New Weapon Could Trigger Climate Change(03/01)

The important debate on global warming proceeding under UN auspices provides but a partial picture of climate change. In addition to the devastating impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the ozone layer, the world’s climate can now be modified by a new generation of sophisticated "non-lethal weapons." In fact, both the US and Russia have developed capabilities to manipulate the world’s weather.

In the US, the technology is being perfected under the High-frequency Active Aural Research Program (HAARP) as part of "Star Wars," otherwise known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Recent scientific evidence suggests that HAARP is fully operational and has the ability to potentially trigger floods, droughts, hurricanes, and earthquakes.

While there is no evidence that this deadly technology has been used yet, surely the UN should be addressing the issue of "environmental warfare" alongside the debate on the climatic impacts of greenhouse gases. From a military standpoint, HAARP is a weapon of mass destruction. Potentially, it constitutes an instrument of conquest capable of selectively destabilizing the agricultural and ecological systems of entire regions.

Owning the Weather

Despite a vast body of scientific knowledge, the issue of deliberate climatic manipulations for military use has never been explicitly part of the UN agenda on climate change. Neither the official delegations nor the environmental action groups participating in the November 2000 Hague Conference on Climate Change (CO6) raised the broad issue of "weather warfare" or "environmental modification techniques" (ENMOD) as relevant to an understanding of climate change.

The clash between official negotiators, environmentalists, and US business lobbies has centered on Washington’s outright refusal to abide by commitments on carbon dioxide reduction targets under the 1997 Kyoto protocol. The protocol calls for nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2 percent to become effective between 2008 and 2012. (For details, go to Yet, the impacts of military technologies on the world’s climate aren’t an object of discussion or concern. Narrowly confined to greenhouse gases, the ongoing debate on climate change serves Washington’s strategic and defense objectives.

World-renowned scientist Dr. Rosalie Bertell confirms that "US military scientists are working on weather systems as a potential weapon." As The Times of London reported on November 23, 2000, "The methods include the enhancing of storms and the diverting of vapor rivers in the Earth’s atmosphere to produce targeted droughts or floods."

In the 1970s, former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski predicted in his book Between Two Ages, "Technology will make available, to the leaders of major nations, techniques for conducting secret warfare, of which only a bare minimum of the security forces need be appraised … . Techniques of weather modification could be employed to produce prolonged periods of drought or storm."

Marc Filterman, a former French military officer, has outlined several types of "unconventional weapons" using radio frequencies. According to a 1999 report in Intelligence Newsletter, he refers directly to "weather war," indicating that the US and the Soviet Union had already "mastered the know-how needed to unleash sudden climate changes (hurricanes, drought) in the early 1980s." These technologies make it "possible to trigger atmospheric disturbances by using Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) radar."

A simulation study of future defense "scenarios," described in a report by the Air University of the US Air Force, calls for "US aerospace forces to Ôown the weather’ by capitalizing on emerging technologies and focusing development of those technologies to war-fighting applications. From enhancing friendly operations or disrupting those of the enemy via small-scale tailoring of natural weather patterns to complete dominance of global communications and counterspace control, weather-modification offers the war fighter a wide range of possible options to defeat or coerce an adversary. In the US, weather modification will likely become a part of national security policy with both domestic and international applications. Our government will pursue such a policy, depending on its interests, at various levels."

Bombarding the Atmosphere

Based in Gokoma, Alaska, and jointly managed by the US Air Force and Navy,  HAARP is part of a new generation of sophisticated weaponry under the SDI. Operated by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate, it constitutes a system of powerful antennas capable of creating "controlled local modifications of the ionosphere."

In The Military’s Pandora’s Box, Dr. Nicholas Begich, a scientist actively involved in the campaign against HAARP, describes it as "a super-powerful radiowave-beaming technology that lifts areas of the ionosphere (upper layer of the atmosphere) by focusing a beam and heating those areas. Electromagnetic waves then bounce back onto earth and penetrate everything – living and dead."

Bertell depicts HAARP as "a gigantic heater that can cause major disruption in the ionosphere, creating not just holes, but long incisions in the protective layer that keeps deadly radiation from bombarding the planet."

Although presented as a program of scientific and academic research, Begich notes that US military documents suggest HAARP’s main objective is to "exploit the ionosphere for Department of Defense purposes." Without explicitly referring to the program, the Air University study points to the use of "induced ionospheric modifications" as a means of altering weather patterns as well as disrupting enemy communications and radar.

