Tag Archives: United Arab Emirates

… like the deserts miss the rain

Speaking as we just were – however tangentially – of climate change, I think that the new decade will provide a lot more stories about deliberate climate change – the first tentative attempts at geoengineering. Here’s your starter for ten: a secret cloud-seeding project in the United Arab Emirates [via TechnOcculT]

As part of a secret program to control the weather in the Middle East, scientists working for the United Arab Emirates government artificially created rain where rain is generally nowhere to be found. The $11 million project, which began in July, put steel lampshade-looking ionizers in the desert to produce charged particles. The negatively charged ions rose with the hot air, attracting dust. Moisture then condensed around the dust and eventually produced a rain cloud. A bunch of rain clouds.

On the 52 days it rained in the region throughout July and August, forecasters did not predict rain once.

At the first glimpse, this looks like a triumph of technology over the caprice of climate: imagine miles and miles of inhospitable desert turned into rolling farmland! But short-term localised benefits are unlikely to be the whole story in a system so complex as our planet’s biosphere. You can’t isolate one part of the world from the rest of it; everything has consequences for everyone. Whatever your political alignment or ideological stake in this interminable debate, you can’t escape the self-evident truth that climate is a system, no matter what you think are the root causes of the changes that system is going through.

Look at it this way: if you were living up on the ISS, how good would you feel about the crew members in the module at the far end fiddling with the life-support systems so they got a little more heat or oxygen than everyone else? Now imagine that said crew members have only the most rudimentary understanding of how the life-support systems actually work, and of the potential repercussions of their fiddling on the rest of the station. Now, which is the more sensible response: do you start your own retaliatory program of fiddling in your end of the station, or do you all get together and figure out how the system works before poking at it with screwdrivers and soldering irons?

The thing with Planet Earth is this: we ain’t got nowhere else to go. Over the long term, your short-term local advantage has pretty good odds of coming back to haunt you as a global disadvantage once it has finished screwing over some other part of the planet. If you’re willing to concede that your views on climate change mitigation are based on securing the best advantage for yourself in your own lifetime, then by all means feel free to try convincing me of the merits of that philosophy; that is a honest debate, and I’ll respect your position while doing my best to counter it. But if you want to dress that philosophy up in a cloak of mealy-mouthed sophistry about the duty of scepticism and the absence of absolute certainty in the scientific method, take it somewhere else.

Yeah, I have a “liberal” agenda; I’d like future generations of every nation to have a world that can support their lives. In my worldview, every living human being – and their future progeny – is a stakeholder of equal status in this planet and its future.

What’s your agenda?