Climate questions: What are the solutions?
From cutting the planet’s reliance to fossil fuels to exploring new energy sources, there are already hundreds of potential solutions to address climate change that are being explored. (AP video by Kwiyeon Ha and Rishi Lekhi)
The claim: Climate change is ‘actually geoengineering’; weather modified by ‘chemtrails’
A Feb. 16 Instagram post (direct link, archived link) features a screenshot of a tweet from 2021 about climate change.
“I don’t know who need (sic) to hear this but #ClimateChange is actually #Geoengineering,” the tweet reads. “Those trails you see in the sky aren’t water vapor, they’re #StratosphericInjections aka #Chemtrails & you can look up the countless patents & protocols for #WeatherModification yourself. Wake up.”
The Instagram post was liked more than 900 times in 10 days.
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Our rating: False
Scientists say there is no evidence to support either of these claims. Geoengineering technologies are still being developed, and no large-scale experiments or operations have been conducted, researchers say. Climate change is driven by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels, according to climate scientists. Experts have repeatedly debunked the “chemtrails” conspiracy theory.
Greenhouse gas emissions drive climate change, not ‘geoengineering’
“Climate change is not a consequence of climate intervention or geoengineering,” said David Fahey, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chemical Sciences Laboratory.
Joshua Horton, the former research director for geoengineering at the Harvard Kennedy School, agreed.
“There is no scientific evidence to support either of these claims,” Horton said in an email.
Geoengineering refers to a number of emerging climate intervention technologies that could manipulate the atmosphere to mitigate the effects of climate change.
There are two broad categories of geoengineering. Carbon geoengineering aims to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while solar geoengineering aims to modify the amount of solar radiation absorbed and released by the Earth’s atmosphere.
But these kinds of climate interventions are still being developed and studied, said Alan Robock, a climate science professor at Rutgers University. He said much remains unknown about the potential risks, and many of the technologies necessary to make it work don’t exist yet.
Fahey, Horton and Robock were not aware of any significant experiments or operations utilizing geoengineering technologies.
“The variables that we associate with climate change like global temperatures have been changing for decades,” Fahey said. “If one really thought there was a cause and effect there, one would have to say that geoengineering was going on for decades. The reasoning and logic isn’t there.”
Fact check: False claim ‘chemtrails’ and HAARP are used to manipulate the weather
Climate change since the mid-1900s is driven by greenhouse gases emitted from human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, according to NASA.
Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane trap heat in the atmosphere, resulting in rising global surface temperatures. As a result, the average global temperature has increased by nearly 2 degrees since 1880.
No evidence ‘chemtrails’ can modify the weather
Some conspiracy theorists assert the white trails left by airplanes in the sky are “chemtrails,” toxic chemicals supposedly added to the atmosphere by governments or other nefarious actors.
Scientists and airplane pilots say this is nonsense. Claims purporting to prove chemtrails exist have been repeatedly debunked by USA TODAY and other fact-checkers.
A localized form of weather manipulation called cloud-seeding is possible and utilizes aircraft to induce precipitation. But this can only increase precipitation on a “microscale” in a localized area, Julie Gondzar, the program manager for Wyoming’s Weather Modification Program, previously told USA TODAY.
Fact check: No, patents for tornado machines don’t prove that natural disasters are man-made
No one has the ability to create large-scale weather events or patterns, Charles Konrad, director of NOAA’s Southeast Regional Climate Center, previously told USA TODAY.
USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the post. The Twitter user did not provide any evidence to support the claim.
Our fact-check sources:
- USA TODAY, Aug. 16, 2016, Scientists disprove airplane ‘chemtrail’ theory
- USA TODAY, Oct. 28, 2022, Fact check: High-frequency research program studies ionosphere, can’t create hurricanes
- USA TODAY, Jan. 25, Fact check: False claim ‘chemtrails’ and HAARP are used to manipulate the weather
- USA TODAY, Dec. 14, 2022, Fact check: False claim that barrels pictured on planes contain ‘chemtrails’
- Alan Robock, Feb. 20, Email exchange and phone interview with USA TODAY
- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, June 2019, Technology Factsheet: Solar Geoengineering
- Brittanica, Jan. 11, Cloud-seeding
- Charles Konrad, Jan. 20, Phone interview with USA TODAY
- David Fahey, Feb. 27, Phone interview with USA TODAY
- Environmental Protection Agency, September 2000, Aircraft Contrails Factsheet
- NASA, accessed Feb. 28, How Do We Know Climate Change Is Real?
- Harvard Gazette, Sept. 11, 2019, An umbrella to combat warming
- Harvard University, accessed Feb. 20, Geoengineering
- Harvard University, accessed Jan. 19, Chemtrails Conspiracy Theory
- Joshua Horton, Feb. 20, Email exchange with USA TODAY.
- Julie Gondzar, Jan. 20, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- MIT Climate, Jan. 4, 2022, How much carbon dioxide does the Earth naturally absorb?
- NASA Global Climate, accessed Feb. 17, Vital Signs: Carbon Dioxide
- NOAA, June 17, 2022, Climate Change: Annual greenhouse gas index
- NOAA, Jan. 18, Climate Change: Global Temperature
- United Nations Environment Programme, Feb. 27, One Atmosphere: An Independent Expert Review on Solar Radiation Modification Research and Deployment
- PolitiFact, April 13, 2022, Chemtrails are not real, no matter what Alexa says
- Reuters, Oct. 19. 2021, Fact Check-Climate change is not a cover-up for humans intentionally controlling the weather
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