The planet experienced its hottest average daily temperature last month and 2023 could become the warmest year on record. It’s alarming news that may direct investors towards renewables and clean energy, but some governments have been ramping up investments into a lesser known field: weather modification.
The 2008 Beijing Olympics started early in August, a typically rainy month in China. When the opening ceremony was completed without a single drop of rain – despite a downpour the previous day – athletes thought their prayers had been answered. Little did they know, organisers had fired 1,110 rockets into the clouds to try to ensure everyone stayed dry.
Weather modification is nothing new, for humans have always been drawn to the possibility of playing God. General Electric ($GE) scientists managed to force snowfall as early as 1946. Russians used the technology in 1986 to save Moscow from Chernobyl’s radioactive rains. The U.S. state of Texas regularly employs contractors to seed clouds for rain in dry seasons. At least 52 countries now deploy weather modification programs.
While there are positive forecasts ahead for the industry, it hasn’t exactly reached financial rainmaker status. Companies focused on weather modification have remained private, mainly establishing contracts with government agencies due to the high costs of their operations. The process usually involves planes releasing a substance named silver iodide over clouds to increase precipitation levels.
Another issue is providing clear evidence the experiments work. There is always the chance Beijing’s clear skies were truly Mother Nature’s gift to the Olympians, rather than the results of a silver bullet. Concerns about the ethical nature of weather modification remain, along with questions about the long-term effects of adding further chemicals into the atmosphere.
The industry is still in its early stages, but things could move quickly in the coming years, with ongoing research and development showing potential benefits of weather modification to the aviation, agriculture and renewable energy sectors.
Some may say weather modification is just a band-aid solution, but others are convinced we should use every available technology to make a more sustainable society. Knowing where it all will lead is trickier than predicting the weather.
Stocks mentioned in this article are used for information purposes only and are not an implied recommendation to invest.
Stella is a markets analyst and writer with almost a decade of investing experience. With a Masters in Accounting from the University of Sydney, she specialises in financial statement analysis and financial modelling. Previously, she worked as an equity analyst at Australian finance start-up, Simply Wall St, where she took charge of the market insights newsletter sent out to over a million subscribers. At Stake, Stella has been key to producing the weekly Wrap articles and social media content.