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Defending Israel’s borders from ‘climate refugees´ (JERUSALEM POST) By SHARON UDASIN 05/15/12)Source: http://www.jpost.com/NationalNews/Article.aspx?id=269948 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
In order to combat increased waves of illegal migration that will likely accompany climate change, Israel must secure its borders through impassable barriers, including “sea fences” along the Mediterranean and Red Sea, experts have concluded.

“The lack of water, warming and sea level rise, even if it will occur on a different schedule, will bring migration movements from all impoverished regions to every place where it is possible to escape this,” wrote a team of academics, led by Prof. Arnon Soffer and Dr. Anton Berkovsky of the University of Haifa’s Geography Department.

The team’s conclusions appeared in just one “geo-strategy” chapter in a nearly 200-page report of recommendations toward adapting to climate change, submitted collectively by about 100 experts at the Israel Climate Change Knowledge Center to Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan on Monday. Established in 2011 by the ministry, the Israel Climate Change Knowledge Center aims to gather scientific knowledge on seven different issues: regional climatic forecasting, impacts of climate change on the water sector, urban planning and building, public health, biodiversity, economy and regional geo- strategic issues, according to the ministry.

After receiving analysis by expert teams, who had already submitted a preliminary report in December, the ministry would then intend to incorporate the information into its policy documents, in order to formulate a national plan toward adapting to climate change.

Among its suggestions for how to handle the geo-strategic implications of climate change, the team led by Soffer called for a complete enclosure of Israel from all directions, including establishing sea fences along the Mediterranean and Red seas. In addition, the experts said that additional law enforcement will be required to deal with the ramifications of securing the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, as economic crisis might ensue for Negev Beduins who trade across these turfs. While securing Israel from all sides, however, the authorities must ensure for the safe passage of animals and plants.

“The migration wave is not a problem for the future. It is today, it is going on now,” Soffer told The Jerusalem Post on Monday evening. “It will just increase from day to day.”

Soffer explained that the most troublesome spot in terms of migration to Israel is the Nile basin area, where a mixture of drastic climate changes and demographic explosions are pushing people to move northward. Meanwhile, they recognize that “Europe is completely under siege by the navies,” so they cannot move in that direction.

“In India they shoot, in Nepal they shoot, in Japan they shoot,” Soffer said, noting that in Israel, the refugees know they can find welcome.

Due to climate change, between the 1970s and the 1990s alone, the Nile basin fell from 84 billion cubic meters to 51 billion cubic meters, and while its waters returned to normalcy for the decade that followed, since 2000 catastrophe has ensued, according to Soffer.

Likewise, in the past decade, about 800 lakes have dried up completely in Africa, including Chad’s largest one – a phenomenon that has led to “terrible tragedies," he explained.

“Millions perished along the Sahel,” he said, referring to a semiarid zone that stretches from Senegal to Eritrea, bordered by the Sahara on the north and a savannah on the south.

“It’s the deterioration of Africa,” he added.

Also attempting to penetrate Israel’s borders due to intense climate change will be Jordanians, Palestinians and perhaps some Syrians, according to Soffer.

“I can see how the desert will penetrate slowly to Kiryat Gat, Gaza and Hebron – everywhere,” he said. “If you accept what the scientists are saying then there will be no question that people will be forced to leave the Negev.”

Within Israel proper, many Beduin communities have moved en masse out of the Negev and to the country’s center, a shift that many people along Israel’s borders might also replicate as their climates become unbearable, Soffer explained.

“Why are they are coming to the North? Either because of population explosion or because of water loss,” he said. “This is a microcosm of what is going on between the border of the Mediterranean climate and the semiarid zone.”

In Syria, there is a direct correlation between the areas where the rebellions began and places were there is shortage of water, Soffer added.

“I am one that fights for building fences all around Israeli borders,” he said. “We are an island – we don’t belong to this region, and we have to defend Israel from waves of migration from Egypt from Jordan and maybe from Syria. If we want to keep Israel a Jewish State, we will have to defend ourselves from what I call ‘climate refugees,’ exactly as Europe is doing now.”

As Israel continues to increase its desalinated water output, however, Soffer stressed the importance of providing the Palestinians and the Jordanians with sources of water, noting that “maybe this will bring peace.”

While the fences around Israel are necessary, according to Soffer, so too are corridors to allow the free passage of animals. Such passages, he said could be guarded by groups of soldiers for days at a time to allow the animals, such as snakes, to cross both ways.

Soffer said he was not worried about the global response to physically securing Israel’s borders, and stressed that Europe has been making entrance to immigrants extremely stringent for quite some time.

“I have to satisfy the Israeli citizens, to be human as much as I can,” he said. “Whatever I do, we will not be as cruel as Europe. They have huge navies, they sink boats, they send them back.”

The geo-strategy section looked at many other issues aside from securing Israel’s borders, such as strengthening the country’s defense system as well as its preparedness for dealing with fires, which will undoubtedly decrease with reduced rainfall. Cooperation between relevant ministries will be essential, in terms of, for example, maintaining agricultural land or preventing the spread of dehydration and contagious diseases. Energy explorations need to continue, as well as testing the possibility of building nuclear power plants, as well as all of the security measures that are necessary for all energy development, according to the chapter.

Meanwhile, the geo-strategic chapter also suggests increasing tunneling and the use of underground spaces, which could provide a solution to the expansion of human land exploitation. Israel also must make sure it is forming bilateral agreements on climate change with other nations, and it also should be exploring the potential benefits – and not just the negatives – of climate change, such as the creation of a sailing route through the Arctic Ocean.

Outside the geo-strategy chapter, other expert teams call for instituting a requirement that buildings meet green standards when their owners purchase insurance policies, as well as implanting an energy rating system for buildings during their sale.

Other teams called for the increased use of recycled gray water, while still others recommended preparing treatment regimens for victims of future cold and heat waves. Experts wrote of increased temperatures, decreased precipitation, southern desertification and extreme flooding.

“Climate change is already here and requires comprehensive preparations,” Erdan said, upon receiving the report. “These changes have social, economic, security and ecological implications that require changes in behavioral patterns of individuals, industry and the state, in order to minimize the potential damage.”

Naor Yerushalmi, CEO of the Life and Environment umbrella group for Israel´s green organizations, urged the government to adopt the report´s recommendations and create a comprehensive work plan as soon as possible. However, he warned that "seclusion behind fences cannot be a solution," and that it is instead important to forge partnerships with neighboring countries to handle crises.

"Early preparation can minimize expected damage, and even take advantage of opportunities that are created as a result, especially in the need for environmental technologies across the world," Yerushalmi said. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/15/12)

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