Tag: Climate Change

TAU climate action: From Campus to Glasgow

TAU researchers report on global summit.

As more than 130 heads of state and thousands of delegates converged in Glasgow for the two week-long United Nations global climate summit known as COP26 and Tel Aviv University researchers were there as well, taking part in the international conversation.

This year’s summit aimed to set new targets for cutting emissions from burning coal, oil and gas that are heating our planet, as scientists urge nations to make an immediate switch away from fossil fuels to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. TAU has placed climate change research and action among its top priorities and has launched the Center for Climate Change Action to drive innovative solutions to the climate crisis.

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Hitting Rock Bottom?

First meta-analysis of its kind shows warming of Mediterranean Sea causes marine species to migrate.

As has been heavily discussed at the recent the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, our entire planet has been warming in recent decades. This process has been particularly marked in the Mediterranean Sea, where the average water temperature rises by one degree every thirty years, and the rate is only accelerating. One of the urgent questions that must be asked is how, if at all, the various species living in the Mediterranean will adapt to this sudden warming. In recent years, evidence has accumulated that some species have deepened their habitats in order to adapt to global warming, while other studies have found that species are limited in their ability to deepen into cooler water.

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Academic symposium on the challenges and opportunities to help forge a more sustainable planet

NASA astronaut Dr. Jessica Meir
Photo courtesy NASA


“We have to work together to truly preserve our planet for the future,”
says Jewish-American trailblazer.

WATCH: Jessica Meir’s full speech at the 2021 TAU Board of Governors Meeting:

NASA astronaut Dr. Jessica Meir on Thursday addressed Tel Aviv University’s 2021 Board of Governors Meeting, discussing her missions to space, life under extreme environmental conditions, and the relationship between her research and combating climate change.

Meir, who is also a marine biologist and physiologist, delivered her remarks by live broadcast at the Yehiel Ben-Zvi Academic Symposium, entitled “Between Climate Change, Space Research and Life under Extreme Conditions,” held on the TAU campus. This year’s symposium topic highlights TAU’s prioritization of climate change research. As part of this campus-wide effort, TAU recently launched the Center for Climate Change Action.

Meir, the fourth Jewish woman and 15th Jewish person ever to travel to space, was born to a Swedish mother and an Israeli father, who grew up in Tel Aviv. During her virtual presentation to the symposium, Meir spoke of her connection to Israel and displayed several images of the country captured from outer space. “Israel is a very important part of me,” she said, also mentioning the personal items she brought to the International Space Station including an Israeli flag, Hanukkah socks bearing Stars of David and menorahs, along with a commemorative coin honoring late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon. Meir has celebrated her Jewish identity and ties to Israel on her widely followed social media accounts.

“We take a lot of photographs from the space station which can be used by scientists on the ground to see things like our changing planet,” said Meir from her current station in Houston, Texas. “By looking at things like the retreat of glaciers from the space station, at the same vantage point from which we’ve looked at for decades, scientists can make measurements and understand what’s going on with the ever-pressing battle with climate change.”

Answering a question from the crowd, Meir elaborated on the impact of space research on climate change.

“I’ve been an avid environmentalist since well before I got to space, and I assumed it would resonate even more loudly [once there]—and it really did,” said Meir. “You cannot avoid seeing how fragile it is, how special it is, and how we need to protect it. You don’t see borders from space, at least the ones we’ve imposed upon ourselves. We have to do what we can and work together to truly preserve our planet for the future.”


“Addressing the diverse challenges of climate change will require more than national policy.

It will require unprecedented collaboration across sectors and regions. It will also require joint, advanced research and studies. Space technologies can help in tackling major climate problems.”


In 2013, NASA selected Meir to join its highly selective astronaut program. During her first space mission in 2019, Meir and fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch made history when they completed the first all-woman spacewalk. Meir has to date participated in three space missions and spent a total of 205 days in space. Among her many honors, Time Magazine named Meir as one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2020.

“I want to dedicate this talk and our time today to the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia, and, of course, Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli in space who was part of this mission,” she said of the tragic 2003 accident in which all seven crew members perished.

In addition to Meir, Israel’s Minister of Environmental Protection and TAU alumna Tamar Zandberg spoke at the symposium.

“Addressing the diverse challenges of climate change will require more than national policy,” she said. “It will require unprecedented collaboration across sectors and regions. It will also require joint, advanced research and studies. Space technologies can help in tackling major climate problems.”

TAU Rector Prof. Mark Shtaif chaired the symposium that was moderated by Prof. Colin Price, Head of the Environmental Studies Department, Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences. The symposium is held in memory of Yehiel Ben-Zvi, a former TAU Vice President.

“There are many challenges, but also many opportunities to help us forge a more sustainable planet and have a cleaner, more just world for our children and grandchildren,” said Price. He explained that Tel Aviv University’s strides in combining space research and climate research include the multidisciplinary advances at TAU’s Center for Nano-Satellites and New Space, the Minerva Dead Sea Research Center, and the Center for Climate Change Action. As part of TAU’s national and global contributions, he added that the University will work with Eytan Stibbe, who is slated to become the second Israeli to travel to space next year.

