CLAIM: There are secret government programs using chemtrails for various purposes that harm the public and the environment. This is confirmed by New Hampshire and Texas state governments referencing and forbidding chemtrails, and a Tennessee government hearing on the development of geoengineering projects like stratospheric aerosol injection. These sources prove chemtrails are real, harmful, and distinct from contrails. Climate change mitigation is not the real reason behind geoengineering.
There is no credible, scientific evidence that chemtrails exist and are distinct from contrails. Claims that chemtrails exist have been addressed multiple times previously on Science Feedback (e.g., here).
Yet, on 12 Jan. 2024, social media user “OFF GRID with DOUG and STACY” (701 thousand Facebook followers, 1.19 million YouTube subscribers) posted a video to their accounts claiming multiple US state governments have confirmed the existence of chemtrails in the text of bills and committee hearings designed to protect citizens from their negative effects, asking the question: “So, if they don’t exist, if there’s no such thing, why are they trying to ban them?”
This post, which specifically references the US state governments of New Hampshire, Texas, and Tennessee, has been viewed over 200 thousand times between YouTube and Facebook, receiving tens of thousands of likes and shares. Several other similar claims are also being widely shared on different online platforms by other accounts currently. This review explains why this claim is based on inappropriate sources and is factually inaccurate, broken down by state.
Misrepresented, misattributed, and exaggerated sources
New Hampshire claim
On 19 Dec. 2023, a New Hampshire House Bill was introduced by Rep. Jason Gerhard [R] (main sponsor) and Rep. Kelley Potenza [R] (co-sponsor). The bill (HB1700) was to be known as ‘The Clean Atmosphere Preservation Act’ but was voted “Inexpedient to Legislate” as of 31 Jan. 2024. This means that the bill is considered killed. The post author inaccurately claims “New Hampshire is now actively trying to ban chemtrails over their state.”
The bill text does not refer to the term “chemtrails”. Instead, the bill is a proposal for “AN ACT prohibiting the intentional release of polluting emissions, including cloud seeding, weather modification, excessive electromagnetic radio frequency, and microwave radiation and making penalties for violation of such prohibition.” Terms like cloud seeding and other strategies of geoengineering have been publicly and openly debated for decades and are still under debate by scientists, who are uncertain whether the risks are comparable to unmitigated global warming.
Chemtrails, on the other hand, have never been scientifically verified and therefore do not have a universally accepted definition that can be used to objectively verify if proposed bills like HB1700 are intended to ban them. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines chemtrails as “a long-lasting airplane contrail believed to be composed of harmful chemical or biological agents that are dispersed as part of a conspiracy (as to manipulate the environment or the population)”. Contrails are streaks of condensed water vapor created in the air by an airplane or rocket at high altitudes (the factors of their formation are described further in a previous Science Feedback claim review). Chemtrails are not chemtrails, despite photos and videos of contrails continuously used as evidence for chemtrails.
Most importantly, HB1700 was simply a proposal for a new law. Legislators in the US, like Rep. Jason Gerhard [R], are generally free to propose bills on a wide range of topics, regardless of their scientific foundation. Citizens, interest groups, and others can suggest a bill idea directly to legislators, but formal bill proposals must be sponsored by a legislator and go through many steps (outlined here), including potentially undergoing major changes and amendments. It can take months to years before a bill is either accepted or rejected.
A bill proposal text is not to be taken literally because it must first be debated and approved by the New Hampshire General Court. But in the video post, HB1700 is taken for fact, for example with the post author repeating the specific text “The general court finds…” without providing viewers crucial context that this language is only true if the bill becomes a law. The post author inaccurately claims that New Hampshire is trying to ban chemtrails despite the fact that HB1700 does not refer to chemtrails and is simply a proposal that was sponsored by 2 of the 424 New Hampshire legislators. The progress of the bill can be reviewed here.
While appearing to read from an internet article from The People’s Voice (formerly known as Your News Wire, one of the most prolific sources of fake news on Facebook), the post author states that: “Texas made history last year when state representatives looked into changing a law to ban dangerous atmospheric aerosol spraying without prior approval and testing of the chemicals being sprayed.” This is inaccurate.
