Thu, Aug 08, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Attempts to ‘tame the sky’ come with risks: academic

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

National Taiwan University geography professor Chien Shiuh-shen, right, presents his research findings concerning weather modification at the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Chien Hui-ju, Taipei Times

“Taming the sky” is a strategy used by China and other authoritarian states to tackle climate change, but excessive weather modification has far-reaching implications and can lead to international conflicts, an academic said yesterday

Chien Shiuh-shen (簡旭伸), a professor of geography at National Taiwan University who specializes in environmental sustainability and climate engineering politics, shared his studies on global weather modification at a news conference at the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taipei.

Weather modification practices include preventing or increasing rain and snowfall, and dispersing fog and suppressing hail, Chien said.

A number of scientists have raised concern about the consequences of such practices, given weather systems recognize no borders, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said.

While the WMO does not recommend such practices, China has been promoting them — more than two-thirds of its county-level governments have set up weather modification offices, Chien said.

Beijing’s “nature-taming” practices can serve certain political purposes, he said.

The so-called “blueskying” technology is one of the most well-known practices, he said, adding that China tried to ensure clear skies for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Under the pretext of ecological protection, the weather agency in China’s Qinghai Province also used artificial rainmaking without carefully evaluating the potential consequences on local weather systems or on India’s weather conditions, sparking conflict between the two countries, Chien added.

Similarly, Iran has claimed that Israel is “stealing clouds” through precipitation enhancement, even though the two countries do not share a border, he said.

In comparison, London in the 2012 Summer Olympics presented clouds in its stadium, a humorous gesture mocking its own volatile weather, he said.

While authoritarian regimes are more likely to alter weather conditions through technology, democratic states seem to be more respectful of natural weather conditions and try to incorporate them into everyday life, he said.

Climate engineering entails political struggles, while people’s ideas about geographical “property rights” should shift from a two-dimensional to a three-dimensional structure, Chien said.

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