Israeli Academics Split Over Trump Threat to Leave Climate Pact



June 10, 2017

By Andrew Friedman/TPS

Israeli Academics Split Over Trump Threat to Leave Climate Pact

Israeli climate experts were split last week about the implications of US President Donald Trump’s threat to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.

During last year’s presidential campaign Trump called man-made climate change a “hoax” aimed at harming US businesses. He pledged to pull the United States out of the deal, which was signed at the end of 2015 and requires that signatories reduce their emissions of greenhouse gasses in order to stem global climate change, within his first 100 days in office.

One hundred ninety five countries signed the agreement, with only Syria and Nicaragua abstaining.

“Donald Trump’s decision to annul the United States commitment to reduce greenhouse gasses and to move towards renewable energy sources… is irresponsible and selfish,” said Prof. Yoav Yair, Dean of the School of Sustainability at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. “On the most fundamental level, [the decision to withdraw would] display a short-sighted approach that also does not make economic sense, but rather would answer the needs of the oil and coal lobbies in the United States, which view the Paris agreement as a threat to their future profits. The trend of climate change will continue and perhaps even get worse, and it will exact a very real price from the citizens of the United States, who display selfish blindness and reject their responsibility for their failure to meet the goals set by the accord.

While Yair’s view is certainly the majority view amongst earth scientists, it is far from unanimous. While all experts agree that carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere have spiked in recent decades, some say it is far from conclusive that the rise is responsible for climate change.

“Yes, there has been a sharp rise in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere,” Dr. Nathan Paldor, professor of Dynamical Meteorology and Physical Oceanography at Hebrew University’s Institute of Earth Sciences, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).

“But the greatest period of global warming in the last 150 years occurred between 1910 and 1940, decades before the rise in CO2 emissions. I’ll say something even more far-reaching: In the 1970s, the science community was warning about an impending ice age, similar to the one that wreaked havoc about 18,000 or 20,000 years ago. And in 2007, I read a prediction that by 2013 there would be no more summertime ice left in the Arctic Circle. But what do you know – there’s no ice age, there’s plenty of ice in the Arctic.”

Paldor did not deny outright the notion that global temperatures, on average, have risen in recent decades, but he added that the rise has been far less significant than often presented in public forums, both in terms of the amount of warming and its impact.

“Let’s say temperatures, on average, have risen by a half a degree or a degree,” he said. “If it is anything at all, it isn’t more than that. And look around? The world’s population has grown four-fold over the past 100 or 120 years, and there are now 7.5 billion people on the planet. And everyone’s eating, everyone’s breathing. There’s even evidence to suggest that crops will react well if temperatures rise a little bit, not that they will suffer.

Ultimately, Paldor said from a scientific perspective, Trump’s decision to leave the Paris accord would be an important “victory for sanity.” But he added that in the world of international politics, evidence and facts counts for very little.

“I can tell you that the numbers and empirical evidence simply do not support the notion that there is an impending climate disaster. But there are enough people around – the former president, for example – who are total believers. That creates a political reality, but that is an entirely different set of questions.

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