Israel just made it through a brutal, record-breaking heat wave. Temperatures hit 105 degrees Fahrenheit in Tel Aviv, 98 degrees in Jerusalem, and 113 degrees in Jericho. The government had to lift the requirement for masks and suspend many schools yet again, just after post-coronavirus reopenings. The scorching temperatures caused
record electricity usage. Wildfires broke out in the south of the country. The elderly suffered heatstroke, and three people died. This all happened in May: the fifth-hottest month of the year in Israel.
The climate crisis is coming hard and fast for the entire Middle East. Israel will see its summer extended by two months, and temperatures will reach 122 degrees. Precipitation will decrease by as much as 25 percent, a terrifying jump in water scarcity for an already arid region. And while there will be less precipitation overall, when it falls, it will come in storms, causing floods, storm surges, and heavy infrastructure damage. But in a pattern likely to play out throughout the world, these disasters will not be felt equally, across all sectors of society. Instead, by and large, Palestinians will face the worst of the region’s many coming climate disasters.
“We have quite good knowledge of how the climate will evolve in the region,” Assaf Hochman, a climate researcher at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, told me. In coming years, Israel will see streams go dry, more forest fires, more invasive species, and an increased risk of disease outbreak, both infectious and vector-borne. The cost of agriculture will rise due to crop deterioration; increased pest spread; and damage from storms, floods, and droughts. “It’s not an exaggeration that it will be unsafe to go outside in the summer. And the political context in the region is making it difficult to adapt.”
Research by Michael Mason, the Director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics, shows that Israeli and Palestinian reports on climate change have almost entirely ignored climate change’s role as a threat multiplier in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and the conflict’s role as a threat multiplier in the climate crisis. But there’s ample research showing that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will make the impacts of the climate crisis more severe. Specifically, the Israeli military occupation is already exacerbating climate-related resource shortages for Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights.