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Issues of the Day Anxiety and the Weather

After several hours of drizzly rain, I smiled on Tuesday when a break in the clouds revealed a small patch of azure. How lovely blue skies are and what a feeling of peacefulness they bring! But then I hesitated as if dallying in such pleasure might lead to disappointment. After all, it was the first of December and I recalled that just a few short years ago Israel had received nearly all its yearly rain by the end of that month. Winter, a season that normally runs through April in the eastern Mediterranean, had been foreshortened.


Weather-wise, there had been similar departures from the norm since then.


Extreme Weather Events

For example, this autumn Israel had the hottest September ever recorded, which was consistent with the virtual certainty that 2015 will be the hottest year that the planet has known since records have been kept, hotter even than last year, 2014, the previous record-holder. 


In October and November Israel's semi-arid South and the central region of the country were  inundated with rainfall, hail and high winds while the northern part of the country, conforming to the Mediterranean climate type and usually the wettest part of Israel, has been relatively dry.


The rain that has fallen in much of the country so far this year has occurred in cloudbursts that have been short and often violent with ensuing floods that have caused roads to collapse and trash bins to float tens of kilometers from their origins.

We have had strange weather indeed in Israel and the same comment is being heard in many places across the globe. Excessive rain and drought, intensive heat waves and immobilizing snow drifts have become the new norm, disrupting our daily routines.


Heed the Scientists

Against this backdrop, the heads of states and other movers and shakers meeting for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) meeting through December 11 outside of Paris must pay heed to what the scientific community has established well beyond reasonable doubt and what the world's farmers, fishers and others living close to the earth have known for some time: The planet is changing and we will soon be unable to take the basic conditions of our lives, food, water and shelter for granted.


 We may be able to adapt to these changes—if we act decisively to limit the damage already incurred and if we modify our economy, rein in population growth and make cooperation a priority when it comes to managing our shared natural resources. The global commons--water, land, the oceans and the skies, and the flora and fauna that are part along with us of the ecological web--must be jointly and judiciously governed. Our voracious consumption of consumer goods and our throwaway culture must be abandoned.


Our economy and resource consumption since the Industrial Revolution in the late eighteenth century has fundamentally altered the planet in blink of an eye in terms of the geologic time scale. Our activities have modified our world as profoundly as geological, hydrological and atmospheric forces have. We have entered the Anthropocene, but whereas previous epochs provided for the continuation and evolution of life, the one we have produced contains the seeds of its destruction, not in the distant future but within generations.


An Enormous s Responsibility

Today, species loss is estimated to be occurring thousands of times faster than the natural background rate, including the loss of many species that have been destroyed even before they have been discovered or documented. 


It is possible, then, that unless the warming climate and other examples of global change – habitat destruction, acidification of the world's oceans, destruction of reefs, desertification and other forms of land degradation, among others – is not halted, life on this planet, the only place we know it to exist, could be extinguished.


That is an awful thought and our responsibility is enormous. 

© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved