Environment Ministry unveils details of climate risk map to help policymakers

Inspired by a US national risk index, an interactive portal getting a pilot next year will provide detailed information on different locations’ vulnerability to potential disasters

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

An example from the Environmental Protection Ministry's climate risk map for the northern coastal city of Acre.  (Environmental Protection Ministry)
An example from the Environmental Protection Ministry's climate risk map for the northern coastal city of Acre. (Environmental Protection Ministry)

The Environmental Protection Ministry presented new details Thursday on a portal currently being developed that will feature real-time, interactive climate risk maps aimed at helping policymakers and local authorities prepare for various aspects of climate change such as storms, flooding, fires, heatwaves and sea-level rise.

The project, launched earlier this year, takes inspiration from a national risk index created by the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Following further work on its technological aspects, the first version of the portal is expected to go online next year. It will be piloted among local authorities that have responded to a ministry call for help to create climate risk preparedness plans.

Combining multiple layers of information, the Israeli digital portal will offer high-resolution ‘Vulnerability Index Maps’ and vulnerability forecasts based on models created by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It will also include recommendations for potential responses to challenges posed by climate change.

In the case of floods, for example, it will provide data on economic and health vulnerabilities in the various localities, based on factors including population density, age distribution, the local proportion of people with disabilities and the number of basements. It will also outline where authorities will or will not be able to continue routine and emergency services in case of a disaster, based on the local main roads, health and educational facilities, and emergency units.

It will also highlight environmental vulnerabilities of areas such as nature reserves and rivers, and of areas surrounding sewage treatment plants and factories with hazardous materials.

Among the potential recommendations for dealing with the dangers posed by floods will be planning and implementing drainage and seepage flow recession programs, increasing permeable surfaces, green rooftops and green urban areas, and protecting and restoring wetlands to increase rainwater absorption and reduce stormwater runoff.

The portal, which will be continuously updated, will present integrated information for each local authority.

Environmental Protection Ministry Chief Scientist Prof Noga Kronfeld-Shor (left) and outgoing Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg at a session on climate change preparedness at the Israeli pavilion, UN COP27 climate conference, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, November 17, 2022. (Environmental Protection Ministry)

Prof. Noga Kronfeld-Shor, the Environmental Protection Ministry’s chief scientist who has been coordinating the work on the portal, told an audience at the UN’s COP27 climate conference in Egypt’s Sharm el Sheikh that “the climate crisis affects each area in a different way — the risk, the sensitivity to risk and the ability to prepare for the effects of climate change vary with a high spatial resolution.”

Policy- and decision-makers, therefore, need detailed and accessible information to help them navigate and set priorities related to preparing for climate change.

According to the sixth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), up to 3.6 billion people are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Natural disasters caused global losses of around $280 billion in 2021 alone.

The Environmental Protection Ministry has been working with the Israeli-American startup on the project.

Thursday’s event, featuring a multinational panel, also showcased the OECD’s new IPAC dashboard, which includes climate-related hazard indicators and city case studies from around the world.

The Middle East and North Africa are regarded as a climate hotspot, because temperatures are rising twice as fast there than the global average.

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