In reality, The People’s Voice article refers to an online petition to “…prohibit the continuation of aerosolized spraying” of substances and particulates which “…is extremely harmful to our health and our environment”. Chemtrails are not referenced anywhere in the petition text, but it further states that there is a covert military program to control weather whereby “weather modification is frequently used to justify the spraying” of things like “aluminum oxide and other toxic metal compounds”. A previous Science Feedback claim review explained that allegations of secret large-scale atmospheric programs using chemtrails lack any supporting evidence (i.e., proof) and foundation (i.e., hypothetical basis). There are no scientific studies nor any existing data confirming elevated global atmospheric, soil, sediment, or water concentrations of the various chemicals that chemtrails are claimed to spread.
With thousands of signatures and comments and featuring a photo of contrails, the petition webpage states that it is an initiative from “concerned Texas citizens who demand our State Legislators pass legislation to protect our families, pets, crops, water and environment from any and all negative side effects of…spraying of our sky”. Regardless of the lack of any legitimate and scientifically verifiable supporting evidence, the post author exaggerates the following: “They’re literally admitting they’re allowing people, willy-nilly, to spray in the skies chemicals that have not even been tested for human consumption, or what they could do to the environment, or anything else.”
After claiming chemtrails are real and anyone stating otherwise is “gaslighting” later in the video, the post author introduces another bill proposal, saying “Now here’s Texas HR 2977”. However, HR 2977 was a Congressional Bill from the 107th Congress of the US Government (not Texas), proposed in 2001 by Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich [D] as the “Space Preservation Act of 2001”. It was intended to “preserve the cooperative, peaceful uses of space for the benefit of all humankind by permanently prohibiting the basing of weapons in space.”
Bill HR2977 never passed, but it did explicitly refer to “chemtrails” among various so-called exotic weapons such as extraterrestrial weapons. The post author goes on to claim “I like how Texas actually concluded that little video segment there with the radio waves, mood altering stuff, chemtrails, the aluminum, all these kinds of things going on, all the things the conspiracy people have been talking about for quite a while are right in your face.” Once again, legislators can propose bills on a wide range of topics, regardless of their scientific basis. Bill proposals do not, in and of themselves, prove the existence of all terms included in the text.
The post author also claims that the Tennessee government held a major hearing about geoengineering, alluding to chemtrails being a form of geoengineering (discussed further below). In reality, the document that is quoted comes from an official hearing (see here for full hearing text, see here for hearing video footage) on the subject of geoengineering in 2009/2010 during the 111th Congress of the US Government (not Tennessee), specifically for the Committee on Science and Technology of the House of Representatives.
Geoengineering to mitigate negative impacts from climate change and slow global warming are typically grouped into two categories: actively removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with different strategies to reduce the greenhouse effect; and reflecting sunlight from the planet to reduce heat inputs. Chemtrails, as generally defined, are not related to the topics that were discussed in the hearing. Chemtrails were mentioned in passing as a joke by subcommittee chairman Hon. Brian Bard, with reference to the need to be transparent with the public on geoengineering strategies if they are ever used in the future.
In 2009, the potential risks, challenges and opportunities of geoengineering strategies had become more mainstream, which is why it was presented to the Committee on Science and Technology on the national stage at this hearing. It received wide dissemination in the public at the time, and is still openly explored in the public sphere.
Additional context on chemtrails misinformation and their conflation with solar geoengineering
The People’s Voice was one of the main sources of the misinformation on social media related to the inaccurate claims posted by OFF GRID with DOUG and STACY in January 2024. Its 19 Jan. 2023 story on the Texas citizen petition was misleadingly titled “Texas Becomes First State To Potentially Outlaw Chemtrails”. Nearly one year later, 3 Jan. 2024, The People’s Voice published another article inaccurately titled “New Hampshire Becomes Second U.S. State To Ban Chemtrails”, misinforming its readers on the New Hampshire proposed bill HB1700. Both articles were written by Your News Wire co-founder Sean Adl-Tabatabai who has a record of influential climate misinformation articles and who also founded The People’s Voice.
These articles preceded multiple social media accounts repeating similar inaccurate claims in addition to the ones addressed above. For example, in the days since the most recent article from The People’s Voice, an Instagram account released three video posts on chemtrails as toxic climate/geoengineering, with the third on 19 Jan. 2024 claiming there are now two US states that have outlawed “climate engineering” while filming contrails. A post from another Instagram account repeated inaccurate claims from The People’s Voice article on the New Hampshire proposed bill HB1700, and repeated the inaccuracy that the bill had been passed and chemtrails have been banned.
