Help me to debunk climate engineering/chemtrails.
May 9, 2014 2:40 AM   Subscribe

I keep running into very influential people who can cite craploads upon craploads of sources for their beliefs in a world conspiracy involving chemtrails and/or climate engineering. Is there any truth to their beliefs? If so, how much is truth and how much is bullshit or truthiness?

I have a science background. I'm looking for skeptical, non-woo sources that deconstruct either "chemtrails" or "climate engineering" or both, while admitting whether there is any truth or truthiness behind these phenomena, and either way, where people keep getting led awry, keep getting turned into tinfoil hat-wearing True Believers even if they seem otherwise plausibly sane.

Science is testable. Science admits to mistakes and eventually seeks to correct its mistakes. I haven't seen anything of science's rigor regarding either "chemtrails" or "climate engineering", only strong and heartfelt beliefs shared by laymen that these acts are destroying the skies and that I'm either "not open-minded enough" or otherwise not enlightened enough to understand their positions.

If there is any truth to chemtrails or climate engineering, or any reputable sources that show support for either, feel free to share. Likewise, please feel free to share skeptical points of view regarding either chemtrails or climate engineering, or both.

I'm trying to see clearly here, as a layman, but my Google results are full of noise and unreliable testimony.

I know that I can't trust people who already have 100% solid positions with very little strong/credible evidence to back up their positions.
posted by quiet earth to Science & Nature (18 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

There is no such thing as 'chemtrails': they're CONTRAILS, and they're nothing more nor less than water condensation. So anyone talking about 'chemtrails' is talking out their butt from the start.
posted by easily confused at 3:59 AM on May 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Re "Climate engineering", two years ago a group in Canada raised the money to try an experiment. They dumped 100 tons of iron sulfate into the ocean off the coast of British Columbia.

The next year, the salmon run was something like 3-5 times normal, all the way from Alaska down to the Columbia River.

The main guy responsible is now being investigated by the Canadian government for violation of various pollution laws, because he didn't bother getting permits from the government first.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:07 AM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I keep running into very influential people who can cite craploads upon craploads of sources for their beliefs in a world conspiracy involving chemtrails and/or climate engineering.

Very influential in what way? Influential with whom? They certainly aren't influential among people who know anything about science. If these "very influential" people are being annoying, drop them. Don't bother debating them. Life is too short. (If you mean you keep reading such stuff, you are reading crappy stuff. Change your news sources. Solved.)

Climate change deniers believe stuff like this if it helps them to justify doing nothing about climate change. General conspiracy "theorists" live in a scary evidence-proof world where stuff must be happening if it matches their fears. And some people seem to semi-kinda-sorta-not-really believe stuff like this because it gives them a thrill, like they might get telling scary campfire stories to one another.
posted by pracowity at 5:00 AM on May 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

I keep running into very influential people who can cite craploads upon craploads of sources for their beliefs in a world conspiracy involving chemtrails and/or climate engineering.

Have there been any peer-reviewed papers published in reputable scientific journals? If you're scientifically minded, that's all that really matters. In the absence of those, conspiracy theories are just conspiracy theories.
posted by empath at 5:24 AM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

The next year, the salmon run was something like 3-5 times normal, all the way from Alaska down to the Columbia River.

Do you have any corroborating studies or evidence that don't come from George himself?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:30 AM on May 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

You want to check out RationalWiki, your go to source for all forms of crankery and woo.

However, if you enjoy life and want to preserve even a modicum of faith in humanity, you probably just want to back the hell away from these people.
posted by fontophilic at 6:10 AM on May 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

I don't know what these people mean by "climate engineering", but cloud seeding is totally a real thing, practiced around the world.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:24 AM on May 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

The "chemtrails" conspiracy is pretty clearly imaginary. (Great debunking link from Blasdelb, above. And just think how many people would be in a position to reveal the "secret" if there were any. We're talking about a LOT of planes, and jet fuel, and airport refueling staff, and and and...)

But, there is evidence that the normal contrails created by jet travel are probably accidentally changing weather patterns, at least by making days cooler and nights warmer.

From PBS Nova: The Contrail Effect: Travis's team discovered that from roughly midday September 11 to midday September 14, the days had become warmer and the nights cooler, with the overall range greater by about two degrees Fahrenheit.
posted by General Tonic at 6:47 AM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I generally avoid these types of people, or avoid that conversation with them if I can't avoid them.

However, if you do want to engage and maintain a friendship, why don't you try collaborating with them to prove or debunk it? Do some science together. Ask them what is the underlying physical/chemical principle that would allow planes to put something into the atmosphere that will adjust the climate. Figure out what kind of evidence would be needed to help prove or disprove that this particular process is taking place. Keep doing it. Eventually, they will come around.

