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CIA Funding Climate Manipulation Study

Research to explore various geoengineering techniques and implications on national security

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

The CIA is funding a geoengineering research project which may explore potentially devastating carbon dioxide removal schemes, such as seeding oceanic algae blooms. (Photo: NASA)The United States Central Intelligence Agency is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into a new scientific research project to determine if manipulation of the Earth's environment is a viable means of preventing climate change.

The $630,000 geoengineering study is being spearheaded by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the "US Intelligence Community," according to the NAS website.

NAS spokesman William Kearney confirmed to Mother Jones—which first broke the story—that the CIA is indeed behind the scheme. Though he refused to comment on their role, CIA spokesman Edward Price acknowledged, "It's natural that on a subject like climate change the Agency would work with scientists to better understand the phenomenon and its implications on national security."

The goal of the study includes a "technical evaluation of a limited number of proposed geoengineering techniques," and an examination of the "potential impacts of deploying these technologies, including possible environmental, economic, and national security concerns."

More specifically, the scientists plan to experiment with various means of solar radiation management (SRM), which Mother Jones describes as "a fancy term for pumping particles into the stratosphere to reflect incoming sunlight away from the planet," as well as carbon dioxide removal (CDR) techniques. 

Last fall, American entrepreneur Russ George had independently experimented with one such technique when he dumped 120 tons of iron dust 200 miles off the British Columbia coastline with the intent of creating an algae bloom that would sequester carbon from the atmosphere. His act created an international uproar, and scientists condemned the practice saying it would increase ocean acidification and deplete oxygen in deep waters.

"The risks are huge," wrote Naomi Klein, regarding the growing interest in geoengineering schemes. "Ocean fertilization could trigger dead zones and toxic tides. And multiple simulations have predicted that mimicking the effects of a volcano would interfere with monsoons in Asia and Africa, potentially threatening water and food security for billions of people."

"But what concerns me," she added, "is that far more serious scientists, backed by far deeper pockets, appear poised to actively tamper with the complex and unpredictable natural systems that sustain life on earth—with huge potential for unintended consequences."

As Mother Jones reports, this is not the 'deep-pocketed' Intelligence Agency's first foray into climate manipulation:

The CIA would not say why it had decided to fund the project at this time, but the US government's apparent interest in altering the climate isn't new. The first big use of weather modification as a military tactic came during the Vietnam War, when the Air Force engaged in a cloud seeding program to try to create rainfall and turn the Ho Chi Minh Trail into muck, and thereby gain tactical advantage. Between 1962 and 1983, other would-be weather engineers tried to change the behavior of hurricanes using silver iodide. That effort, dubbed Project Stormfury, was spearheaded by the Navy and the Commerce Department.

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