“In other news, a class action lawsuit has recently been filed by a small town in Georgia… attempting to hold the U.S. Government liable for damaged caused by the recent hurricane. The lawsuit alleges that while attempting to save a large city, the federal department of weather control diverted the hurricane to their town, making the hurricane damage an act of government instead of an act of god.”
This headline, while fictional, could very soon be a reality. Research scientists have recently made a breakthrough in the science of weather control; releasing plans to weaken hurricanes and steer them off course to prevent tragedies such as Hurricane Katrina. The damage done to New Orleans in 2005 has prompted two teams of climate experts, in Israel and the United States, to focus on the science of weather control. In one model, aircraft would drop soot into the near frozen top of a hurricane, warming it up and reducing wind speeds. Computer simulations have shown that even small changes can affect their paths, enabling them to be diverted from major cities.
Moshe Alamaro of MIT told the Sunday Telegraph of his plans to scatter soot particles into the tops of hurricanes, “painting” them black so that they absorb the heat of the sun, leading to changes in the airflow within the storm. Satellites could also use microwave beams to heat the cloud tops. In findings presented at a conference in Trieste, Italy, a team led by Daniel Rosenfield demonstrated that dust dropped into the lower part of Hurricane Katrina would have reduced the wind speeds and diverted the hurricane’s course.
With the advent of this new technology, a moral question comes into play. Is it ethical to divert a hurricane from a major city, saving thousands, but dooming a few rural unfortunates to the effects of a hurricane they might never have suffered?
This question is not without merit. In fact, the MIT team has hired a professor of risk management to advise them on the best way to protect themselves from legal action by communities affected by a diverted hurricane. It is advocating changes to U.S. Law and for an international treaty to settle possible disputes between bordering countries. Mr. Alamaro said: “The social and legal issues are daunting. If a hurricane were coming towards Miami with the potential to cause damage and kill people, and we diverted it, another town or village hit by it would sue us. They’ll say the hurricane is no longer an act of God, but that we caused it.”
This is a tough question; does the safety of many outweigh the needs of the few, or do individual rights trump the need to save a higher number of lives? Here in the United States, our individual bill of rights protects each and every one of us, no matter how rich or poor, no matter what area we live in. It would be a violation of someone’s constitutional rights to intentionally divert a hurricane into their home, even if the intent was to save a city. We cannot apply this technology once a hurricane has made landfall, however we could use it when a large hurricane is spotted at sea, headed for a major city. As long as the path is diverted away from any populated land, the science is ethical.