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Sandy, Noah, Abraham and Bibi Send a Message about Climate Change

A radar scatterometer shows Hurricane Sandy's ocean surface winds early Monday morning, Oct. 29. The darkest reds represent winds traveling 65 miles per hour or faster.  (Courtesy of NASA)

A radar scatterometer shows Hurricane Sandy's ocean surface winds early Monday morning, Oct. 29. The darkest reds represent winds traveling 65 miles per hour or faster. 

(Courtesy of NASA)


 

By David Krantz

 

NEW YORK (Oct. 31, 2012) — A little more than a week after reading Parshat Noah — which includes the Torah’s description of the biblical flood — much of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have been deluged by water. Even today, two days after the storm, nearly half of Manhattan is without power and eight million people throughout the region have lost electricity. Whole towns remain flooded. Massive trees have been uprooted. Trains aren’t running and airports are still closed. Police and ambulance sirens still fill the air all day as rescues are ongoing. The destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy has been unprecedented in this part of the country in recent history.

I and other GZA leaders, here and in New Jersey, have been evacuated and are now safe. We had to leave in part because, without heat, our homes were getting too cold, and without power, the food in our refrigerators and freezers was getting too warm. It’s a strange situation: We are so dependent on controlling our own micro-climates — on heating some things and cooling others — that when our micro-climate system stops working, we have to leave.

In context, however, we’re breaking our own greater climate system. We’re busting our planet’s internal thermostat — making some areas of our planet too blazingly hot, and sending other areas into a deep freeze. We’re making some areas way too dry; others to be way too wet. The delicate balance of our ecosystem — which, depending upon your worldview, was either divinely created, divinely inspired, and/or developed naturally over millennia — is growing more and more off-kilter.

It snowed at the end of October last year in New York. This year a massive hurricane struck. Yes, it’s global warming, but it’s also global weirding. As the overall atmosphere gets warmer, things are getting weird. The climate of the Earth as we — and our ancestors — knew it is changing. That’s why we call it climate change. Take a look at photos of Sandy’s destruction. Welcome to the new normal.

Climate has taken a back seat in both U.S. and global politics recently, but despite skeptics, climate science is not rocket science. Here’s the vast scientific consensus: Our carbon emissions are making the Earth warmer — that’s why gases like carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide are called greenhouse gases. A warmer atmosphere means an atmosphere that can hold more moisture, because warmer air can hold more water than colder air — which means more punch from hurricanes. Sea levels are rising from ice caps melting, and that means higher storm surges. So climate change makes hurricanes stronger than they would otherwise have been. That’s why it’s predicted that once-in-a-century storms become the every-few-years storms.

Climate has taken a back seat in both U.S. and global politics recently, but despite skeptics, climate science is not the proverbial rocket science. Here’s the vast scientific consensus: Our carbon emissions are making the Earth warmer — that’s why gases like carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide are called greenhouse gases. A warmer atmosphere means an atmosphere that can hold more moisture, because warmer air can hold more water than colder air — which means more punch from hurricanes. Sea levels are rising from ice caps melting, and that means higher storm surges. So climate change makes hurricanes stronger than they would otherwise have been. That’s why it’s predicted that once-in-a-century storms become the every-few-years storms.

And don’t be mistaken: Climate change won’t spare the Promised Land. Rain will become more intense and more infrequent — meaning less overall rainwater, and the rain that does fall will be more likely to flood communities and run off into the sea instead of making its way to the region’s aquifers. Coastal towns will lose land to rising sea levels. Warmer temperatures will lead to crops losing more of their moisture through transpiration, meaning that they will then require more water to produce the same yield. Drier weather will mean worse forest fires. Higher temperatures are predicted to allow for the migration of new insects, which will bring in new infectious diseases, and return old ones, such as malaria. The Negev’s climate is expected to move northward, encompassing Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and most, if not all, of the country. So, you may ask, who is making such dire predictions? The answer is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Nature, indeed, knows no borders, and climate change is affecting every corner of the Earth. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, those of us who work at the GZA from New York and New Jersey have been fortunate to have been able to move to safer ground. But in the wake of climate change, there is no other planet to which we can go. Yet if we succeed in what has been our communal effort at unintentionally warming our atmosphere, and thereby wrecking havoc on our climate, then Sandy is just the beginning — for New York, for Israel, and for the world. There is scientific consensus: To stave off the worst effects, we have to act now.

In Parshat Noah, God, creating a rainbow covenant with humans, promises to never destroy the Earth again by flood. But, tellingly, Noah, on behalf of humans, did not promise that we humans wouldn’t flood the Earth ourselves, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. What would Noah think today?

This week, in Parshat Vayera, Abraham pleads to save Sodom and Gomorrah from destruction. If he were alive today, he might be pleading with us to save the whole Earth from destruction. If, in Abraham’s eyes, Sodom and Gomorrah were worth saving, then surely the whole planet, with volumes of virtuous people more numerous than Lot and his family, is worth saving today.

Scientists are telling us the same as Noah and Abraham would: We know how to save our climate — and in so doing, save the human race — we just have to do it. Act now.

 


 

David Krantz is the president and chairperson of the Green Zionist Alliance.

 

 

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Eco-Quote

"When you shall come to the land and you shall plant any food tree, you shall treat its fruit as forbidden; for three years they shall be forbidden to you, they shall not be eaten. In the fourth year, all its fruits shall be sanctified to laud God. And in the fifth year you may eat its fruit - so that it will increase its crop for you."

- Leviticus 19:23-25

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