Weather Modification and Geo-Engineering Will Increase Environmental Problems, Not Reduce Them

Cloud Seeding

At the time of the recent Dubai floods there was initial over-emphasis by some on cloud-seeding as being the main factor, which was later corrected to say that climate change induced concentration of very heavy rain over a wide area of UAE, Oman (where nearly 18 persons including some schoolchildren lost their life in the perilous floods) and other neighboring countries was the main factor. Concentration of rainfall normally spread over 18 months in just a single day is a very serious matter which would create problems anywhere, although drainage inadequacies, which are increasingly seen in hurried urban developments, too played an important role in aggravating the situation.

This having been said, the role of cloud seeding should not be altogether ignored. If adverse weather and stormy conditions had been predicted by weather forecasts and people had been advised to work from home, as has been stated in some reports, what was the relevance of still carrying out cloud seeding as a routine sort of activity, keeping in view several risks of this?

After all the link between cloud seeding to induce rain and unwanted heavy floods has been reported in the past not just generally but even in the context of UAE specifically, something that was generally missed in the immediate debate. Such a link has been clearly mentioned in a paper by Khalid B. Almheiri , Rabee Rustum et al published in ‘Water’ journal in November 2021 in the context of Sharjah.

There are several other references for disasters being caused by cloud seeding in other parts of world. The New Scientist published a report titled ‘Rain making linked to killer flood’ by Andre Graves (2001) which mentioned an English village being more or less wiped out in 1952 in Lynmouth, Devon, and as many as 36 people being drowned as a result of secretive cloud seeding done by the Royal Air force which was probably researching for possible military applications of cloud seeding, such as drowning an enemy force.

The Wall Street Journal published a report by J. Dean on November 16 2009 relating to a blizzard in China being caused or aggravated by China’s efforts to induce artificial snowfall.

On the other hand, serious concern has also been expressed that inducing rain from clouds in one place may be at the cost of denying rain to another place where the clouds would have caused rain if left undisturbed. Thus there may be no net gain from all the effort and expenditure. What is more, discord may arise between the people of two places, particularly if the place denied rain is already suffering from drought conditions. If the two places are in different countries, then even a serious conflict situation may arise on the basis of mere suspicions alone. On the other hand, a country with more advanced technological capacity for large-scale cloud seeding may even use this to deliberately deprive a hostile country of much-needed rains.

In fact once militarization possibilities come in, then all sorts of sinister uses of weather modification can be visualized, including efforts to divert destructive storms and sea-storms in other directions. Considering that technologies are far from perfect, some of these efforts can also prove to be self-destructive.

Weather modification, moreover, is only one aspect of several types of highly dubious geo-engineering steps being already taken up and considered seriously, not just at national level but even by corporate entities on their own, increasing risks. These are being taken up so often in the context of highly suspect proposals to check climate change that geo-engineering is often considered in the context of climate change only.  Various proposals include setting up giant mirrors in select locations to reflect sunlight back to space, huge quantities of glass being dropped on polar ice to reflect sunlight back (regardless of impact of this on already endangered polar wildlife species), injecting sulfur droplets into stratosphere, even spraying iron particles on oceans to try to get algal blooms which it is hoped will capture carbon, as well as several other ways of capturing carbon. Most of these are based on reductionist science, and do not even try to envisage the chain of impacts caused by their activities, an approach that is responsible for causing the serious environmental crisis in the first place. Some of these may be prompted by hurried considerations of selling carbon credits on dubious basis, instead of making real gains in terms of environment protection.

Once scaled up, some of these efforts themselves are a big threat to environment. This is particularly true of the situation in China where weather modification is planned on a very vast scale regardless of impacts on other parts of the county or in neighboring countries. As such a highly technocratic approach can very rapidly spread here in the absence of adequate critical voices from within the authoritarian system, this is something that should cause widespread concern and international efforts to check and regulate this should be made, as well as to introduce greater transparency and wider consultation in this . Of course the geo-engineering and weather modification efforts being made in all other countries, at the military or civilian level, particularly by the big powers like the USA, should also be carefully regulated and checked whenever these are found to be to risky. On the whole there is little doubt on the basis of present trends that weather modification and geo-engineering are fast emerging as a destructive rather than a protective force.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, A Day in 2071 and Man over Machine.               

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