Ororo T’Challa, Career Criminal?

Our latest monthly column at Subculture for the Cultured has just been published.  It’s about the law of weather modification, and it contains some interesting surprises!  Check it out!

14 responses to “Ororo T’Challa, Career Criminal?

  1. Is the preemption theory also used in debates over whether or not states that go beyond the requirements of federal law for environmental concerns are acceptable?

  2. I’m not convinced.

    I don’t see why small enough scale changes would count as weather modification at all. The presence of a city affects the weather; but city planners don’t submit reports to the Secretary of Commerce detailing how expanding the business district is going to increase the local temperature by some percent. And I bet that the effect of building a business district is going to be greater than anything Storm normally does to fly or zap a villain with lightning; Storm’s change just looks bigger because it’s all focussed in one moment and one location.

    It’s also not clear that all “weather”-related powers that Storm uses count as weather anyway. If blowing a fan isn’t weather modification, how is it that Storm controlling the winds to fly can be weather modification? She’s just moving air. If she was a telekinetic moving the air, it wouldn’t be weather modification, and if it was a guy with a fan it certainly wouldn’t. Just because her powers have a theme and are described as “mutant weather abilities’ rather than “mutant fan abilities” doesn’t make it weather. I can see the idea of calling it weather modification to control a tornado, but just creating the air currents to fly would be no more weather control than operating a helicopter would be. (The helicopter ultimately flies because of what it does to the air.)

    Likewise, if it’s not weather modification to use an electrical weapon or to have the mutant power to throw electricity, why is it weather modification for Storm to shoot lightning at someone, just because her powers have a “weather theme”? If she didn’t call herself Storm and instead claimed to be “Electra, the telekinetic who controls electrons”, would it be legal?

    • Martin Phipps

      Creating wind, okay.

      Creating lightning, okay.

      Creating storm clouds? Not okay. That’s weather.

      • Ken Arromdee

        The article specifically uses Storm flying as an example, which would be creating wind.

      • Martin Phipps

        Oops. Sorry. I just created wind. I had beans for breakfast.

        Anyway, you were saying?

    • Melanie Koleini

      I suspect the points you bring up are the reasons the law has never been enforced. With the exception of someone specifically tiring to affect the weather, anyone accused under the law would probably get support from everyone from the fossil fuel industry to aviation to city mayors.

      The law in question defines ‘weather modification’ as activities intentioned to effect the atmosphere. So if Storm is moving air to fly or zapping criminals, she could argue any atmosphere modification was a side effect and unintended.

    • “The term ‘weather modification’ means any activity performed with the intention of producing artificial changes in the composition, behavior, or dynamics of the atmosphere.”

      I’m thinking “intention” is the key phrase here in terms of helicopter operators and city planners, and probably “atmosphere” in the case of fan usage. I’d be curious to see how “atmosphere” is legally defined, as I think that would be the key factor in whether Storm just flying around would count or not.

    • You’d be surprised just how much impact changing the weather in an area ever-so-slightly can have. Meteorologists have to spend a lot of time studying it for a reason, changing the temperature by even a single degree means the difference between rain and snow. Generally you wouldn’t expect a single mutant to be capable of such a wide impact but considering the sometimes ludicrous leaps in power they have it isn’t out of the question.

      Besides that there’s still the danger of collateral damage. Those winds of hers might knock the Juggernaut over, and they might also send a car with four people inside flying into a lake. I know I’d want a lot of legal restrictions on what she could do.

    • I don’t see why small enough scale changes would count as weather modification at all.

      The law is very broad. There is no minimum: “any activity performed with the intention of producing artificial changes in the composition, behavior, or dynamics of the atmosphere.”

      just creating the air currents to fly would be no more weather control than operating a helicopter would be.

      And that’s a fair point. The law has no minimum, and so there’s no way to tell where a given activity becomes illegal. That’s a void for vagueness argument. Vagueness arguments are rarely successful, though.

      why is it weather modification for Storm to shoot lightning at someone, just because her powers have a “weather theme”?

      Because her lightning bolts come from artificially creating and controlling the process that produces lightning in nature. She doesn’t create electrons from nothing or manipulate them directly. So her powers fit within the law whereas someone like Electro’s do not.

      • Martin Phipps

        Would the law only apply if Storm is outside? Otherwise I could get in trouble for using an air conditioner! Or an electric fan!

      • James Pollock

        Actually, I’m not sure I see a difference between a “Storm lightning bolt” and an “Electro lightning bolt”. For that matter, every building with a lightning rod is modifying the weather, too.

      • Martin Phipps

        I agree with James. 🙂

        Seriously, if Storm causes a lightning bolt to come from her hands then it is not weather. If Storm creates a storm cloud and uses the lightning to strike down her foe and then the storm cloud then moves on and damages some crops then she is liable to pay for some collateral damages. I believe this would be true of any mutant power. (If Scott blasts a foe in self defense it is okay but if the blast ricochets and hits a bystander then Scott would have to cover some medical bills.) I believe the point of these weather modification laws is to make it clear that people are liable for damages caused by weather modification.

  3. The law is very broad. There is no minimum: “any activity performed with the intention of producing artificial changes in the composition, behavior, or dynamics of the atmosphere.”

    If there’s really no minimum, then why can’t people get arrested for operating fans? (Or do you claim they could be validly arrested for operating fans, and the fact that they don’t is purely selective prosecution?)

    • No, I think either the law would be found void for vagueness or (more likely) a court would interpret “composition, behavior, or dynamics of the atmosphere” to only include significant weather modification as traditionally understood in the field (e.g. cloud seeding, lightning generation). That would save Storm from liability for minor incidents, but major activities could still run afoul of the law.

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