Friday, December 21, 2007

Tel Aviv joins Earth Hour

Tel Aviv became the first Israeli city to join Earth Hour, a worldwide campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The initiative, which began with a blackout for one hour in Sydney, Australia, last March, aims to go global on Saturday, March 29, 2008, at 8 P.M. Twelve cities pledged this week to turn out their lights. Tel Aviv will be joined by four cities in Denmark, three cities in Australia, Manilla and the Philippines, Suva in Fiji, Toronto and Chicago.

“We are now at the point in time where we can no longer postpone the issue of climate change. Earth Hour is a beginning, and every city to join can help make a difference by taking responsibility to reduce emissions,” Tel Aviv’s mayor, Ron Huldai, said in a statement.

Earth Hour is an initiative of the World Wildlife Fund. During the inaugural Earth Hour last March, the lights of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge were switched off as 2.2 million Australians did the same in their homes, which reduced energy consumption by about 10 percent.

This article can be found on the JTA website.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Letter From Al Gore - Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance

Here is a letter recieved by JNF earlier this week:

I wanted to share with you my speech from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. Check for video of the event later today.

Thank you,

Al Gore

DECEMBER 10, 2007

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honorable members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen.

I have a purpose here today. It is a purpose I have tried to serve for many years. I have prayed that God would show me a way to accomplish it.

Sometimes, without warning, the future knocks on our door with a precious and painful vision of what might be. One hundred and nineteen years ago, a wealthy inventor read his own obituary, mistakenly published years before his death. Wrongly believing the inventor had just died, a newspaper printed a harsh judgment of his life’s work, unfairly labeling him “The Merchant of Death” because of his invention – dynamite. Shaken by this condemnation, the inventor made a fateful choice to serve the cause of peace.

Seven years later, Alfred Nobel created this prize and the others that bear his name.

Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken – if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose.

Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here. Even though I fear my words cannot match this moment, I pray what I am feeling in my heart will be communicated clearly enough that those who hear me will say, “We must act.”

The distinguished scientists with whom it is the greatest honor of my life to share this award have laid before us a choice between two different futures – a choice that to my ears echoes the words of an ancient prophet: “Life or death, blessings or curses. Therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”

We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency – a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst – though not all – of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.

However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world’s leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolf Hitler’s threat: “They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent.”

So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.

As a result, the earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third. And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm, is that something basic is wrong.

We are what is wrong, and we must make it right.

Last September 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is “falling off a cliff.” One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.

Seven years from now.

In the last few months, it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter. Major cities in North and South America, Asia and Australia are nearly out of water due to massive droughts and melting glaciers. Desperate farmers are losing their livelihoods. Peoples in the frozen Arctic and on low-lying Pacific islands are planning evacuations of places they have long called home. Unprecedented wildfires have forced a half million people from their homes in one country and caused a national emergency that almost brought down the government in another. Climate refugees have migrated into areas already inhabited by people with different cultures, religions, and traditions, increasing the potential for conflict. Stronger storms in the Pacific and Atlantic have threatened whole cities. Millions have been displaced by massive flooding in South Asia, Mexico, and 18 countries in Africa. As temperature extremes have increased, tens of thousands have lost their lives. We are recklessly burning and clearing our forests and driving more and more species into extinction. The very web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed.

We never intended to cause all this destruction, just as Alfred Nobel never intended that dynamite be used for waging war. He had hoped his invention would promote human progress. We shared that same worthy goal when we began burning massive quantities of coal, then oil and methane.

Even in Nobel’s time, there were a few warnings of the likely consequences. One of the very first winners of the Prize in chemistry worried that, “We are evaporating our coal mines into the air.” After performing 10,000 equations by hand, Svante Arrhenius calculated that the earth’s average temperature would increase by many degrees if we doubled the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Seventy years later, my teacher, Roger Revelle, and his colleague, Dave Keeling, began to precisely document the increasing CO2 levels day by day.

But unlike most other forms of pollution, CO2 is invisible, tasteless, and odorless -- which has helped keep the truth about what it is doing to our climate out of sight and out of mind. Moreover, the catastrophe now threatening us is unprecedented – and we often confuse the unprecedented with the improbable.

