Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Real "Climate Change Weapon"

Following up on yesterday's post, which showed satellite pictures of the heat, drought and fires in Russia, I see that a widely-published Russian author, Andrei Areshev, deputy director of the Strategic Culture Foundation, alleges that has Russia's recent hot weather should be blamed on a US military program.

Here is his original article, "Climate Weapons. More Than Just a Conspiracy Theory?", and here is the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty article: "Russian Scholar Warns Of 'Secret' U.S. Climate Change Weapon."

This is a laughable conspiracy theory, and should be dismissed out of hand.  In a conference which we held in early 2009, a questioner (who also seemed to be of the conspiracy-theory set) asked whether climate change could be used as a weapon.  Our panel, consisting of speakers from the military, diplomatic, and intelligence professions, concluded that it would be very unlikely that climate change or carbon emissions could be used as a weapon.  However, they did say that geoengineering does raise some particularly difficult geopolitical problems.  Others have raised similar concerns about manipulating the climate and weather, through man-made geoengineering.  

Though we can dismiss Areshev's argument out of hand, we should not underestimate the power of the argument underneath it.  Areshev is wrong that the US Military is intentionally manipulating the climate by using the High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) or some sort of space-based laser weaponry (which he claims is deployed on the X-37B, pictured at left).  However, as the recent report from NOAA stated,  it is 'undeniable' that the planet is warming, and that the decade 2000-2009 was the hottest globally on record.  And, as the IPCC's 4th assessment report stated, "Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations."  The largest historical emissions of greenhouse gases come from the United States, and the US is currently the second largest current emitter (recently overtaken by China).  

As I wrote yesterday, you can never say that any one event is caused by global warming -- we have always seen drought and extreme weather -- but you should expect more extreme weather events like this. If, for the sake of argument, we say that this drought is caused by man-made global warming, then we can say that the US is responsible for at least part of that warming.  Of course, so also is Russia, China, Brazil, India, Europe, and others.  All industrial and industrializing countries share the responsibility for deploying this 'climate weapon' over the last century.  

As the effects of climate change become more apparent, I believe that we will see more cases of blaming the US (or China) for climate change, even if it is simply added to a long list of grievances agricultural protectionism, globalization, colonialism, and others.  Earlier this year, we saw Osama bin Laden accuse the US of causing climate change.  At the time, I wrote: "this leads to a sort-of conspiracy theory of climate change, whereby the emissions of the US and the rich world has purposefully doomed the poor world to an unending series of disasters." I think we should expect to see more of these accusations being made, though it would help their credibility if the accuser blamed US industry and transportation, not some James Bond-type space laser.  

1 comment:

  1. Andrew - I agree with perception being as important as reality in terms of creating real politics on these things. It made me think of the consistently large proportion of the Brazilian population that thinks the U.S. military is planning to invade to stop deforestation in the Amazon based on then Vice President Gore calling it the lungs of the Earth.