Tuesday, 16 January 2007: 2:30 PM
Weather diplomacy: mitigating the 1966-67 Bihar drought
213A (Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center)
In the early years of the Cold War, producing weather on demand was appearing to be the solution to many problems, among them a shortage of water for both irrigation and hydroelectric power, and a desire for offensive and defensive weapons that did not leave radioactive waste behind. By the 1960s, there was another option: weather control as diplomatic tool. While the National Science Foundation funded weather control experiments aimed at turning the atmosphere into a water reservoir, the military secretly funded weather control experiments to test its effectiveness as a weapon. At the height of the Cold War, the Lyndon B. Johnson administration viewed the physical environmental sciences, e.g., meteorology and oceanography, as singularly important foreign policy tools. This talk, based on wide-ranging archival sources, examines how Johnson administration officials embraced science in diplomatic policy from 1964 to 1968, when rising tensions over Vietnam limited these efforts. That the Lyndon B. Johnson administration used the “weather weapon” in Vietnam and Laos is well known. What is not well known is that Johnson also used weather control as a diplomatic tool—a secret tool deployed in India (and later Pakistan) as a technological fix to mitigate the Bihar drought and famine of 1966-1967 and achieve U.S. policy goals by targeting the environment in this strategically important region.