Archive | June 2019

Global Warming and Geoengineering

by Chand Prasad, Ph.D.

Global warming poses a number of grave threats to agriculture, including the loss of pollen viability for some crop species at higher temperatures, more extreme unpredictable weather, and coastal flooding [1].  Any serious efforts to address climate change will necessitate the adoption of organic farming and the rejection of commercial agricultural systems that foster and serve the global meat culture.  However, rather than undertaking constructive and fundamental changes aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions, many in the scientific community have counseled an approach known as geoengineering, which is often described as technological interventions in the earth’s climate systems to manipulate our weather and our oceans.  Unfortunately, this depiction of geoengineering is misleading, or at best incomplete.  Although global warming has been utilized as an argument for increased support and funding for environmental modification technologies, geoengineering is rooted to a large extent in its potential for military applications, which include creating weather disturbances that are destructive to enemy combatant nations [2].

The United States and the Soviet Union conducted some of the earliest geo-scale experiments and engineering efforts between 1958 and 1962.  These 2 Cold War combatants were attempting to modify the global environment for military purposes by detonating nuclear bombs in space – the goal of combating global warming played absolutely no role.  The 1958 U.S. Argus project, for instance, involved the use of A-bomb explosions in the Van Allen Belt (magnetic belts protecting the earth from the destructive solar wind’s charged particles) to create an artificial radiation belt, disrupt the near-space environment, and possibly intercept enemy missiles.  Project Argus, and later high altitude nuclear tests by the U.S. and the Soviet Union that followed, culminated in the 1962 Starfish Prime H-bomb space detonations that created an artificial electromagnetic radiation belt that remained for 10 years [2].  Project Starfish had a substantially disruptive impact on the Van Allen belt, altering its shape and intensity for approximately 100 years to come.  Geo-weaponry projects also included the 1962 U.S. military use of electronic beams to ionize and de-ionize areas of the atmosphere to generate artificial lightening, as well as a Canadian project that entailed launching satellites into the earth’s ionosphere to chemically simulate plasma (an example of which is lightening) [3, 20].

In response to the destructive impacts of these activities, the United Nations General Assembly approved the 1976 Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques [4].  However, the United Nations left a debilitating loophole – the Convention did not prohibit peaceful projects (Article III of Convention) such as pure research, solar energy projects, or industrial resource development.  This omission allowed countries to simply re-label or restate the objectives of their geo-warfare projects as, for instance, weather research aimed at increasing food production in the North American plains or in Russia [3]. Continue reading