White House Science Advisor John Holdren and Sir John Beddington, Science Advisor to British Prime Minister David Cameron, in a recent joint article "Celestial Storm Warnings" published in the New York Times, warned that a solar flare from the Sun could cause a great geomagnetic storm, with catastrophic consequences for the United States and the world. A great geomagnetic storm would generate a powerful electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that could destroy electronic systems and collapse all the critical infrastructures--power grids, communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water--that sustain modern civilization, and the lives of millions. Holdren and Beddington write reassuringly that "work to protect our societies is well underway."
Unfortunately, the truth is that work to protect our societies has not even begun. Those of us who have dedicated careers to protecting the American people from an EMP catastrophe know that no actual technical work is yet underway to physically protect the national power grid from EMP. We are running out of time to make this happen. As Holdren and Beddington note, the solar maximum, and increased possibility of a great geomagnetic storm, is fast approaching, now less than a year away.
The press remains largely in the dark or indifferent to the EMP threat. For example, on February 15 (the same day as a worrisome solar flare that fortunately missed the Earth) a new Congressional Caucus convened for the first time--the Congressional Caucus on EMP. And the EMP Caucus rolled out a newly minted bill--the SHIELD Act (HR 668). Both the Caucus and the SHIELD Act are intended to protect the U.S. national power grid from an EMP event generated by the Sun or by hostile actors.
EMP is perhaps the only issue in our polarized Congress that has united liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans. Yet this rare consensus has been ignored by the press. The press also ignored the launching of the EMP Caucus and the SHIELD Act.
Strangely, Holdren and Beddington warn only about the natural EMP threat from a great geomagnetic storm, and ignore the manmade EMP threat posed by a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists or rogue states. Yet the Holdren-Beddington article is based on data and studies from the Congressional EMP Commission--that warns about both natural and nuclear EMP threats.
The press too has largely ignored that an Iranian nuclear weapons program threatens not only Israel, but the existence of the United States, by means of nuclear EMP attack. Just one short-range nuclear missile, launched from a freighter off our coast, could make an EMP attack that would cause the collapse across the entire United States of all the critical infrastructures. We might never know who attacked us, since a ship-launched EMP could be done under a false flag, and so millions of Americans murdered anonymously.
Iranian military writings openly describe making a nuclear EMP attack to eliminate the United States from the world stage. Iran has conducted missile launches that look suspiciously like training to make an EMP attack--including launching a missile off a vessel in the Caspian Sea. Russia is now marketing to rogue states its Club-K missile system, designed to clandestinely convert any common container ship into a missile launch platform, while preserving the freighter's innocent appearance.
On March 9, the day before the Holdren-Beddington article appeared, North Korea reportedly attacked U.S. and South Korean military communications, and disrupted communications in three South Korean cities, using a non-nuclear EMP jammer purchased from Russia. Moreover, according to South Korean military officials, the North is on the verge of completing a "Super-EMP" nuclear warhead. The Defense Intelligence Agency recently testified to Congress that North Korea may now have nuclear warheads deliverable by missile.
It seems that, in addition to celestial storm warnings, we should also heed these earthly warnings of an impending nuclear storm.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is President of EMPact America, Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, and served on the staffs of the EMP Commission, the Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee and the Central Intelligence Agency.