a politically troubled country since its inception in 1948, Israel is nevertheless a progressive nation.
Israel's early commitment to environmentalism is in line with its progressiveness. The Israel Environmental Protection Service was established in 1973, and the Ministry of the Environment, largely responsible for monitoring compliance with the nation's environmental laws, began operating in 1988. The country is also a signatory to many international environmental agreements, including Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, and Ozone Layer Protection. But air and water pollution remain a problem. Israel's power consumption has increased 7.5 percent per year since 1990, the highest rate in the developed world, and its contributions to global warming doubled during the same period.
Although the Climate Change Convention classified Israel as a developing country, its greenhouse gas emissions are on the levels of developed countries. The largest source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is the burning of fuels for energy production, a source that has grown steadily since 1996, Israel's self-selected baseline year for the Kyoto Protocol agreement. Electricity production and road transportation account for more than 80 percent of the nation's CO2 emissions. Ironically, Israel was at the vanguard of solar innovation, using solar water heaters as early as the 1950s. However, little effort has been devoted to using solar energy commercially to generate electricity. A 2006 Yale University study ranks Israel well above the average for its geographical region in both overall environmental health and its Environmental Performance Index, but Israel is still a long way away from meeting targets in CO2 emissions and in its use of renewable energy sources.
Local experts warn that Israel could have 40 percent less water by the end of the 21st century than it had at its start. High-intensity rainstorms may cause runoff of topsoil and water into the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea.
The latter has already experienced major ecological damage. A new report by the Israel Union for Environmental Defense studied the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report and concluded that Israel's annual rainfall could decrease by 20 percent to 30 percent and that rising sea levels caused by the melting of polar icecaps could result in flooding that could devastate the nation's ports, power plants, and residential communities.
A rise in sea levels can also increase salinity, which would endanger Israel's potable water supply. The country opened a new desalinization plant in 2007, which, according to projections, will supply one-third of its water requirements by 2020. But the plant will exact costs as well, since more greenhouse gases will be emitted by the energy required to run the facility.
Israel has approved three new projects that reputedly could reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 150,000 metric tons per year. Israel's status as a developing nation and the Clean Development Mechanism allow the country to sell "the reduction percentage" to developed countries eager to meet their own targets. These projects could mean good news for Israel, the developed countries, and the entrepreneurs who developed the new technologies.
sEE ALso: Clean Development Mechanism; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); Salinity.
BIBLIoGRAPHY. Central Intelligence Agency, "Factbook," www.cia.gov (cited October 2007); Kevin Hillstrom and L.C. Hillstrom, Africa and the Middle East: A Continental Overview of Environmental Issues (ABC-CLIO, 2003); Alanna Mitchell, "Dancing at the Dead Sea" Tracking the World's Environmental Hotspots (University of Chicago Press, 2005); Yale University, "Pilot 2006 Environmental Performance Index," www.yale.edu (cited October 2007).
Wylene Rholetter Auburn University
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