This is certainly not the first time government documents, whether hearings, bill proposals, policy agendas, or scientific reports, have been misrepresented as proof of the chemtrail conspiracy. Social media posts in recent years inaccurately claimed the UN is creating climate change using geoengineering and chemtrails, and the chemtrails are a key tool used to control the weather, with climate change being only a cover-up. Last year, the Mexican government announced a ban on solar geoengineering after an American start-up tested atmospheric sulfur injections from balloons over Mexico without any notice or approval. However, this ban was misrepresented on social media as a ban on chemtrails, despite chemtrails being unrelated to the new Mexican law and unsupported by any scientific evidence.
Inaccurate claims that a 2022 CNBC story was actually as an admission of a secret chemtrail program went viral on social media. The story was about a new five-year plan assessing the use of solar and other interventions to mitigate climate change coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and US federal agencies, as directed by Congress. One intervention to be researched is stratospheric aerosol injection. Professor David Keith, a solar geoengineering expert leading a research group dedicated to this topic, told the Associated Press by email that aerosol injection would not leave contrails like those left by planes.
Chemtrails remain unproven, unverified, and undiscovered by science. A 2016 study which surveyed of some of the world’s top atmosphere experts, consisting of atmospheric chemists with expertise in condensation trails and geochemists working on atmospheric deposition of dust and pollution, virtually every single respondent did not believe there is any scientific evidence for a secret large-scale atmospheric program using chemtrails. Even when assessing data that conspiracy theorists claim is proof of chemtrails, such as elevated concentrations of specific elements in soils, sediments, and water bodies in remote locations, the overwhelming majority of the respondents stated that there are simpler and better supported explanations.
As widely covered in the media, scientists are exploring the risks, rewards, and potential impacts of geoengineering technologies to mitigate climate change, including cloud seeding, solar geoengineering and carbon capture, none of which involve chemtrails. Solar geoengineering covers various hypothetical technologies and strategies that are meant to reflect sunlight out of Earth’s atmosphere to limit ongoing anthropogenic global warming. Ideas proposed for high altitudes, some of which being actively researched but not implemented, include placing a large mirror in orbit, thinning cirrus clouds, or spraying aerosols in the stratosphere (i.e., stratospheric aerosol injection) (Fig. 1).
Figure 1 – Six of the most commonly proposed solar geoengineering options. They have different approaches, shortcomings, costs, and feasibility, but they are all designed to reduce the amount of solar radiation in Earth’s atmosphere and therefore limit ongoing anthropogenic global warming (source).
There is a general unfamiliarity among the public with solar geoengineering. Adding to the confusion and misinformation online, inaccurate conflations between chemtrails and solar geoengineering are increasing on social media. Science Feedback has addressed this issue in a previous claim review, pointing to the lack of any evidence for chemtrails and lack of evidence that solar geoengineering is happening and having a catastrophic effect on the ecosystems and human health. Tingley & Wagner (2017) found that between 30-40% of the general US public and as much as 60% of social media discourse believes in chemtrail conspiracy theories which “renders rational conversations around solar geoengineering and its potential role in climate policy even more difficult”. Nevertheless, solar geoengineering proposals have been and continue to be publicly evaluated by scientists and government organizations (see here for scientists’ comments on some of the most popular strategies), weighing the pros and cons of each before recommendations are presented to elected officials, just like when they were discussed in front of the US Congress in 2009.
Various accounts on social media inaccurately claim that US state and federal proposed bills and congressional hearings confirm the existence or use of chemtrails, with some states even banning chemtrails. However, no state governments have passed laws banning chemtrails, and bill proposals and the texts from congressional hearings are not evidence for the existence of chemtrails. Chemtrails as entities distinct from contrails remain unproven, unverified, and undiscovered by science. Chemtrails are increasingly conflated with solar geoengineering strategies, like stratospheric aerosol injection, which are real proposals currently being explored by scientists to mitigate climate change and limit anthropogenic global warming, but which have not been implemented.
UPDATE (1 February 2024):
We updated this review to indicate the new status of New Hampshire bill HB1700, which has been updated to “Inexpedient to Legislate” as of 31 Jan. 2024. This means that the bill is considered killed.
- 1 – Shearer et al. (2016) Quantifying expert consensus against the existence of a secret, large-scale atmospheric spraying program. Environmental Research Letters.
- 2 – Burns et al. (2016) What do people think when they think about solar geoengineering? A review of empirical social science literature, and prospects for future research. Earth’s Future.
- 3 – Tingley and Wagner (2017) Solar geoengineering and the chemtrails conspiracy on social media. Palgrave Communications.