Introduced: Hurricane Nuking Ban

June 10, 2020

File this under “Laws no one would have imagined necessary until the age of Trump”.

Washington Post:

Last August, Axios reported that President Trump repeatedly asked top national security officials to consider using nuclear bombs to weaken or destroy hurricanes. Now, one congresswoman wants to make it illegal for Trump, or any president, to act on this idea, which experts say would be both ineffective and extremely dangerous.

On June 1, Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Tex.) introduced the Climate Change and Hurricane Correlation and Strategy Act, a bill that explicitly prohibits the president, along with any other federal agency or official, from employing a nuclear bomb or other “strategic weapon” with the goal of “altering weather patterns or addressing climate change.”

In a phone interview, Garcia told The Washington Post that the bill was drafted as a direct response to last year’s report that Trump has floated the idea of nuking hurricanes to his senior homeland security and national security advisers. Trump denied ever making such a suggestion in a tweet shortly after Axios published its report.

The bill comes at the start of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which is off to a roaring start, with Tropical Storm Cristobal, the earliest-recorded third-named storm of any season, striking Louisiana on Sunday. The season is expected to bring above-average storm activity, with 14 to 19 named storms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Indeed, the idea of nuking the weather into submission is nothing new: According to James Fleming, a professor at Colby College and author of “Fixing the Sky: The checkered history of weather and climate control,” people have been discussing the possibility for almost as long as nuclear weapons have existed.

In October 1945, Vladimir Zworykin, associate research director at Radio Corporation of America, suggested that if humans had technology to perfectly predict the weather, military forces could be sent out to disrupt storms before they formed, perhaps using atomic bombs. That same year, UNESCO director Julian Huxley spoke at an arms control conference in Manhattan, where he discussed using nuclear weapons for “landscaping the Earth” or dissolving the polar ice cap. In a 1961 speech at the National Press Club, U.S. Weather Bureau head Francis Reichelderfer said he could “imagine the possibility someday of exploding a nuclear bomb on a hurricane far at sea,” according to a 2016 report by National Geographic.

The United States even conducted several near-space experiments using nukes, including Operation Argus, a 1958 field test in which the military and the Atomic Energy Commission detonated atomic bombs more than 100 miles above the South Atlantic Ocean in an ill-conceived effort to induce artificial radiation belts in Earth’s magnetic field. According to Fleming, the Argus tests, along with subsequent high-altitude nuclear detonations, helped “fuel discussions” leading to the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which prohibits atmospheric nuclear weapons tests.

While nuking a hurricane in an attempt to destroy or weaken it would probably cause an international uproar, the Partial Test Ban Treaty wouldn’t prohibit the president from doing so. In addition, there’s no domestic law or international treaty that would prohibit such an action, according to Scott Sagan, a professor of political science at Stanford University.

“It would be a stupid thing to do, but it would not be an illegal thing to do,” Sagan said. He said test bans wouldn’t cover the actual use of a nuclear weapon against a perceived threat to the United States. In such circumstances, the president has sole authority to use nuclear weapons.

Hurricane experts have long maintained that detonating a nuclear device in a hurricane would have little effect on it, according to an FAQ page on the NOAA website. As the agency explains, the energy released by nuclear weapons pales in comparison to the energy released by a typical hurricane, which the NOAA describes as comparable to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding “every 20 minutes.”

Even detonating multiple nuclear bombs inside a hurricane is unlikely to disrupt the storm, although the radioactive fallout released downwind could have catastrophic impacts for people and the environment.

5 Responses to “Introduced: Hurricane Nuking Ban”

  1. doldrom Says:

    … prohibits the president, along with any other federal agency or official, from employing a nuclear bomb or other “strategic weapon” with the goal of “altering weather patterns or addressing climate change.”

    I would favor the bill if they left out the part starting “with the goal …”
    Just ban employing nuclear bombs, which was te stated aim of the non-Proliferation Treaty.

    We were forewarned, because to my recollection, Trump was asking, before he was elected: What the point was of having nuclear weapons if you can’t use them.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      After wading through “Look at Me” Chucky’s usual inane and irrelevant comments, one finds some intelligent discussion of the topic by doldrom. Yep, banning use of nuclear weapons PERIOD would solve the problem, but we know that’s not going to happen. Can we settle for just keeping the stable genius and his minions from uselessly firing one off against a hurricane?

      (And the list of stupid things done in the past with nuclear weapons or suggested by people who should have known better is pretty scary)

  2. […] the money might be a needful exercise, on the Trump recession now being a real thing, and in the “In what sane world would a law like this be needed?” […]

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