A Tisha B’Av Message: Will We Again Fail To Heed the Warnings?

Tisha B’Av (the 9th day of the month of Av) which we commemorate this year on July 17 – 18, reminds us that over 2,600 years ago Jews failed to heed the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah about the importance of changing their ways. That failure resulted in the destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem, one of the many tragic things that occurred to Jews on that day, including the later destruction of the second Temple.

      Today there are no prophets like Jeremiah to issue warnings, but we are receiving increasingly dire warnings from climate scientists that now it is not just Jerusalem, but the entire world, that is threatened by climate change and its effects, as the climate may soon spin out of control with disastrous consequences, unless we soon reduce the ways that we are emitting huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

     While climate change is an existential threat, there has not been sufficient attention to it by most people. Unfortunately, “denial is not just a river in Egypt,” and most people today are, in effect, “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, as we head toward a giant iceberg.”

     When I hear of children or grandchildren getting married or of a baby being born, I wonder what kind of world we are passing on to the new couples and children who will have to cope with our rapidly warming world, with its rising oceans and increasingly severe climate events. This is especially relevant to me as I write this as, since my wife and I moved to Israel almost five years ago, we have happily experienced  four grandchildren getting married and the birth of two great grandchildren. 

     Here are nine important reasons why we should all be very concerned about climate change:

1. Science academies worldwide, 97% of climate scientists, and almost all of the thousands of peer-reviewed papers on the issue in respected scientific journals document that climate change is real, is largely caused by human activities, and poses great threats to humanity. All 195 nations at the December 2015 Paris climate change conference agreed that immediate steps must be taken to combat climate change.

2. Every decade since the 1970s has been warmer than the previous decade and all of the 22 hottest years since temperature records were kept in 1880 have been since 1998. 2020 tied 2016 as the warmest year in recorded history, and as I write this, temperatures in the US northwest are so high that they are considered life- threatening.

3. Glaciers worldwide, permafrost, and polar icecaps have been melting rapidly, faster than scientific projections. This has caused rising sea levels with the potential for major flooding of coastal, areas worldwide. . There has already been frequent b“sunny day flooding” in Miami, Florida and other coastal cities.

4. There has been an ALARMING  increase in the frequency and severity of HEATWAVES, droughts, wildfires, storms, floods, and other climate events.

5. California has been subjected to so many severe climate events recently that its former governor, Jerry Brown, stated that, “Humanity is on a collision course with nature.” California serves as an example of how climate change can wreak havoc and what other states can expect in the future if preset trends continue.

6. Many climates experts believe that, due to self-reinforcing feedback loops (vicious cycles), we are close to a tipping point, when climate change will spiral out of control, with disastrous consequences, unless major positive changes soon occur.

7. While many climate scientists think that 350 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric CO2 is a threshold value for climate stability, the world reached 419 ppm in 2021, and it has been increasing by 2 – 3 ppm per year.

8. While climate scientists hope that temperature increases can be limited to no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change. However, this possibility is rapidly vanishing, and  the world is now on track for an increase of at least three degrees Celsius, which would result in great human suffering and significant threats to human civilization.

9. The Pentagon and other military groups warn that climate change will increase the potential for instability, terrorism, and war by reducing access to food and clean water and by causing tens of millions of desperate refugees to flee from droughts, wildfires, floods, storms, and other effects of climate change. 

     Given the above considerations, it is essential that we don’t repeat the mistake made by our ancestors who failed to heed Jeremiah’s warnings, but that we make averting a potential climate catastrophe a central focus of civilization today, in order to leave an inhabitable world for future generations. Every aspect of life should be considered in our efforts. We must shift to renewable forms of energy, improve our transportation systems, produce more efficient cars and other means of transportation, eliminate or at least significantly reduce our consumption of meat, and do everything else possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

     The future of humanity depends on our heeding the current widespread warnings about climate threats and making positive changes very soon.

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