An article recently published by the Los Angeles Times discusses how solar storms pose a grave threat to Earth. Mike Hapgood, a space weather scientist in England, says that the world is unprepared for such a storm, and one is likely to occur soon.
The Heritage Foundation has led a vital campaign aimed at informing the American public about the seriousness of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks. An EMP is typically described as occurring when a nuclear weapon is detonated at a high altitude, resulting in a high-intensity burst of electromagnetic energy caused by the rapid acceleration of charged particles. The second scenario involves massive explosions on the sun’s surface (“space weather”).
Society is becoming increasingly more dependent on electrical devices, and this leads to greater vulnerability to space weather and EMP attacks. These charged particles, if strong enough, cause the destruction of electrical circuits. This would affect cell phones, computers, vehicles, airplanes, and even the power grid. In the case of an EMP, from “space weather” or a high-altitude nuclear detonation, transportation systems would be halted, communications would be rendered useless, and grocery stores would be unable to preserve or restore food supplies. As observed in 33 Minutes, a successful EMP would send the United States spiraling back to the 18th century.
Despite the severe ramifications of such events, the U.S. is unprepared to deal with either. Fortunately, the United States can still make the necessary preparations to protect its vital infrastructure. Hardening provides resiliency and resistance to vital infrastructure against extreme space weather or EMP effects. Developing a national plan to respond effectively to EMP emergencies is a necessity. This would involve educating federal, state, and local officials along with the public about the risks and response options. Finally, the U.S. should continue to invest in missile defenses to protect against ballistic attacks aimed at achieving high-altitude nuclear detonation or EMP attack, especially against ship-launched missiles off the U.S. coast. The threat of space weather and EMP attack deserves proper planning and robust defenses.
Bryan Kimbell is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm