Last December, China announced that it was planning to expand its cloud seeding program to cover more than one and a half times the size of India by 2025. For decades, the Communist country had been using military aircraft and anti-aircraft guns to seed clouds with silver iodide and liquid nitrogen, thickening water droplets to the point where they would fall as rain or snow.
The technique had been mostly used at a local level to reduce droughts or clear the sky ahead of major events, such as the 2008 Olympics. But Beijing's planned expansion would increase fivefold what is already the world's biggest cloud-seeding operation.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates and other donors were also backing a geoengineering project to dim the sun. In December, it was reported that researchers behind the project would fly a test balloon over Sweden this year. The flight would involve testing how to maneuver the balloon and checking equipment under high-altitude conditions. If all goes well, the researchers could proceed to the next step of their study, which was to inject calcium carbonate dust into the atmosphere later this year or the next.
The University of Cambridge also launched the Centre for Climate Repair in 2019 to explore new methods of geoengineering in an effort to fight "climate change." One idea the center would be pursuing was brightening the clouds above Earth's poles to increase their ability to reflect sunlight, which proponents said would lower temperatures and refreeze melting ice caps.
Australian researchers also used a similar solar engineering technique last year as part of a study aimed at cooling the Great Barrier Reef. They used a prototype turbine to create and spray tiny seawater droplets into the air over the reef, which they claim significantly increased the amount of heat that was reflected back into space. The researchers said that they would scale up this year to three times the technology's current size in preparation for a ten-fold increase a year later.
But pundits warn that geoengineering in any form has several dangers that can push societies to the brink of collapse.
ETC Group, a Canada-based international eco-justice organization, is campaigning to end geoengineering plans due to their potential adverse impacts on the climate. For example, injecting sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere above the Arctic to mimic volcano clouds can disrupt the Asian monsoons and increase droughts, especially in Africa. In turn, these can affect agriculture and endanger food and water sources for two billion people, according to Silvia Ribeiro, the Latin America Director for ETC Group.
She notes that these are just the potential side effects of the most thoroughly studied solar geoengineering proposals. Less well-understood projects could be worse, she warns. (Related: Geoengineering science: Aerosols impact cloud formation and weather; atmospheric scientists document the effects.)
A 2017 report from the ETC Group and the Heinrich Boll Foundation also shows that if governments gain control of changing the course of damaging storms, diversions that direct storms toward other countries may be interpreted as acts of war.
The ability to manipulate the climate could further be weaponized and used as a threat that will likely incite countermeasures, effectively serving the same function as nuclear weapons, according to Ribeiro.
Canadian author and climate activist Naomi Klein also notes that geoengineering tests are just as dangerous as the actual deployment of the technology. That's because climate modification methods need to be deployed at a scale big enough to impact the climate and therefore prove their efficacy. That means the tests themselves would not be a test but an actual geoengineering of the planet, and carry a large risk because the consequences are still unknown.
Learn more about the dangers of geoengineering at WeatherTerrorism.com.