Opinion: Good news and bad news on climate change | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Opinion: Good news and bad news on climate change


I have good news and I have bad news.

The good news is that the government is taking climate change really seriously. Truly, it is.

“Effects may be felt in all aspects of life, including: water, public health, agriculture, energy, biodiversity, coastal infrastructure, natural disasters, national security, and more,” warns a government website.

“Climate change will disproportionately affect disadvantaged populations, and those particularly susceptible to extreme weather situations, such as the elderly and the chronically ill.”

Note the wording: “Climate change will disproportionately affect ….”

Not “may,” not “could.”


The government is also to be commended for sending an official delegation in November to Bonn, Germany for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The conference was to work out implementation details related to the 2015 Paris climate agreement. That agreement was the first-ever universal, legally-binding global climate deal.

Yes, it’s all good news. The bad news is I’m not talking about the United States government, the leader of the free world, but about the tiny state of Israel.

The Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection website predicts warming of 0.3 to 0.5 degrees Celsius per decade and a reduction in average precipitation of 1.1-3.7 percent. Israel tells us we can expect an “increase in the frequency and strength of extreme weather events such as heat waves and floods in the Mediterranean region over the next fifty years.”

In contrast, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been dismantling its climate change website, according to media reports.

“This page is being updated,” reads one key gateway page. “Thank you for your interest in this topic. We are currently updating our website to reflect EPA’s priorities ….”

The United States sent a greatly reduced staff to the talks in Bonn, as compared to prior years, and one piece in The New York Times noted a “lack of White House engagement.”

Every nation on earth has signed or announced an intention to sign the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and only the United States has signaled plans to withdraw from it.

But wait a second. Isn’t this a Republican White House? And aren’t Republicans taking a shine to Israel, especially in recent years?

Many of today’s American conservatives are as Zionist as, well, Zionists. Some of it is evangelical enthusiasm, grounded in the Biblical connections between the Jewish people and the land. Some conservative support stems from admiration of Israel’s ability to stand up for itself in a dangerous part of the world. For sure, making the desert bloom and a growing tech sector are an added delight for free-market conservatives. Finally, some conservative enthusiasm for Israel has got to relate to Israel’s Western-style democracy and its shared values with America.

For whatever reason, they love Israel.

Yet so many of these pro-Israel conservatives are relatively unconcerned about climate change, according to public surveys. Hmm. I’d like to think that conservatives, who after all are big believers in conserving, may someday reconsider their position. If Israel has one’s respect on matters of policy, military preparedness and technology, why not give it some cred on its view of climate change science?

At the 2015 climate summit in Paris, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called climate change one of the “pivotal issues of our time.”

Let’s hear it for pivots in our time.

Rob Golub is editor of the Chronicle.

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Climate change conferences

The world’s 2017 climate change conference was held in Bonn, Germany. Fiji presided over the conference with support from Germany. It was officially called the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – or COP23 for short.

At COP21, held in Paris in 2015, the parties negotiated what is known as the Paris agreement, which established specific actions and targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

COP24 is scheduled for December of 2018 in Poland.