China to expand its weather-control program
China revealed plans to expand an experimental weather modification program to cover an area of over 5.5 million square kilometers (2.1 million square miles) more than 1.5 times the total size of India.
According to a statement from the State Council, China will have a “developed weather modification system” by 2025, thanks to breakthroughs in fundamental research and key technologies, as well as improvements in “comprehensive prevention against safety risks.”In the next five years, the total area covered by artificial rain or snowfall will reach 5.5 million sq km, while over 580,000 sq km (224,000 sq miles) will be covered by hail suppression technologies.
The statement added that the program will help with disaster relief, agricultural production, emergency responses to forest and grassland fires, and dealing with unusually high temperatures or droughts.
China has long sought to control the weather to protect farming areas and to ensure clear skies for key events — it seeded clouds ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics to reduce smog and avoid rain ahead of the competition. Key political meetings held in the Chinese capital are notorious for enjoying beautiful clear skies, thanks both to weather modification and the shutting down of nearby factories.
Some experts have speculated that success in weather modification could lead China to adopt more ambitious geoengineering projects, particularly as the country suffers from the effects of climate change. Radical solutions such as seeding the atmosphere with reflective particles could theoretically help reduce temperatures, but could also have major unforeseen consequences, and many experts fear what could happen were a country to experiment with such techniques.
“Without regulation, one country’s efforts could affect other countries,” according to Dhanasree Jayaram, a climate expert at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education in Karnataka, India.
“While China has not yet shown signs of ‘unilaterally’ deploying geoengineering projects on the ground, the scale of its weather modification and other massive engineering projects, including mega-dam projects (such as the Three Gorges), suggests China is willing to deploy large-scale geoengineering schemes to tackle the impacts of climate change and achieve its Paris targets.”