Section: Opinion

Weekly Column: Weather manipulation is not a long-term climate change solution

On Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, The Guardian published an article detailing recent research findings on cloud-seeding technology. More specifically, the research looked at the cloud-seeding technology used at Tiananmen Square this summer, where tens and thousands of people gathered to commemorate the centenary of China’s Communist party.

​​Cloud seeding is a weather modification technique that usually relies on silver iodide as an agent to rapidly form ice crystals, resulting in the production of artificial raindrops. I was shocked to learn that the world we currently live in has the type of technology capable of manipulating the weather like this. And I’m not sure I’m super stoked about the idea — it seems like we’ve given up on striving for long-term solutions and are instead taking a massive short-cut in our fight for climate change.

Surprisingly enough, according to The Hill, scientists believe that cloud seeding could actually increase precipitation and alleviate the effects of climate change. The large-scale operation that China launched to bring rainfall over the suburbs of Beijing reduced air pollutants by more than two-thirds and shifted the air quality index from moderate to good! But although all of this makes cloud seeding seem promising, the idea of manipulating the weather feels extremely wrong to me because of its artificiality — it’s as if we’re hacking nature and not productively addressing the ways in which we are actively destroying the environment.

I definitely don’t want to reprimand scientists’ efforts in temporarily mitigating heat waves and droughts with technology as advanced as cloud seeding; it’s quite impressive that we’re able to do this. Instead, I want to emphasize how, rather than looking into short-term solutions to alleviate global warming, we should continue to strive for long-term solutions instead. To me, if anything, cloud seeding shows the lengths we have resorted to in order to amend the damage we’ve made, but that we’ve given up on looking at the long term solutions and instead are looking for ways to hack the natural system we live in.

On one hand, I think weather manipulation technology like cloud seeding would be extremely beneficial for its temporary prospects in aiding agriculture. If we can produce rain in areas that lack the necessary precipitation for proper harvest, we would be able to save tons of people from a whole lot of inconvenience, and allow for a more fruitful agricultural economy. But it makes me wonder: If we’re able to implement this technology to reduce heat for celebrations like the one China held over summer, why wasn’t this same technology implemented when the Amazon forest fires were taking place? 

A huge problem with the world we live in today is that most of us are, quite frankly, selfish and impatient. This complicates the issue of climate change because fighting it requires people living today to do things for the benefit of our future generations. And what have future generations ever done for us? 

Laurence Kotlikoff, an economist at Boston University, argues that appealing to our future generations when designing climate change policies will always fail. What’s needed is a solution that benefits people alive today as much as it benefits our grandchildren. He argues that nations should start enacting high carbon taxes, but offset them by cutting other kinds of income, sales and property taxes. And the offsetting tax cuts should be so large that they increase budget deficits, saddling future generations with debts that will have to be repaid. Everyone loves low taxes, so that’ll definitely appeal to those living today. 

White it’s true that future generations will have those debts to pay off, Kotlikoff contends that steps taken today to fight climate change will have massive payoffs for future generations too. They’ll be better off than they would be from the way we’re handling the global warming crisis now — by hacking nature through implementing short term solutions like cloud seeding.

 

Angie Tran ’25 is a columnist for the Collegian. She is an undeclared major from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. She can be reached at tran1@kenyon.edu.

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