Shimon Peres

is president of Israel

As much as any nation, Israel knows the value of peace and the price of terrorism. But terror is only one dark threat scowling over economic growth and goodwill among nations. Another is global warming.

The danger is far more than a risk that we might address with basic strategic planning and action. It presents a truly historic threat to the security of all countries and the safety of all the inhabitants of the globe. And as such, the fight against global warming will require not only national but also regional and worldwide organization.

While we cannot point to any particular drought, hurricane or wildfire and say, with complete confidence, that this event was caused by climate change, we know that a warming world will produce more such catastrophes. And disasters create refugees. They diminish housing, food supply and clean water. They destabilize political regimes. All of this only serves to increase international tensions and raise the threat of armed aggression.

Security threats

Israel is far from the only nation to recognize the security threats of global warming. Influential U.S. military leaders have also warned that climate change could worsen international crises. Even the world community acknowledged global warming's link to peace and stability when it awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and to former Vice President Al Gore.

It is tempting, for a small country such as Israel, to ignore the problem and hope that others deal with it. But no nation exists in isolation. Pollution is not checked by national customs; diminished water supply does not need a visa to cross a border; and unruly weather does not require a permit. Indeed, the Jordan River and the Dead Sea are rapidly losing their water. These bodies of water are of significant historic, religious, cultural, economic and environmental importance for the Middle East and the world. It is, therefore, our duty to be part of the solution.

We know that oil is the greatest polluter of the globe and the greatest financier of terror. As a fossil fuel in far-flung use, it promotes global warming and presents a growing threat to every person on Earth. The nations of the earth must acknowledge how worldwide reliance on crude oil is both worsening global warming and threatening international peace and security.

Alternatives must be found. In Israel, for example, we do not have long distances to reach by car, and therefore we may become the first country to change its fleet of cars, from those running on gasoline to those running on electricity. It has already begun.

Alternative energy

Israel can also pioneer research and development of alternative energy, especially solar power. We can find new methods of conserving and producing pure water and clean air. Indeed, every country has a part to play in the effort to reduce global warming. If we fail, the consequences will be far greater than bad weather or flooding. We risk conflicts across the globe that would overturn our very peace and security.

The world stands in front of the greatest challenge of the 21st century. This week, governments of all nations are meeting in Bali to start negotiating the post-Kyoto agreement under the United Nations Framework for Climate Change Convention. This starting point is a crucial building block in developing meaningful and effective global mandatory commitments to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations to the level scientists tell us is necessary to avoid the most severe consequences of global warming.

Hard decisions ought to be taken at the national level by every individual country, but in the end, only responsible worldwide leadership can reduce this terrible threat.