I say this because arguing with someone, even when you are absolutely, incontrovertably right, will just cause them to dig in their heels. You could send them all the debunking websites in the world and they'll just find ways to discredit them. Engaging them with an open mind is more likely to get them to change their own mind.
posted by natteringnabob at 9:08 AM on May 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have science backgroud, phd candidate in physics. had published peer reviewd papers. I actually am open to chemtrail. peer reviewed papers are nothing. once you published you will know.
posted by pack2themoon at 9:29 AM on May 9, 2014

Science is testable.

If you really really can't let it go, another line of inquiry/test (in addition to the above-mentioned staggeringly vast number of civilian people who need to be participating and not telling) is who is behind it? Because if it's "the government", then that's testable - have planes from countries with more open governments (or no governments) ever left a contrail matching the characteristics of a chemtrail?
If it's "The Global New World Order", then you're bringing to the surface a level of crankery that should make some of the susceptible people suspicious that it's really as well-sourced as it claims, and you can focus on who is the New World Order and how they control independantly-owned aircraft in every country everywhere, and what happens if you yourself were to buy an aircraft, etc.
posted by anonymisc at 10:31 AM on May 9, 2014

As Snopes is to bad email forwards, so is The Skeptic's Dictionary to pseudoscience and conspiracy theory. Here's their chemtrails entry.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:15 AM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I dunno - maybe memail me if you really give a shit about this?

Do you know what FOIA'S are?

Seeding the sky/clouds goes back to WW2. Reasons range from radar enhancement to weather control - it is weird to me that people get shitty about this because gov't programs that fund this sort of thing go back to the 40's.

Long story short - I grew up near Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark airports. Many in my immediate family have pilot licenses, and I pretty much grew up on a sail boat - watching the sky and knowing the weather was important.

I've heard or read credible corroboration from time to to time from former Federal agents or privately contracted Federal employees that these programs do/did exist - and I can tell you that you MUST learn how to read the clouds/sky if you are sailing a boat or flying small aircraft.

The sky has changed since I was once taught the basics about how it should look and what this meant.

Now. Maybe the proliferation of aircraft in the sky today is A Thing, but I have no problem telling you that I can not accurately read the weather or the cloud ceiling like I used to be able to 25 years ago.

I'm 44 years old. The sky is different today. Cloud & sky seeding programs did/do exist. I do not know if there is a problem with this practice. I do know the sky is different.

I'm happy to track down the multiple mentions of sky and cloud seeding by credible sources I've read/heard about this from over the last 10 years. I wish I could tell you this was all bunk, but that is not my personal experience.

Even today in Los Angeles, there was a pretty thorough layer of contrails/comtrails earlier in the day, but they cleared enough I almost went up to the Griffith Observatory to see the moon through one of their telescopes (a waxing moon - good for viewing!) but the earlier layer of whatever during the day was thick enough (with visible planes and trails) I judged it would be a waste of time, overall.

I see stuff up in the sky I did not see 30 years ago. The sky is different. A natural by-product of increased air traffic or something more?

I was taught a set of rules 30+ years ago that explained how cloud and weather work. These rules do not apply today. There is credible evidence for human interference on a variety of levels...

As far as chemtrails go... You tell me once you investigate a bit.
posted by jbenben at 1:30 AM on May 10, 2014

It might be kind of useful exercise to breakdown all the logical flaws in the previous comment. Note the lack of cites and total lack of actual evidence provided. The appeals to authority, the anecdotal evidence, the inferences to secret projects. If someone tell you that kind of thing in person, you just kind of nod your head and go 'oh, okay' because you don't want to be rude to someone. But she offered basically zero evidence.
posted by empath at 4:10 AM on May 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think chem trails are nutty conspiracy theory on par with faked moon landing, but I don't disagree with anything jbenben said. While we've known for some time that the sheer number of flights and contrails being produced today affects weather globally, don't forget that long-established weather systems are breaking down and haven't settled into new ones yet as the very climate itself is currently in powerful mid-shift due to greenhouse pollution. If you drop a hammer on your foot, you don't need to wonder whether ghosts are real and just hit your foot. It was the hammer.
posted by anonymisc at 5:48 PM on May 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is why I love MetaFilter. Great information, thank you, all! As it turned out, as soon as I sent this person a couple of the links posted here, she stopped talking to me. We weren't close, so no great loss. I can be very defensive of science. (How can someone not be, right?)
posted by quiet earth at 4:36 PM on May 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

I just saw this today.
posted by natteringnabob at 7:38 AM on May 21, 2014

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