TAU professors Dr. Ram Fishman, School of Social and Policy Studies, and Dr. Vered Blass, Porter School of the Environment and Earth Studies, concluded the symposium. They respectively spoke about tracking the effects of climate change on low income populations, and assessing the impact of new technologies on sustainability. They also explored the impact of COVID-19 on the environment.

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We Are Part of the Problem and the Solution

Tel Aviv University launches first-of-its-kind multidisciplinary research hub on climate change.

Tel Aviv University last week launched the multidisciplinary Center for Climate Change Action, with the aim of finding solutions to the global crisis. The new Center, the first of its kind in Israel, will operate under the auspices of the Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, and will investigate the subject from all angles, drawing on the knowledge and resources of all faculties on campus. The Center will collaborate with partners from industry, academia and government, in Israel and abroad, in an effort to develop technological solutions, raise public awareness, promote environmental legislation and policy, and more.

The initiative was launched by researchers from various disciplines, among them Prof. Colin Price and Dr. Orli Ronen from the University’s Department of Environmental Studies, Prof. Marcelo Sternberg from the School of Plant Sciences and Food Security, Prof. Dan Rabinowitz from the Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences and others.

Scores of students, faculty, researchers, dignitaries and guests attended the festive event marking the Center’s launch, which took place in the award-winning Porter School building overlooking the Tel Aviv skyline.

Israel’s outgoing President, Reuven Rivlin, lauded the University’s new initiative as a significant demonstration of institutional action on the global climate crisis. “The need to address the climate crisis isn’t a luxury, it’s an inevitability,” he said in recorded remarks, noting the dire need for immediate change for benefit in this lifetime and for generations to come.

Mobilizing for Change

Ahead of the Center’s launch, TAU President Prof. Ariel Porat stated: “Tel Aviv University is a committed partner in dealing with the dangers of global warming and climate change. Confronting this challenge requires examination from many perspectives: technological, social, moral, economic, sociological, legal, and more.”

Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality also endorses the project. Tel Aviv, listed among the world’s greenest cities, launched its climate change preparedness plan about a year ago as it realized long ago that being able to live here in the future requires action today. Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv, Reuven Lediansky, hailed the launch of the Center and spoke about the University’s role in writing the municipal plan for dealing with the crisis. “The [municipal] program positioned us among big cities in the world, such as Berlin, Amsterdam, New York and Paris, that have all been working resolutely for some time in order to influence and prepare to handle the climate crisis. I am proud of the long and thorough professional process led by the Environmental Protection Authority, with the professional assistance of Dr. Orli Ronen to formulate such a comprehensive and professional plan. Parts of the program have already been incorporated in the municipality’s work plan for 2021.”

Prof. Noga Kronfeld-Schor, Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and researcher from the School of Zoology at The George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, called for action: “The third decade of this century is characterized by the understanding that in order for us and our children to lead healthy and equal lives, we need to take nature into consideration, and we need to protect it. Global warming is threatening the life on our planet. The consequences are complex and we are only starting to grasp them. Extensive research is required. We need to develop the ability to predict the broad effects of rising temperatures, ecologically, economically and socially, in order to develop ways and means to deal with them if possible.”

 

Prof. Noga Kronfeld-Shor used the platform to call for action (photo: Yael Tzur)

Too Little Water for Too Many People

Prof. Hadas Mamane, Head of the Environmental Engineering Program at The Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering, discussed the predicted imbalance between the amount of rain fall and clean drinking water due to the climate crisis and offered creative ways to address the problem. She emphasized the expected increase in the world’s population, which corresponded well with insights from Prof. Tal Alon from The Department of Public Policy at the Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences, who pointed to the close link between demographic stability and the successful handling of the climate crisis where greenhouse gas emissions are concerned.

Dr. Dov Khenin, Head of the Parliamentary Clinic of The Buchmann Faculty of Law, discussed the  ‘Change of Direction’ program, aimed at decision-makers and intended to promote rapid change of direction in the State of Israel’s approach to the climate crisis.

Prof. Shoshi Shiloh from The School of Psychological Sciences, discussed how to leverage the worrying environmental situation so that it stimulates us to act. Is instilling fear the way to go when confronting a problem of this magnitude, or are there more efficient approaches?

Prof. Avi Kribus from the School of Mechanical Engineering presented renewable energy solutions that are particularly suitable for Israel, allowing us to make use of the resources that we have plenty of, such as solar energy.

The Green Revolution in the Naftali Building

Prof. Itai Sened, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, presented a practical plan for transforming the Naftali Building to become the greenest building on campus.

Lior Hazan, Chair of the Student Union of Tel Aviv University also spoke at the event, calling on her fellow students to take an active part in mobilizing as ambassadors for environmental change.

Head of the Climate Center and the University’s Department of Environmental Studies Prof. Price concluded the meeting alluding to the Center’s unique position for driving change: “We have expertise and brainpower from nine faculties, and in each of those faculties there are people dealing with the climate issue. We also have non-university organizations, partners who wish to work with us. We need to start by influencing the behavior of the general public. We can demonstrate to the government that it is financially worthwhile to switch to renewable energy. However, we need to do both to succeed.”

 

Head of the Climate Center Prof. Colin Price gave the closing remarks at the event (photo: Noam Wind)



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