Israel predicted to sweat in 35° Celsius heat 80 days a year toward century’s end

Report also forecasts around 145 tropical nights per year during which average temperatures will not drop below 20°, making it harder for buildings to cool down

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Illustrative. Heatwave. (iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative. Heatwave. (iStock by Getty Images)

In just two to three generations, Israelis will likely be living with maximum average daytime temperatures of more than 35 degrees Celsius (95° Fahrenheit) for around 80 days in the year, compared with just 35 such days yearly between 1995 and 2014, according to an OECD report published at the end of last week.

Between 2080 and 2099 — the period for which the predictions were made — Israelis will sleep through 145 nights per year during which average temperatures will not drop below 20 degrees (68° Fahrenheit), compared with 97 such nights annually between 1995 and 2014. Nighttime temperatures of 20° Celsius and above are regarded as tropical and make it harder for buildings to cool before the next day’s heat sets in.

Toward the end of the century, Israel will also be more exposed to drought conditions, per capita, than any other country surveyed for the report.

When considering the percentage drop in soil moisture between the periods 1981 to 2010 and 2018 to 2022, the country falls behind only India, New Zealand, and Greece.

The figures were highlighted Sunday by Prof. Noga Kronfeld-Schor, chief scientist at the Environmental Protection Ministry, at the start of an online conference on progress made by a ministry unit responsible for preparing the country to deal with the effects of climate change.

They come just before the beginning of COP28, the UN’s annual climate conference, which kicks off in Dubai on November 30.

Environmental Protection Ministry Chief Scientist Prof Noga Kronfeld-Shor (left) and former 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.

This year is on track to become the hottest on record, Kronfeld-Schor said.

Part of the reason is El Niño, a phenomenon that occurs every two to seven years, during which surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean warm up.

According to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, the mean temperature across the globe from January to October reached 1.43 degrees Celsius (2.57° Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial average for those months.

That is close to the limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit), within which the world agreed in Paris in 2015 to keep temperature rises when compared with the pre-industrial era (between 1850 and 1900).

In May, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said there was a 66% chance of reaching 1.5°C by 2027, up from 50% in 2022.

Scientists have warned that breaching the 1.5-degree Celsius average over a 20- or 30-year period is likely to lead to tipping points when climate-driven changes will speed up and might become irreversible. These include the melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets (with accelerated sea level rise as a result), the dieback of the Amazon rainforest, the death of coral reefs, and a collapse of the way surface and deep currents in the Atlantic Ocean circulate.

Damage from massive flooding is seen in Derna, Libya, September 13, 2023. (AP/Yousef Murad)

The long-term average temperature increase, compared with pre-industrial times, currently hovers around 1.1 degrees Celsius to 1.2 degrees Celsius (1.98° Fahrenheit to 2.16° Fahrenheit) globally.

The direct economic loss globally from climate change-induced disasters (not including the costs to the environment and public health) has been increasing between 1989 to 2020 from roughly $50 billion in 1989 to $175 billion in 2020, according to the United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction office.

Scientists say the world must cut its carbon dioxide emissions by half by 2035 to have a fighting chance of staying below the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold.

And yet, according to a graph from the UNDRR, out of $133 billion spent on disasters between 2010 and 2019, only $5.5 billion, or 4.1%, was spent on preparing for and preventing such disasters. Most went to emergency response.

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