We also find it hard to imagine making the massive changes that are now necessary to solve the crisis. And when large truths are genuinely inconvenient, whole societies can, at least for a time, ignore them. Yet as George Orwell reminds us: “Sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”

In the years since this prize was first awarded, the entire relationship between humankind and the earth has been radically transformed. And still, we have remained largely oblivious to the impact of our cumulative actions.

Indeed, without realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now, we and the earth's climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: "Mutually assured destruction."

More than two decades ago, scientists calculated that nuclear war could throw so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block life-giving sunlight from our atmosphere, causing a "nuclear winter." Their eloquent warnings here in Oslo helped galvanize the world’s resolve to halt the nuclear arms race.

Now science is warning us that if we do not quickly reduce the global warming pollution that is trapping so much of the heat our planet normally radiates back out of the atmosphere, we are in danger of creating a permanent “carbon summer.”

As the American poet Robert Frost wrote, “Some say the world will end in fire; some say in ice.” Either, he notes, “would suffice.”

But neither need be our fate. It is time to make peace with the planet.

We must quickly mobilize our civilization with the urgency and resolve that has previously been seen only when nations mobilized for war. These prior struggles for survival were won when leaders found words at the 11th hour that released a mighty surge of courage, hope and readiness to sacrifice for a protracted and mortal challenge.

These were not comforting and misleading assurances that the threat was not real or imminent; that it would affect others but not ourselves; that ordinary life might be lived even in the presence of extraordinary threat; that Providence could be trusted to do for us what we would not do for ourselves.

No, these were calls to come to the defense of the common future. They were calls upon the courage, generosity and strength of entire peoples, citizens of every class and condition who were ready to stand against the threat once asked to do so. Our enemies in those times calculated that free people would not rise to the challenge; they were, of course, catastrophically wrong.

Now comes the threat of climate crisis – a threat that is real, rising, imminent, and universal. Once again, it is the 11th hour. The penalties for ignoring this challenge are immense and growing, and at some near point would be unsustainable and unrecoverable. For now we still have the power to choose our fate, and the remaining question is only this: Have we the will to act vigorously and in time, or will we remain imprisoned by a dangerous illusion?

Mahatma Gandhi awakened the largest democracy on earth and forged a shared resolve with what he called “Satyagraha” – or “truth force.”

In every land, the truth – once known – has the power to set us free.

Truth also has the power to unite us and bridge the distance between “me” and “we,” creating the basis for common effort and shared responsibility.

There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We need to go far, quickly.

We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help. But they will not take us far enough without collective action. At the same time, we must ensure that in mobilizing globally, we do not invite the establishment of ideological conformity and a new lock-step “ism.”

That means adopting principles, values, laws, and treaties that release creativity and initiative at every level of society in multifold responses originating concurrently and spontaneously.

This new consciousness requires expanding the possibilities inherent in all humanity. The innovators who will devise a new way to harness the sun’s energy for pennies or invent an engine that’s carbon negative may live in Lagos or Mumbai or Montevideo. We must ensure that entrepreneurs and inventors everywhere on the globe have the chance to change the world.

When we unite for a moral purpose that is manifestly good and true, the spiritual energy unleashed can transform us. The generation that defeated fascism throughout the world in the 1940s found, in rising to meet their awesome challenge, that they had gained the moral authority and long-term vision to launch the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, and a new level of global cooperation and foresight that unified Europe and facilitated the emergence of democracy and prosperity in Germany, Japan, Italy and much of the world. One of their visionary leaders said, “It is time we steered by the stars and not by the lights of every passing ship.”

In the last year of that war, you gave the Peace Prize to a man from my hometown of 2000 people, Carthage, Tennessee. Cordell Hull was described by Franklin Roosevelt as the “Father of the United Nations.” He was an inspiration and hero to my own father, who followed Hull in the Congress and the U.S. Senate and in his commitment to world peace and global cooperation.

My parents spoke often of Hull, always in tones of reverence and admiration. Eight weeks ago, when you announced this prize, the deepest emotion I felt was when I saw the headline in my hometown paper that simply noted I had won the same prize that Cordell Hull had won. In that moment, I knew what my father and mother would have felt were they alive.

Just as Hull’s generation found moral authority in rising to solve the world crisis caused by fascism, so too can we find our greatest opportunity in rising to solve the climate crisis. In the Kanji characters used in both Chinese and Japanese, “crisis” is written with two symbols, the first meaning “danger,” the second “opportunity.” By facing and removing the danger of the climate crisis, we have the opportunity to gain the moral authority and vision to vastly increase our own capacity to solve other crises that have been too long ignored.

