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Will Humans Control the Weather?

The Pew Research Center has released data on Americans’ views on various potential future scientific developments, and one result in particular caught my eye: only 19% of respondents believe that humans will be able to control the weather by 2064. Of all the possible future technology scenarios described, it was rated by far the least likely (below teleportation, robot caregivers, and long-term space colonies).

Thing is, we already do control the weather (and we’re not even the first species to do so); we just aren’t very good at it yet. This video from the late Australian Climate Commission (now known as the Climate Council) explains how the changes we’ve made to the climate directly affect the weather in general, and extreme weather phenomena in particular:

And global climate change isn’t the only way we control the weather. Our cities act as heat islands, producing clouds and subsequent precipitation nearby. Airplane contrails alter surface temperature.

A better question would be whether we will ever be able to control the weather in a competent way, and there’s some evidence that we may be able to, up to a point. There is reason to believe that we can significantly reduce the power of hurricanes and tsunamis by using offshore wind farms to blunt the effect, for example, and destroy tornadoes by zapping them with microwaves from orbital satellites. We may even be able to reverse the global climate change we’ve created.

But for now, the question is not whether we’ll be able to control the weather. The question is how we—knowing that we can and do control the weather—can use our considerable power in a more practical way.

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Tom Head is an author or coauthor of 29 nonfiction books, columnist, scriptwriter, research paralegal, occasional hellraiser, and proud Jackson native. His book Possessions and Exorcisms (Fact or Fiction?) covers the recent demand for exorcists over the past 30 years and demonic possession.
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