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Think about it: a mad scientist reads the same alarming news about rising seas and dying bees and decides he/she is going to save us all with some crazy geoengineering scheme. That could potentially put the rest of us in even worse danger, which partially explains the motivation behind the US Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) contribution to a $630,000 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study that aims to determine what we (greater humanity) knows about geoengineering techniques.
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Mother Jones reports that the CIA closed their climate change research center last year following complaints from Republicans in the US House of Representatives that this is not a job for the intelligence community. Instead, the CIA joins NASA and the NAS itself to fund a 21 month study that will seek to understand how much humanity knows about controlling the climate with techniques such as Solar Radiation Management (SRM), which blocks infrared radiation to control temperature rise, and Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR).
NAS spokesperson Lauren Rugani told The Verge that the CIA’s involvement in the study is strictly limited to funding and claims that the sponsors don’t participate in discussions at all. However, CIA spokesperson Edward Price told Mother Jones, “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.”
While a lot of scientists and environmentalists disapprove of any attempts to manipulate the climate except by reducing our addiction to fossil fuel and being more careful about what we emit into the atmosphere, other scientists say that the bioengineering techniques proposed as a solution are essentially “doable.” But that’s problematic, kind of like 3D-printed guns that can be made and distributed by just about anyone.
“This whole issue of lone actors: Do we need to be concerned about China acting unilaterally? Is that just idle chatter, or is that something the US government should prepare for?” asks Ken Caldeira, a geoengineering researcher at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology and a member of the current National Academy of Sciences panel.