It sounds like something out of science fiction. Blocking sunlight from reaching the earth, creating rain, and altering a hurricane are concepts usually associated with movie villain stereotypes.
But this is exactly what the U.S. government has invested millions of dollars into for decades, including this year.
But the United States isn’t alone. Due to ongoing climate concerns, renewed interest in geoengineering has taken countries by storm. Global governments—including China—have officially jumped on the geoengineering or “climate intervention” bandwagon.
The idea of weather and climate manipulation has been around for more than half a century. Within the realm of geoengineering, there are two main types: solar radiation management and carbon removal. Weather manipulation, like cloud seeding, also falls under this umbrella. Cloud seeding is used to manufacture or alter rainfall, snow, or even entire storms.
In March, the Southern Nevada Water Authority was given a $2.4 million government grant to enhance cloud seeding in Western states, including Colorado River reservoirs. “This money from reclamation is wonderful. We just have to decide how exactly it’s going to benefit us,” Andrew Rickert, cloud seeding coordinator for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, told reporters.
This followed on the heels of last year’s White House announcement of the funding of a five-year study on climate modification and geoengineering.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy stated a “scientific assessment of solar and other rapid climate interventions in the context of near-term climate risks and hazards” would be part of the final report, which will focus on “research associated with climate intervention.”
An Epoch Times request for comment from The White House received no response.
The timing may prove auspicious. China already claims to have a weather modification program covering more than 2 million square miles. For perspective, that’s bigger than all of India.
According to a State Council statement, China will have a “developed weather modification system” by 2025, thanks to breakthroughs in fundamental research and key technologies.
The European Commission followed suit last March and announced a more than $1 billion investment in five geoengineering projects.
But not everyone is excited over the renewed interest in climate manipulation. Security analysts and scientists are sounding alarm bells over the geopolitical and environmental implications.
Their unease is understandable. The U.S. government has a checkered past with weather modification experiments.
Moreover, some researchers say current science isn’t up to speed with political ambition for geoengineering.
“Just because people do it, doesn’t mean it works,” Dr. Alan Robock told The Epoch Times.
Robock is a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University. He doesn’t think geoengineering or “climate intervention” is advanced enough to make a significant impact, for better or worse. He also stressed that more research—a lot more—is needed before any real progress can be made.
“Geoengineering, climate intervention is a term for schemes to address global climate change and reduce the impact of humans on climate. Since it can’t be done, there’s nothing else they want you to do. It’s only in the realm of people doing con model simulations and theoretical calculations,” Robock asserted.
He isn’t alone in this assessment. A collection of 16 scholars drafted an open letter for an International Non-Use Agreement on Solar Geoengineering, which has collected signatures from dozens of university professors and researchers worldwide.
The letter states, “These proliferating calls for solar geoengineering research and development are cause for alarm.” It further cites concerns over the lack of understanding of consequences and oversight needed to maintain “fair, inclusive, and effective political control.”
Solar geoengineering has, quite literally, taken a lot of heat in recent months. The technique aims to deflect sunlight back into space using stratospheric aerosols. Some climate change advocates say it could be a promising way to reduce the earth’s temperature.
But there’s a major hurdle. Scientists say there could be a disastrous environmental impact.
“Potentially, it has a lot of benefits as well as risks. So we are in the middle of doing a lot of research to figure out whether it’s risky to do it,” Robock said.
In a May 2022 risk analysis study of geoengineering, researchers concluded there was no risk-free scenario with any “climate intervention” methods.
Lead study author Benjamin Sovacool said human manipulation doesn’t eliminate climate risks, “they merely shift risk or redistribute it.” He further noted, “These risk tradeoffs must be evaluated if some of the more radical geoengineering technologies are to be deployed.”
Possible environmental consequences aside, there’s a security angle to consider. More advanced methods of weather manipulation will soon, if not already, be at the fingertips of global governments. It has raised ethical usage concerns for many.
Among the unsettling implications, Robock noted societal disruption, conflicts between nations, and breaches of international treaties as possible outcomes.
He also posed an important question: Whose hand will be on the thermostat?
Cloud of Suspicion
The U.S. government has a dark history with weather manipulation. In 1947, Project Cirrus targeted a hurricane working its way out to sea in the Atlantic for a cloud-seeding experiment that was meant to weaken the cyclone. The storm was the ideal candidate since it was forecasted to continue moving away from land.
A plane was dispatched to fly over the storm and dump 80 kilograms of dry ice directly into it. What happened next was something straight out of a Hollywood disaster movie.
After the dry ice was “seeded” into the storm, it abruptly pivoted 130 degrees west and made its way toward Georgia. The hurricane crashed into the state and caused $2 million in damages. Residents threatened lawsuits, and the government was immediately blamed.
But that was just the beginning of America’s questionable venture into weather manipulation, most of which has been done through cloud seeding.
In May 1958, a government-funded experiment used an “airborne silver iodide generator” to transform puffy white cumulus clouds near Rapid City, South Dakota, into a raging thunderstorm in less than an hour.
That same year, the U.S. Navy claimed it successfully created and eliminated clouds “at will” in a series of tests done over the coasts of Georgia and Florida during the summer. The experiments were 100 percent effective at destroying clouds in a period that ranged from less than three minutes to twenty minutes.
The price tag of these government-backed projects between 1950 and 1970 topped out at $74 million. Another $35 million was spent in the following two years.
In 1960, during the Cold War with Russia, U.S. Naval Commander William J. Kotsch touted the weapons applications of cloud seeding.
“If certain states within the United States, or certain countries of Western Europe, decided systematically and covertly to dissipate part or all of the clouds over their regions for several months of the year—to invoke a ‘cloud blockade’ in their own interests and deprive the areas to the east of rain—those areas to the east would be reduced to semi-desert over a period of time,” Kotsch said.
Considering the alleged climate crisis and widespread drought currently unfolding, it’s not surprising many have questioned the security implications of geoengineering.
Breaking the Rules
“Geoengineering, like any scientific innovation, should be conducted with the highest possible standard of honesty and transparency. In the scientific methods and within the strict observation of the framework of both general and specific ethical norms,” Irina Tsukerman, national security lawyer and founder of Scarab Rising, told The Epoch Times.
Tsukerman observed that science is often fraught with people “breaking the rules,” which can come with disastrous results. However, she says calamitous short-term forays into weather modification—like Project Cirrus—and general climate science share a common denominator.
“The lack of ability to apply scientific processes to the studies consistently.”
Though she doesn’t believe any government has fine-honed geoengineering into a weapon just yet. “Despite all the hype, scientists still have a fairly rudimentary understanding of both climate and even local weather patterns,” she said.
Regardless, it certainly hasn’t stopped the U.S. government from trying.
In 1970, a military whistle-blower told Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh that the U.S. government used cloud seeding as a weapon in South Vietnam to alter natural rainfall patterns in 1963.
It marked the first confirmed use of meteorological warfare in history. At the time, some members of the U.S. State Department reportedly opposed the use of weather modification as a weapon.
Fast forward 60 years. Now the United States, China, and Europe are all aggressively pursuing geoengineering. Much of this is being done through cloud seeding.
With so many scientists calling for a halt to man-made climate intervention, the benefits of these projects also become dubious.
When asked what geoengineering method looked the most promising, Robock replied, “None.”
The U.S. State Department, U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration did not return The Epoch Times’ requests for comment.
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