According to Bertell, HAARP is part of an integrated weapons system with potentially devastating environmental consequences. "It is related to fifty years of intensive and increasingly destructive programs to understand and control the upper atmosphere," she notes. "It would be rash not to associate HAARP with the space laboratory construction, which is separately being planned by the United States. HAARP is an integral part of a long history of space research and development of a deliberate military nature."

The military implications of combining these projects are alarming. The ability of the HAARP/Spacelab/rocket combination to deliver very large amounts of energy, comparable to a nuclear bomb, anywhere on earth via laser and particle beams, is frightening. The project, adds Bertell, is likely to be "sold" to the public as a space shield against incoming weapons, or, for the more gullible, a device for repairing the ozone layer.

In addition to weather manipulation, HAARP has a number of related uses. According to Begich, "HAARP could contribute to climate change by intensively bombarding the atmosphere with high-frequency rays. Returning low-frequency waves at high intensity could also affect people’s brains, and effects on tectonic movements cannot be ruled out."

More generally, it has the ability to modify the world’s electro-magnetic field. As Don Herskovitz explained in the August 1993 issue of the Journal of Electronic Defense, it’s part of an arsenal of "electronic weapons" which US military researchers consider a "gentler and kinder warfare." According to Herskovitz, "electronic warfare" is defined by the US Department of Defense as "military action involving the use of electromagnetic energy."

Avoiding the Issues

According to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) signed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, "States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction." In addition, an international convention ratified by the UN General Assembly in 1977 bans "military or other hostile use of environmental modification techniques having widespread, long-lasting or severe effects." 

Both the US and the Soviet Union were signatories to the convention, which defines "environmental modification techniques" as referring to any technique for changing – through the deliberate manipulation of natural processes – "the dynamics, composition or structure of the earth, including its biota, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere or of outer space." Yet, the UN, disregarding the 1977 environmental modification convention as well as its own charter, has decided to exclude climatic changes resulting from military programs from its agenda.

Responding to a report of Maj Britt Theorin, Swedish member of the European Parliament and a longtime peace advocate, the parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defense Policy held public hearings on the HAARP program in February 1998. The committee’s subsequent Motion for Resolution, submitted in January 1999, "considers HAARP by virtue of its far-reaching impact on the environment to be a global concern and calls for its legal, ecological and ethical implications to be examined by an international independent body; [the Committee] regrets the repeated refusal of the United States Administration to give evidence to the public hearing into the environmental and public risks [of] the HAARP program."

The committee’s request to draw up a "Green Paper" on "the environmental impacts of military activities," however, was casually dismissed on the grounds that the European Commission lacks the required jurisdiction to delve into "the links between environment and defense." In short, Brussels was anxious to avoid a showdown with Washington.

Fully operational

HAARP is part of the weapons arsenal of the New World Order under SDI. From military command points in the US, entire national economies could potentially be destabilized through climatic manipulations. More important, the latter can be implemented without the knowledge of the enemy,  at minimal cost, and without engaging military personnel and equipment as in a conventional war.

To advance US economic and strategic interests, for example, it could be used to selectively modify climate in different parts of the world, resulting in the destabilization of agricultural and ecological systems. It’s also worth noting that the US Department of Defense has allocated substantial resources to the development of intelligence and monitoring systems on weather changes.

While there’s no concrete evidence that HAARP has been used, scientific findings suggest that it’s fully operational. If so, it could potentially be applied by the US military to selectively modify the climate of an "unfriendly nation" or "rogue state" with a view to destabilizing its national economy.

Agricultural systems in both developed and developing countries are already in crisis as a result of New World Order policies such as market deregulation and commodity dumping. Amply documented, IMF and World Bank "economic medicine" imposed on the Third World and the countries of the former Soviet bloc has largely contributed to the destabilization of domestic agriculture. In turn, the provisions of the World Trade Organization have supported the interests of a handful of Western agri-biotech conglomerates in their quest to impose genetically modified seeds on farmers throughout the world.

In that context, climatic manipulations under the HAARP program (whether accidental or deliberate) would inevitably exacerbate these changes by weakening national economies, destroying infrastructure, and potentially triggering the bankruptcy of farmers over vast areas. Surely, national governments and the UN should address the possible consequences of this and other "non-lethal weapons" on climate change.

Michel Chossudovsky teaches economics at the University of Ottawa and is the author of The Globalization of Poverty.