We must understand the connections between the climate crisis and the afflictions of poverty, hunger, HIV-Aids and other pandemics. As these problems are linked, so too must be their solutions. We must begin by making the common rescue of the global environment the central organizing principle of the world community.

Fifteen years ago, I made that case at the “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro. Ten years ago, I presented it in Kyoto. This week, I will urge the delegates in Bali to adopt a bold mandate for a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions.

This treaty should be ratified and brought into effect everywhere in the world by the beginning of 2010 – two years sooner than presently contemplated. The pace of our response must be accelerated to match the accelerating pace of the crisis itself.

Heads of state should meet early next year to review what was accomplished in Bali and take personal responsibility for addressing this crisis. It is not unreasonable to ask, given the gravity of our circumstances, that these heads of state meet every three months until the treaty is completed.

We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.

And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon -- with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.

The world needs an alliance – especially of those nations that weigh heaviest in the scales where earth is in the balance. I salute Europe and Japan for the steps they’ve taken in recent years to meet the challenge, and the new government in Australia, which has made solving the climate crisis its first priority.

But the outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China. While India is also growing fast in importance, it should be absolutely clear that it is the two largest CO2 emitters — most of all, my own country –– that will need to make the boldest moves, or stand accountable before history for their failure to act.

Both countries should stop using the other’s behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment.

These are the last few years of decision, but they can be the first years of a bright and hopeful future if we do what we must. No one should believe a solution will be found without effort, without cost, without change. Let us acknowledge that if we wish to redeem squandered time and speak again with moral authority, then these are the hard truths:

The way ahead is difficult. The outer boundary of what we currently believe is feasible is still far short of what we actually must do. Moreover, between here and there, across the unknown, falls the shadow.

That is just another way of saying that we have to expand the boundaries of what is possible. In the words of the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, “Pathwalker, there is no path. You must make the path as you walk.”

We are standing at the most fateful fork in that path. So I want to end as I began, with a vision of two futures – each a palpable possibility – and with a prayer that we will see with vivid clarity the necessity of choosing between those two futures, and the urgency of making the right choice now.

The great Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, wrote, “One of these days, the younger generation will come knocking at my door.”

The future is knocking at our door right now. Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: “What were you thinking; why didn’t you act?”

Or they will ask instead: “How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?”

We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.

So let us renew it, and say together: “We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act.”

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Israeli delegation heads to Indonesia climate parley

Israeli delegation heads to Indonesia climate parley

"A delegation comprised of officials from various government ministries as well as environmental NGOs will head to Bali, Indonesia on Friday for the UN Climate Change Conference. The conference runs from December 3 to 14.

Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra decided last week not to attend because it would be too expensive to protect him there. However, two other officials from his ministry will be attending.

One part of the delegation, representing the Jewish National Fund, will present its successes with desert forestation."

Monday, December 3, 2007

Israeli delegation heads to Indonesia climate parley

Israeli delegation heads to Indonesia climate parley

"A delegation comprised of officials from various government ministries as well as environmental NGOs will head to Bali, Indonesia on Friday for the UN Climate Change Conference. The conference runs from December 3 to 14.

Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra decided last week not to attend because it would be too expensive to protect him there. However, two other officials from his ministry will be attending.

One part of the delegation, representing the Jewish National Fund, will present its successes with desert forestation."

Monday, November 5, 2007

Israeli researchers focus on 'an inconvenient truth'

Israeli researchers focus on 'an inconvenient truth'

If climate change wasn't already on the international agenda, then the decision to award this year's Nobel Prize for Peace to Al Gore and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has certainly placed the issue on the consciousness of the world.

Gore's persuasive Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth presents a wealth of scientific data to show that humans are largely responsible for global warming and also highlights some of the devastating consequences that this change in climate could bring.

While some skeptics have criticized the film as exaggerated, at least one Israeli scientist is thankful that Gore spoke out. Dr. Ilan Koren, a senior scientist in the department of Environmental Science at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, is one of several Israeli scientists and researchers who have been working for years on monitoring and evaluating the effects of the Earth's climatic shift.

