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A Tisha B’Av Message: Will We Again Fail To Heed the Warnings?

Today there are no prophets like Jeremiah to issue warnings, but we are receiving increasingly dire warnings from climate scientists that now it is not just Jerusalem, but also the entire world that is threatened by climate change and its effects.
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July 7, 2021
Photo by Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images

Tisha B’Av (the ninth day of the month of Av), which we commemorate this year beginning on the evening of July 17, reminds us that over 2,600 years ago Jews failed to heed the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah about the importance of changing their ways. That failure resulted in the destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem, one of the many tragedies experienced by Jews on that day, including the later destruction of the second Temple.

Today there are no prophets like Jeremiah to issue warnings, but we are receiving increasingly dire warnings from climate scientists that now it is not just Jerusalem, but also the entire world that is threatened by climate change and its effects. We may be met with disastrous consequences unless we immediately reduce our enormous emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

While climate change is an existential threat, it has not received sufficient attention from most people, who are, in effect, “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, as we head toward a giant iceberg.”

When I hear of children or grandchildren getting married or of a baby being born, I wonder what kind of world we are passing on to the new couples and children who will have to cope with our rapidly warming world, with its rising oceans and increasingly severe climate events. This is especially relevant to me as I write this, since my wife and I moved to Israel almost five years ago and have since happily experienced the marriages of four grandchildren and the births of two great-grandchildren.

Here are nine important reasons why we should all be very concerned about climate change:

  1. Science academies worldwide, 97% of climate scientists, and almost all of the thousands of peer-reviewed papers on the topic in respected scientific journals document that climate change is real, is largely caused by human activities, and poses great threats to All 195 nations at the December 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference agreed that immediate steps must be taken to combat climate change.
  2. Every decade since the 1970s has been warmer than the previous decade, and all of the 22 hottest years since temperature records were kept in 1880 have been since 1998. The year 2020 tied 2016 as the warmest year in recorded history, and as I write this, temperatures in the U.S. northwest are so high that they are considered life-threatening.
  3. Glaciers worldwide, permafrost, and polar icecaps have been melting rapidly, faster than scientific projections. This has caused rising sea levels with the potential for major flooding of coastal, areas worldwide. Miami, Florida and other coastal cities have already experienced “sunny day flooding,” flooding due to high tides rather than storms.
  4. There has been an alarming increase in the frequency and severity of heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, storms, floods and other climate events
  5. California has been subjected to so many severe climate events recently that its former governor, Jerry Brown, stated that, “Humanity is on a collision course with nature.”California serves as an example of how climate change can wreak havoc and what other states can expect in the future if present trends continue.
  6. Many climate experts believe that, due to self-reinforcing feedback loops (vicious cycles), we are close to a tipping point, when climate change will spiral out of control, with disastrous consequences, unless major positive changes soon occur.
  7. While many climate scientists think that 350 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric CO2 is a threshold value for climate stability, the world reached 419 ppm in 2021, and it has been increasing by 2-3 ppm per year. This makes catastrophic climate events more likely.
  8. Climate scientists hope that temperature increases can be limited to no more than two degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit), in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change. However, this possibility is rapidly vanishing, and the world is now on track for an increase of at least three degrees Celsius, which would result in great human suffering and significant threats to human civilization.

However, this possibility is rapidly vanishing, and the world is now on track for an increase of at least three degrees Celsius, which would result in great human suffering and significant threats to human civilization.[/SPEAKER-MUTE]

  1. The Pentagon and other military groups warn that climate change will increase the potential for instability, terrorism, and war by reducing access to food and clean water and by causing tens of millions of desperate refugees to flee from droughts, wildfires, floods, storms, and other effects of climate change.

Given the above considerations, it is essential that we don’t repeat the mistake made by our ancestors who failed to heed Jeremiah’s warnings, but that we make averting a potential climate catastrophe a central focus of today’s efforts in order to leave an inhabitable world for future generations. Every aspect of life should be considered. We must shift to renewable forms of energy, improve our transportation systems, produce more efficient cars and other means of transportation, eliminate or at least significantly reduce our consumption of meat, and do everything else possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The future of humanity depends on whether we will heed the current widespread warnings and make positive changes now.


Richard H. Schwartz is a professor emeritus at College of Staten Island and author.

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