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Hidden Dangers Lurking Behind the Scenes at Congressional Hearings on Cloud Seeding

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Photo by Steve Snodgrass | CC BY 2.0

OMG! Congress held hearings recently on geo-engineering techniques to stop the evils of global warming. Whew! The irony is absolutely fantastically mind-boggling, a real knee-slapper.

Think about the paradox as Dr. James Hansen, the top climate scientist of NASA at the time warned Congress of the dangers of anthropogenic global warming way back in 1988, and it resulted in a major New York Times headline “Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate.”

So, Congress has had 30 years to ruminate the global warming warning, never seriously addressing possible fixes, like conversion from fossil fuels to renewable energy as a nationwide program, kinda like the Marshall Plan, which if started back then, we’d be closer to out of the woods today and closer to 100% renewable energy. But, back in the day Congress could only see their way to make the Space Station 100% solar-powered, hmm.

However, now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag, meaning global warming/climate change is so real as to be the prevailing narrative, they’ve belatedly decided to hold hearings on how to put toothpaste back into a tube. Dr. James Hansen must be chuckling, maybe crying, maybe on his hands and knees in a rage of demonic laughter, who knows?

This story is full of irony like the most-absurdity award of all time. It’s also somewhat of an insult to the intelligence of serious scientist that worked on the global warming quagmire ever since the Great Anthropogenic Warming Warning of 1988. After all, Congress has flipped the bird at science all these years, denialism at its most potent. Even worse yet, nowadays science is totally demonized. Are we back in the Middle Ages?

Here’s the scoop: The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology recently held hearings on the potential for geoengineering, or human-induced influence over the atmosphere to cool things down a bit, or maybe try to pull carbon out of the atmosphere instead of emitting it into the atmosphere like a house afire.

Of course, it almost goes without saying, how in the world is it possible, even remotely possible, to hold hearings about combating global warming by a Congress that has so steadfastly failed to recognize it in the first instance. They’re deniers! Aren’t they? Why are they worried about climate change all of a sudden? From an outside observer’s viewpoint, it’s kinda like watching the worst episode of The Twilight Zone, over and over, again and again, until a migraine splits one’s head wide open.

As one might suspect, there’s a hook: According to the NYT article “We Can Brighten Clouds to Reflect Heat and Reduce Global Warming. But Should We?” McClatchy DC Bureau, d/d Nov. 8, 2017, here’s what Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who chairs the house committee, claims: “As climate continues to change, geoengineering could be a tool to curb resulting impacts… Instead of forcing unworkable and costly government mandates on the American people, we should look to technology and innovation to lead the way to address climate change.” (Notice the careful wording, never a mention of global warming, especially anthropogenic)

As a consequence of those hearings, just imagine the activity in the halls of Congress: Representatives slapping each other on the back and teething big fat unlit cigars soaked wet drooling down chins, as a solution to public criticism of their pathetic denialism is at hand. Long live fossil fuels! If the committee can somehow demonstrate man-made solutions to curb the curses of global warming, which they’ve never recognized in the first place, then Congress has reason to continue, forever and forever more, their massive fossil fuel subsidy giveaways, and lots of payola along the way (oops, probably shouldn’t have mentioned that last item).

On second thought, maybe the cynicism of this article is too heavy-handed, but on the other hand, the big question mark remains: Why are climate deniers, meaning members of Congress, suddenly entertaining geoengineering techniques to offset the dangers of global warming? What’s Up? Time and again over the past three decades, they’ve claimed no belief in anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming.

Of course, the answer is found in the cynicism that motivated this article in the first place, which is: It’s a dream come true for congressional climate deniers. Now they have an excuse for the administration pulling out of the Paris climate accords and a rationale, even though paltry, for abject failure to address the issue over the past three decades. Who needs international accords or national policies to fix something when there is no risk to using fossil fuels till the cows come home? Answer: Fix “climate change” with geoengineering. If this rationale seems too far out in left field, it pales in comparison to how far out of touch Congress has been to the global warming threat for endless decades.

Well, there is an unfortunate twist to the geoengineering solution, as geoengineering is still experimental. And, it’s a massive undertaking, literally as large as the planet itself, and nobody can say with certainty that it works, that it does not have nasty unintended consequences, that it solves the underlying problem of spewing too much CO2 into the atmosphere. In that regard, in all likelihood, it may be no more than a gigantic Band-Aid at best. The thing is, nobody really knows the outcome, nobody, absolutely nobody. It’s an experiment, period.

The experts that appeared before the congressional committee talked about cloud brightening by adding particles to clouds to reflect sunlight back into outer space, which, of course, is exactly what the icy Arctic itself has done for eons, until global warming melted its icy cap down to toddler size. The geoengineering proposal utilizes high-powered nozzles to spray “saltwater droplets” onto the clouds, but the initial testing of that methodology proved difficult, if not impossible, because of corrosive properties burning through titanium and even burning through diamond. And, the experimentation continues.

They also talked about stratospheric aerosol geoengineering putting reflective particles in the upper atmosphere, maybe using “calcium carbonate,” which is non-toxic. However, accomplishing such a major feat remains a very big unsolved puzzle. And, there are plenty of critics who fear unintended consequences, whatever those may be, and how could anyone know ahead of time?

Still, the very fact that a congressional committee entertained the idea of combating global warming is a real mind-blow, like coming off an acid trip, reconnecting with reality, everything seems kinda fuzzy. As the world slowly comes back into focus, it’s discovered that Congress is actively looking into geoengineering techniques that hopefully stop the planet from runaway over-heating thereby spoiling the big party
of record stock prices and neoliberal growth, ad-infinitum.

Meanwhile, the big picture event swirling around the global warming nexus continues: From Tokyo to Paris to Silicon Valley scientists and engineers in private settings are investigating solutions to the global warming threat, and geoengineering is the preferred course of action. It’s believed that human intelligence is truly boundless, almost deific, in pursuit of technological miracles, similar to registered successes with the Internet and the Moonshot and maybe Mars.

But, whether the global warming quandary is bigger than all knowledge of science and engineering remains a very big question mark. Indeed, it is the biggest question mark of all time as well as the biggest threat since T-Rex bit the dust.

Along the way, wouldn’t it be truly wonderful if Congress really truly cared, even though belatedly and delinquently late to the upcoming World’s Biggest Weenie Roast of all time? Don’t count on it.

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Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at rlhunziker@gmail.com.

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