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La Jolla Rotarians and Israeli club discuss international effects of climate change

Members of Rotary clubs in La Jolla and Haifa, Israel, attend a joint meeting about climate change via Zoom.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The Rotary Club of La Jolla, in a joint online meeting with the Carmel Rotary Club in Haifa, Israel, heard a presentation about climate change, its effects on Israel and ways people can combat it on any continent.

The meeting, which Rotary Club of La Jolla President-elect Cindy Goodman said was the first joint gathering between the local group and any other Rotary club, took place Feb. 1 via Zoom with about 60 people attending.

Israeli Rotarian Ela Alexandri led the lecture, saying climate change is “a crisis of us all. It’s here and it’s now.”

Alexandri is the chief executive of Movement for Israeli Urbanism, a nonprofit that promotes a “sustainable and humane urban environment in Israel,” according to its LinkedIn page.

Since “the beginning of the industrial era in the last 150 years,” Alexandri said, “we are seeing a steep increase in temperature on Earth.”

Carbon dioxide, she said, “is a blessing and a curse. In the last million years, its levels stabilized and enabled the development of a stable climate in which civilization could prosper. We started to mine fossil fuels and deforest in favor of agricultural industry and organization. Ninety-seven percent of scientists in the field agree that most climate change is [from] human activity.”

Since 1970, “each decade has been warmer than the previous,” she said. “The last five years are registered as the world’s hottest years ever measured.”

“The average temperature in the world is expected to rise by 2 degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the 21st century,” Alexandri said, which will bring about “more extreme and frequent climate events; it means more days with extreme heat and more extreme rain events.”

She said the oceans also are warming. “This affects the acidity in the water, which affects [those] living in the water,” she said. “Warm water contains less dissolved oxygen. This will affect life on Earth in general.”

Alexandri said that since 2002, the polar ice caps are losing billions of tons of ice per year. Not only does this result in rising ocean levels, she said, but the ice is needed to reflect 80 percent of the sun’s light back into the atmosphere. “When it’s reduced, we absorb the radiation,” she said.

“It’s not something happening far away,” Alexandri said. “It’s happening here and now and it affects us all.”

Haifa has a “higher rate [of temperature increase] than the global average, expressed in an increase of hot nights and days,” she said. “We need the cool nights; our anatomy needs it.”

“By the end of the 21st century, the average temperature is expected to raise by 2, even 2.7 Celsius degrees here in Israel,” she said. “In the last 30 years, there’s a reduction in the total amount of rain” in the country, though with “more frequent rain events and floods. We are in deep trouble, and the question is what are we going to do?”

Gabriele Wienhausen is as passionate about the local environment as she is about educating others to help protect it.

Israel has tried to address climate change, Alexandri said, “but there’s still a lot to do. Ninety-three percent of the Israeli population is in cities,” where temperatures are higher than the recorded averages. “Everything cities do affect practically everybody.”

While Haifa, with about 270,000 residents, “is a mosquito on your shoulder” compared with San Diego’s 1.4 million, “California and Israel are in the same climate zones, so some of the [effects] will be similar,” including floods and huge fires, Alexandri said.

Similar action, then, can be taken in both cities, she said. The most important is to “change personal habits,” including decreasing travel to lessen carbon emissions, planting trees and gardens, and asking questions and demanding answers from decision makers.

“There has to be sharing responsibilities. ... It’s the small things we can do, every one of us,” Alexandri said.

The Rotary Club of La Jolla next meets at noon Tuesday, Feb. 16, online. For more information, visit rotarycluboflajolla.com.