The CIA is worried about the national security implications of climate change, and it’s also concerned about the potential implications of geoengineering — large-scale deliberate intervention in the Earth’s climate system.
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has launched a study of geoengineering as a way to fight climate change, bringing together experts and getting the CIA involved as one of the study’s financers. For the purposes of the NAS study, geoengineering is the process of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or reflecting solar radiation away from the Earth to reduce global warming effects.
While this is great fodder for conspiracy theorists who can imagine geoengineering as a weapon of mass destruction, that is exactly one of the CIA’s concerns — so it’s not so far out there.
The mainstream media buzz is that the CIA wants to “control the weather” through geoengineering. But let’s put this into perspective. First of all, this is just a panel of experts intending to produce an in-depth study called “Geoengineering Climate: Technical Evaluation and Discussion of Impacts”. We’re not talking about massive, expensive labs churning out geoengineering tech that can be used by the CIA to reroute geopolitical dynamics. Certainly, nothing more than a study will be produced on the project’s $630,000 budget and within its 21-month timeframe.
There are precedents for government attempts to control the weather, as media is quick to point out, so it’s not exactly a new idea, but what we’re talking about is much bigger than manipulating the weather over Vietnam or ensuring that the Olympics in Beijing aren’t ruined by rain.
The CIA is partially funding the project, along with four other government agencies, including NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And the research isn’t classified, according to the NAS. “We’re doing an evaluation,” he said. “This is an assessment of what is known in the science literature about some of the proposed engineering techniques — both solar-radiation management and carbon-dioxide removal,” as reported by Fox News.
The fact is that despite the right-wing hesitancy to accept the very notion of climate change, let alone global warming, the CIA considers climate change a potential threat to global security and hence national security. (And it’s not the first time the CIA has attempted to get more involved in the climate change issue. The agency used to have its own research center dedicated to the issue but it was closed down last year because Republican officials thought it a waste of time for the CIA to be involved in this.
When you throw geoengineering into the mix, it gets potentially more complicated because of the implications of what is essentially weather-controlling technology in the hands of “rogue” states. There are too many variables not to consider the security aspect of climate change and geoengineering. So, involved is exactly what an agency like the CIA should be.
But these are questions for later. Right now all the panel is concerned about is evaluating the technologies that have been proposed, assessing their feasibility and determining the risks of each. Those include:
– Solar radiation management: the idea of reflecting sunlight in an attempt to block infrared radiation and halt rising temperatures, with one proposed method being the scattering of sulphate aerosols in the atmosphere to reflect the sun’s energy. Some scientists are calling for this to be done, now, in the Arctic, to halt the rapid melt, according to The New York Times.
– Carbon dioxide removal techniques, along with which is the idea of storing carbon dioxide in the deep ocean (which risks ocean acidification).
Before we start talking about a CIA conspiracy to control the weather, the real question the NAS study has to answer is whether geoengineering is feasible at all — or whether the cure would be worse than the disease. Plenty would argue that it’s the climate equivalent of eating bags of chips and then getting liposuction, rather than just dieting and exercising.
Originally written for OilPrice.com, a website that focuses on news and analysis on topics of alternative energy, geopolitics, and oil and gas. OilPrice.com is written for an educated audience that includes investors, fund managers, resource bankers, traders, and energy market professionals around the world.