Bill Would Prevent the President from Nuking Hurricanes

Sasa Kadrijevic/

It came on the first day of hurricane season, in response to a recommendation Trump reportedly made in the past.

Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, on Monday unveiled legislation that would forbid President Trump from dropping nuclear bombs into hurricanes to disrupt their paths and stop them from hitting the U.S., a recommendation the president reportedly made to advisers last year.

Introduced on the first day of the 2020 hurricane season, Garcia’s Climate Change and Hurricane Correlation and Strategy Act would require the administration to produce and submit to Congress a comprehensive government-led strategy and five annual reports that outline how to properly confront increasing hurricane activity. Further, the legislation would also prohibit the president from unleashing any strategic weapon to alter weather patterns or respond to climate change. 

“Normally I wouldn’t think we’d need to legislate something so obvious, but given remarks this President made in August 2019, apparently, we do,” Garcia said in a statement. “Such use would result in radioactive fallout and cause significant public health and environmental harm.” 

Axios was the first to report late last August that the president told senior Homeland Security and national security officials—more than once—that they should look into using nuclear weapons to stop hurricanes that pose considerable threats to America. According to the report, which Garcia directly quotes in the bill, Trump said ‘‘I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them? They start forming off the coast of Africa, as they’re moving across the Atlantic, we drop a bomb inside the eye of the hurricane and it disrupts it. Why can’t we do that?’’ 

In a subsequent tweet following Axios’ publication, the president called the report “FAKE NEWS.”

Though scientists do not support the notion to nuke storms, the idea has surfaced enough in public discourse to motivate the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is tasked with monitoring and forecasting weather changes, to post an online fact-check, negating the suggestion. “During each hurricane season, there always appear suggestions that one should simply use nuclear weapons to try and destroy the storms. Apart from the fact that this might not even alter the storm, this approach neglects the problem that the released radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas and cause devastating environmental problems,” NOAA wrote. “Needless to say, this is not a good idea.”

Noting NOAA’s move directly in her legislation, Garcia also highlights research suggesting that if green gas emissions are not inhibited and the world warms between 3 degrees to 4 degrees Celsius in the current century, rainfall from hurricanes could jump by a third and wind speeds could increase by 25 knots, or more than 28 miles per hour. 

“Increasing numbers of hurricanes are a function of climate change and must be addressed through serious and long-term solutions that include scientific research and technological innovation,” Garcia’s legislation, which was shared with Nextgov Wednesday, reads. “There is cause for concern to public health, safety, and national security by the dangerous misuse of nuclear bombs to alter serious weather patterns.”

On top of the explicit hurricane-fighting-nukes prohibition, the bill would also mandate the president, in coordination with administrators from the Environmental Protection Agency and NOAA, to provide Congress a report to promote combatting hurricanes within 180 days of passage and annually thereafter for five consecutive years. 

Each report would be expected to include the number, names and dates of hurricanes that disrupted the world over the last 30 years, their subsequent fatalities and costs across local, state and federal governments, and the changes that can be observed in magnitude and intensity. The report would also include analysis of human activities that contribute to climate change.

And the first report submitted to Congress would also envelop a section aimed at directly addressing the president’s suggestion. According to the legislation, that initial report, “shall include a one-time scientific explanation and analysis on the use of nuclear bombs to alter severe weather, such as hurricanes, including—(1) the radioactive fallout; (2) the potential public health and environmental risks; and (3) observations as to how such use would or would not address the systemic issues and challenges of hurricanes.”

Upon introduction, Garcia’s legislation was referred to the Armed Services, Energy and Commerce, and Science, Space, and Technology committees.