jerusalem can also raise the temperature at noon from an average of 30°C to 40°C; and in the Beit Shean valley, the valley and the prairie during the summer heat wave can reach temperatures of 50°C," Givati explains.
But we are not the only ones who will suffer more from the heat loads.
Israeli agriculture will suffer from the rise in temperatures and the decrease in precipitation, just like agriculture all over the world. The actual meaning will be an increase in prices.
Professor Ram Fishman, from the Department of Public Policy at Tel Aviv University, who studies the relationship between climate and the economy, says that "all crops are sensitive to high temperatures and extreme heat events. We know this clearly with grains and this is probably also true for fruits and vegetables. If there is damage to the crop, prices will rise."
He continues: "In Israel, as soon as there is a decrease in the local harvest, local prices also rise immediately. If there were no restrictions on imports and exports, it might be possible to absorb it. This does not mean that I believe that imports should be opened, because it could harm Israeli agriculture, but there is a price for this. There is a decrease in the consumption of fruits and vegetables in Israel, and this may worsen the situation. In the end, it depends on whether agriculture knows how to adapt to this situation. And this is something that is still unknown."
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