In a recent speech, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency discussed the controversial topic of geoengineering, leading some activists to ask whether the agency is actively and deliberately modifying the weather.
In late June, John Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, spoke at a Council on Foreign Relations meeting about threats to global security. Director Brennan mentioned a number of threats to stability before discussing the science of geoengineering. Brennan said the technologies “potentially could help reverse the warming effects of global climate change.”
The term ‘geoengineering’ describes this array of technologies that aim, through large-scale and deliberate modifications of the Earth’s energy balance, to reduce temperatures and counteract anthropogenic climate change. Most of these technologies are at the conceptual and research stages, and their effectiveness at reducing global temperatures has yet to be proven. Moreover, very few studies have been published that document the cost, environmental effects, socio-political impacts, and legal implications of geoengineering. If geoengineering technologies were to be deployed, they are expected to have the potential to cause significant transboundary effects.
In general, geoengineering technologies are categorized as either a carbon dioxide removal (CDR) method or a solar radiation management (SRM) (or albedo-modification)method. CDR methods address the warming effects of greenhouse gases by removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. CDR methods include ocean fertilization, and carbon capture and sequestration. SRM methods address climate change by increasing the reflectivity of the Earth’s atmosphere or surface.
Aerosol injection and space-based reflectors are examples of SRM methods. SRM methods do not remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, but can be deployed faster with relatively immediate global cooling results compared to CDR methods.
Director Brennan specifically mentions a type of SRM known as stratospheric aerosol injection, or SAI. As Brennan notes, SAI is “a method of seeding the stratosphere with particles that can help reflect the sun’s heat, in much the same way that volcanic eruptions do.”
Brennan goes on to claim that an SAI geoengineering program could limit global temperature increases, a claim that has been disputed in several studies. For example, Activist Post recently reported on a new analysis released by the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The FMI is the government agency responsible for reporting weather data and forecasts in Finland. The Institute’s study, “Modelling radiative and climate effects of aerosols: from Anthropogenic emissions to geoengineering,” examined the potential for SRM to combat climate change.
The study specifically looked at two types of SRM. The first involved marine aerosol concentrations use to increase clouds, while the second looked at increasing the amount of sulphur concentrated in the stratosphere. The researchers stated that their key objectives were to “investigate the potential of aerosols to cool the climate at the global scale, and identify the possible limits in the effectiveness of the Solar Radiation Management techniques as well as the risks related to these techniques.”
The researchers found that the geoengineering techniques which were studied do in fact have the potential to cool the climate and slow down warming. “However, the cooling effect has limitations,” the team writes.“The cooling effect attributable to aerosols would be rather small due to the geographical change in tropospheric aerosol emissions or change in energy production studied here when compared to the warming due to the increased greenhouse gas emissions,” the paper states.
In other words, the effort, money, and time it would take to invest and create geoengineering methods would likely do very little to actually limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. The researchers even state that, based on their models, if the world replaced coal with nuclear power for energy production it would lead to a “temporal cooling effect,” but after several years “the warming effect from simultaneously increased GHG emission would exceed the cooling effect.” Also, the cooling that does result from an increase in aerosols is “often achieved at the cost of air quality” which could “lead to an increase in premature mortality.”
In February 2015, an international committee of scientists released a report stating that geoengineering techniques are not a viable alternative to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat the effects of climate change. The committee report called for further research and understanding of various geoengineering techniques, including carbon dioxide removal schemes and solar-radiation management before implementation.
The scientists found that SRM techniques are likely to present “serious known and possible unknown environmental, social, and political risks, including the possibility of being deployed unilaterally.” The report was sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. intelligence community, NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Department of Energy.
According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, if geoengineering programs were started and then suddenly halted, the planet could see an immediate rise in temperatures, particularly over land. The study, titled, “The Impact of Abrupt Suspension of Solar Radiation Management,” seems to indicate that once geoengineering begins, the programs cannot be suspended without causing the very problem the engineering was intended to solve.
Conspiracy Fact or Theory?
Despite the knee-jerk dismissal from many casual researchers, the theories might be grounded in reality. In February 2015, while speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose, California, Professor Alan Robock discussed the possibility that the CIA is using the weather as a weapon of war. Robock has done research for the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) in the past.
Robock stated he was phoned by two men claiming to be from the CIA, asking whether or not it was possible for hostile governments to use geoengineering against the United States.
Professor Robock’s fears of the government using the weather as a weapon are not completely unfounded. In a 1996 document entitled“Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather by 2025” the U.S. Air Force discusses a number of proposals for using the weather as a weapon. The Environmental Modification Treaty was signed by the United States and other nations to halt global weather modification.
But the government did not simply research these ideas, they actually implemented them. During the Vietnam War the US government operated covert weather modification programs under Operation Popeye. The government does not only experiment with technology in foreign countries, they like to try it at home as well. In 2012 it was revealed that the US Army sprayed toxic chemicals over the skies of St. Louis without informing the public.
Whether or not Professor Robock’s theory is correct remains to be seen; but for now, Director Brennan’s speech makes it perfectly clear that America’s favorite spy agency is interested in manipulating the weather on a global scale. Whether it’s happening already or will be in the near future, the thought of the CIA (or any agency of government) using the weather as a weapon of war should make it clear that the U.S. government is not operating with reason or concern for the people.
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