"He did a very good job," said Koren. "[The film] will have the largest impact in the field of climate change, instead of the hundreds of detailed scientific studies. The film found the right balance between being a popular movie, and not exaggerating the evidence."

Koren's major area of research is studying the roles that clouds and precipitation play in the balance of energy within the earth's eco-system, and how they are both affected by smoke and aerosol pollution. He starts his research from the assertion that clouds are the only vehicle for bringing fresh water to land, and that any alteration to the precipitation will affect the water cycle.

"Clouds are involved in earth's radiation budget," Koren told ISRAEL21c. "Without them, more of the solar energy would be absorbed on the surface and there would immediately be a warmer atmosphere."

"Aerosols have always been emitted in the atmosphere. But since humans have been emitting smoke, gases, sulphites and carbon, by a much larger order of magnitude, the properties of clouds have changed, and there are more droplets with a different size distribution. This creates a different chain of feedback to the eco-system," he added.

Koren, who worked closely with the late Yoram Kaufman, a NASA-based senior scientist and Technion graduate, uses advanced technology to measure droplets in all types of cloud worldwide.

"Within a pristine environment, an ocean-covering cloud would have 200 droplets per cubic centimeter. In a polluted environment, it could have 2,000 in the same cubic centimeter," said Koren.

"The cloud will live longer, precipitate less, and give less solar reflection: this will affect the water budget and the energy budget of the atmosphere."

Having studied clouds in the Amazon for 20 years, Koren has found, and is publishing the evidence, that increased biomass burning is damaging the natural cloud cover over the region, loading up the clouds with smoke pollutant, and changing the annual precipitation patterns. Within the period 2000 and 2005, biomass burning increased 50% overall.

In 2006, scientific monitoring and government legislation dramatically reduced the man-made fires in the region. Koren is optimistic that using this data, legislation and cultural change can slowly improve human health, the rain forest and the climate system, locally in the Amazon, and then systemically, worldwide.

According to another key Israeli researcher in climatic change, Professor Pinhas Alpert, head of Tel Aviv University's department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences, countries in the Middle East have already started seeing more extreme weather.

"Our data gathered from the last 40 years and with projections to 2050, show that winters here are becoming warmer, with much less precipitation annually, and these extreme temperatures, at the minimum and maximum ends of the scale, also show a greater fluctuation between them," he told ISRAEL21c.

Alpert has initiated several key research projects that encompass the entire Mediterranean basin, and link in with European scientists. One of these, the GLOWA Project, is in its sixth year of operation as a cooperative effort between Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, and Germany. Other work includes cooperation with the UK Meteorological Office, and as the head of the Israel node of the NASA Space Agency.

"We can now say, with much more confidence, gained from using the most modern tools available, that we can forecast changing weather patterns for this region," Alpert says. The worst scenario, he says, is A2, which includes rising sea levels, an increased number of extreme weather events, rising temperatures, and lower rainfall in some areas. The A2 scenario will occur, he explains, if there is no adherence to the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, and humanity doesn't change its polluting habits.

One of the clearest ways Israelis will notice the change, according to Alpert, is in the reduction of snowfall. "The snowfall that occurred in Jerusalem, at least once every three years, will disappear. People will be touched by this."

Alpert is slated to be on a panel defending Gore's film at a conference this month entitled 'Global Warming - fact or fiction and how to fix it?' at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.

"There are skeptics here," Alpert said, speaking of his upcoming participation, "but in general I feel Gore absolutely gets the message across."

The conference is planned to be both an academic debate, and a discussion between representatives of NGO's and government as to what the response to climate change has been so far, and how the development of the A2 'worst case scenario', as mentioned by Alpert, could be avoided through immediate legislation and social change.

With the Synthesis Report, the final part of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report due to be published at a press conference on November 17, and many believing that it will contain evidence that indicates humanity is veering toward the A2 scenario mentioned by Alpert and demonstrated in the film An Inconvenient Truth, the research being conducted in Israel takes on even greater significance.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

GoNeutral Featured in JTA

JNF offers carbon offsets

The Jewish National Fund is launching an environmental awareness program that will propose offsetting carbon dioxide by planting trees in Israel.

