What mistakes people made this week: chemtrails (sigh)

In this column, I try to stay away from topics that any average person knows to be false. I don't bother to write about people who think Elvis is alive or that the Earth is flat because anyone with two brain cells rubbing together knows it's bullshit and that believers are a tiny minority on the fringes of society.

I considered "chemtrails" in my "No One Takes This Seriously" column, but I was wrong. This week, Tennessee lawmakers passed a state law prohibiting "the intentional injection, release, or dispersal of a chemical ...... substance or device ...... in any manner for the express purpose of affecting the temperature, weather, or intensity of sunlight " ." In other words, they banned chemtrails.

While the legislation was drafted in part in response to a federal government report released last year on solar geoengineering - basically the idea of cooling the planet by reflecting sunlight back into space - some lawmakers didn't get the memo. Here's what Tennessee Senator Frank Niceley said in support of the legislation, "This is going to be my wife's favorite bill of the year. I'll bet she's been worrying about it for 10 years. ...... If you look up - one day it will all be clear. The next day they looked like angels playing tic-tac-toe. They were everywhere. I have some pictures on my phone of X right above my house. For years they denied they had done anything."

The report, which angered Tennessee lawmakers, made it clear that the study "does not imply any change in the policies or activities of the Biden-Harris administration." We don't even know how or if it will work, so solar geoengineering is impossible. Chemtrail conspiracy theories are false and silly. But Tennessee's decision to outlaw both could be a great and/or hilarious thing - if they follow the letter of the law as they wrote it.

What is a chemtrail?

Believers call the long white trails that jet airplanes sometimes leave in the sky "chemtrails". They believe that chemtrails are the result of the government intentionally spraying biological or chemical agents into the sky in order to change the weather, control the population, and/or make people sick (depending on who you ask).

But the photo on Senator Niceley's cell phone is actually called a " contrail," short for condensation trace, and no one is denying anything. Condensation trails are the result of water vapor released from aircraft engine exhaust. They are mainly ice crystals, basically jet-forming clouds, and there is no evidence that they can control people's behavior. But they may actually change the weather. (More on this below.)

Trails are an interesting element of conspiracy theories because you can walk outside and see them with your own eyes; but sometimes you can't see them, as the Senator said. So, do some airplanes spray chemicals and others don't? According to authorities, no one sprays anything. Condensation tails only form under certain atmospheric conditions, even if it looks like angels playing tic-tac-toe.

Is there any evidence that the chemtrail conspiracy theory is true?

Chemtrail conspiracy theorists are partially correct, but as conspiracy theorists usually say, that is not the case. The U.S. government does try to control the weather by releasing chemicals into the air from airplanes. This is known as cloud seeding, and its chemical, silver iodide, is harmless. The idea is to prevent droughts by increasing the productivity of clouds. Cloud seeding technology has been around since the 1940s. It's hard to know for sure if it works (it's hard to get a control group of clouds), but it's no secret. Several states, including Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado, have relatively small government-sponsored artificial rainfall programs underway. But apparently not in Tennessee.

The second part of the chemtrail theory is also somewhat true. Even if you're not a conspiracy theorist, you'll recognize that the U.S. government has a long and disturbing history of secretly spreading chemical and biological agents over the United States. They admit it themselves. But according to the international watchdog group Prohibition, the government (officially) halted its biological and chemical weapons programs in the 1960s and in 2023 destroyed the last of America's chemical weapons, the M55 rockets filled with sarin nerve agent. Chemical Weapons.

So, weather control programs and the clandestine proliferation of chemicals exist, and the US is working on solar geoengineering, but the vapor trails of jet engines are not connected to any of these things. That doesn't mean the contrails are benign. They may even be worse than conspiracy theorists fear.

Are contrails harmful?

In another of the conspiracy theorists' "bad clocks work twice a day" triumphs, legitimate research suggests that condensation trails are harmful, perhaps even extremely harmful, but not because they contain population-controlling nanobots.

In a system as complex as a planetary climate, it's hard to pinpoint the exact cause of temperature changes, but research has long supported the theory that jets form tiny clouds in the sky that prevent heat from escaping the planet, leading many climate scientists to believe that condensation trails are the main cause of global warming.

Condensation trails may be worse than the effect of burning all the jet fuel. According to the Yale School of the Environment, the continued injection of jet clouds "has a daily impact on atmospheric temperatures greater than the carbon emissions accumulated by all airplanes since the Wright Brothers first took to the skies" a century ago." To make matters worse, efforts to reduce CO2 emissions by making jet engines more efficient tend to produce more contrails that last longer.

So, yes, conspiracy theorists, those streaks in the sky are a serious problem that could lead to a lot of deaths in the future. (Don't worry, we're using artificial intelligence to stop it, and that should be just fine.)

Why Tennessee's Anti-Chemtrails Law Might Actually Be Good (But Might Just Be Fun)

Tennessee lawmakers may have enacted this legislation to stop a federal program that doesn't exist and to combat a fictional phenomenon, but depending on how it's interpreted and enforced, this law may be the most important piece of environmental protection legislation in U.S. history - or it may be a clear enough lesson to show you what happens when you let a conspiracy theorist pass a law to get Tennessee to stop voting for stupid people what happens. (I can dream, right?)

To really ban "chemtrails" you'd have to ban all jet travel over Tennessee, which would reduce the total amount of warming on the planet based on condensation trails. But that's just the beginning. Tennessee bans the release of anything that "affects the temperature, weather, or intensity of sunlight," but doesn't define any of the terms, so it could be interpreted as banning all pollution from automobiles, airplanes, factories, or anywhere else that contributes to global warming (i.e., affects the temperature.)

To be fair, the law states that the release of chemicals must be "for the express purpose of affecting the temperature, weather, or intensity of sunlight" so it may not apply to factories since raising the earth's temperature is a but sunglasses manufacturers may come into focus, and if sunglasses are not a device that affects the intensity of sunlight then sunglasses may only affect the intensity of sunlight at the individual level, but the law does not apply to factories. level the intensity of sunlight, but the law doesn't define anything. "affecting the intensity of the sun" means, so it could be interpreted to cover Ray Ban glasses and beach umbrellas, and you could argue that Tennessee's law also prohibits the use of heaters, air conditioners, stoves, and ovens, as they all are. Water is a chemical and spraying water on people at amusement parks is an attempt to change the temperature, so bye bye cooling sprayers.

I could go on and on, but this is all ridiculous. We know Tennessee isn't going to close its airports and become a post-industrial, no-sunglasses, no-cooking state. It's unlikely that this law will be enforced in any way, and its only real-world impact will be to make people like Senator Niceley's wife happy that someone is finally taking action against those pesky angels who play tic-tac-toe in the sky.