In an announcement Thursday, JNF said its "GoNeutral" program is timed for Rosh Hashana... [read more]

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Go Neutral Bootcamp - Learn How To Raise Environmental Awareness

In support of JNF GoNeutral, Jewish National Fund is excited to offer JNF’s Go Neutral Bootcamp, which will take place on Monday, October 15 in New York City from 4:00 - 7:00PM. This free program will provide you with the tools you need to go back to your community, and raise environmental awareness, encourage action by reducing and offsetting carbon emissions while learning about and supporting JNF’s work in Israel.

The JNF Go Neutral Bootcamp will include a panel of environmental experts to teach about the environmental issues we are facing, breakout sessions to learn how the program works, and tactics to engage those in your community.

Please save the date of Monday, October 15. For more information and to register for the program please email Debra Scher at

Saturday, September 1, 2007

HEEB Magazine GoNeutral Ad

Check out our new ad which will be appearing in an upcoming issue of HEEB Magazine.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Jews Must Do More To Meet Obligation To Save Environment

Check out Jews must do more to meet obligation to save environment in today's JTA World Report.

Jews must do more to meet obligation to save environment
By Rabbi Steve Gutow

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- As the energy crisis and the ominous reality of global warming loom larger in the public's mind, there is little doubt the United States must immediately engage this issue head on. Fortunately the solution to both concerns require the same shifting of policies, the same courageous actions and the same discipline.

Carbon emissions that are destroying the earth of our children and grandchildren, and a world dependent on tyrants such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir are not realities in which Jews can safely relax.

The Jewish community, which has a particular stake in this race because of Israel's vulnerability to enemy nations whose power is derived from the flow of petrodollars, must do more.

Recently I sat with a group of 15 senators in Washington and presented the concerns of the Jewish community about energy and the environment. Among the key leaders on hand from leading Jewish organizations were David Harris of the American Jewish Committee and Howard Kohr of AIPAC. Harris made a presentation on Israel; Kohr presented on Iran.

The senators clearly saw climate and energy policy as a paramount concern of the day, and the responsible question is if our community is paying enough attention to these issues. Sadly, it is not.

The Jewish community is right to make Israel's safety and thwarting Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons top priorities, but energy independence and global warming are equally important in the long run and deserving of the same level of attention.

While our tradition may not favor a particular policy, it is hardly silent. Deuteronomy explicitly forbids destroying fruit-bearing trees when attacking a city. The verses ask the question: "Are the trees of the field human to withdraw before you into the besieged city?" Our tradition understands that trees are not able to act in their own self-defense and need even more protection than humans. The Torah and the Talmud say that Jews are not allowed to destroy or waste anything.

Unfortunately, this fundamental rabbinic mandate of "not destroying anything," known rabbinically as "bal taschkit," is not well known. It should be. In Psalms the Lord says that the Earth "is the Lord's and everything that is in it." As Jews, action in the world is a basic fabric of our theology and the most important proof of faith in God. Indeed, to be silent and dormant flies in the face of the fundamental nature of Judaism.

From a holistic standpoint there are two sides of the energy equation: We can use less oil and we must increase production of power from existing renewable sources. We must reduce our bloated energy consumption by tapping into the strength of our disciplined tradition and being more cognizant of what we consume. We must open our minds to the continuing dialogue of new and innovative solutions. We must also seek out alternative sources of energy such as wind power, solar power, bio-fuels and geothermal heat to address our current energy demands.

Investments in the use of these fuels are investments this country must make.

At home, in our synagogues and in our communities we can take substantive actions by reducing our energy footprint, making smart consumer choices, driving less and exchanging inefficient light bulbs for efficient CFL bulbs. As activists, you can make a difference by holding events, and calling and writing your senators, congressmen and other elected officials to tell them that you believe America deserves a smart, comprehensive energy policy.

We are in a battle for survival. Our physical world, our immediate and future security, even the air we breathe are at great risk. We are a people who from our history understand the need to engage. Energy conservation and reducing greenhouse emissions are not luxuries for those who just want to see a "better world," they are necessities and an obligation we have to the world.

After all, the Earth is really not ours; it is the Lord's and it should not be wasted or destroyed.

Discipline, innovation and investment will not wait for the next decade or even the next year -- they are needed now. Buckminister Fuller, a sage though not a Talmudic one, stated: "If the success or failure of this planet, and of human beings, depended on how I am and what I do, how would I be? What would I do?"

It is our call.

Rabbi Steve Gutow is the executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.