According to the chemtrail conspiracy theory, long-lasting trails left in the sky by high-flying aircraft are chemical or biological agents deliberately sprayed for sinister purposes undisclosed to the general public. Believers in the theory argue that normal contrails dissipate relatively quickly, and contrails that do not dissipate must contain additional substances. These arguments have been dismissed by the scientific community: such trails are simply normal water-based contrails (condensation trails) which are routinely left by high-flying aircraft under certain atmospheric conditions. Although proponents have attempted to prove that the claimed chemical spraying does take place, their analyses have been flawed or based on
Because of the widespread popularity of the conspiracy theory, official agencies have received many inquiries from people demanding an explanation. Scientists and government officials around the world have repeatedly needed to confirm that supposed chemtrails are in fact normal contrails.
The term chemtrail is a portmanteau of the words “chemical” and “trail”, just as contrail is a contraction of “condensation trail”. Believers in the conspiracy theory speculate that the purpose of the claimed chemical release may be for solar radiation management, psychological manipulation, human population control, weather modification, or biological or chemical warfare, and that the trails are causing respiratory illnesses and other health problems.Contrails are formed at high altitudes (5–10 miles or 8–16 kilometres) and if any chemicals were released at such altitude they would disperse harmlessly and fall many hundreds of miles away, or degrade before touching the ground.
In 1996, a chemtrail conspiracy theory began to circulate when the United States Air Force (USAF) was accused of “spraying the U.S. population with mysterious substances” from aircraft “generating unusual contrail patterns. The USAF says these accusations were a hoax fueled in part by citations to a strategy paper drafted within their Air University entitled Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025. The paper was presented in response to a military directive to outline a future strategic weather modification system for the purpose of maintaining the United States’ military dominance in the year 2025, and identified as “fictional representations of future situations/scenarios.The USAF further clarified that the paper “does not reflect current military policy, practice, or capability,” and that it is “not conducting any weather modification experiments or programs and has no plans to do so in the future. Additionally, the USAF states that the “‘Chemtrail’ hoax has been investigated and refuted by many established and accredited universities, scientific organizations, and major media publications. The conspiracy theory is seldom covered by the mainstream media, and when it is, it is usually cast as an example of anti-government paranoia.
An article in the Skeptical Inquirer said that the conspiracy theory was first started in the 1990s by “investigative journalists” like William Thomas, and then promoted in the late-night radio shows of Art Bell. The proponents claim that after 1995 contrails had a different chemical composition and lasted a lot longer on the sky; they never acknowledge the photographs of long-lasting contrails dating as far back as World War II.
In the United Kingdom, when the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was asked “what research her Department has undertaken into the polluting effects of chemtrails for aircraft,” the response was that “the Department is not researching into chemtrails from aircraft as they are not scientifically recognised phenomena,” and that work was being conducted to understand “how contrails are formed and what effects they have on the atmosphere.
In a response to a petition by concerned Canadian citizens regarding “chemicals used in aerial sprayings are adversely affecting the health of Canadians,” the Government House Leader responded by stating, “There is no substantiated evidence, scientific or otherwise, to support the allegation that there is high altitude spraying conducted in Canadian airspace. The term ‘chemtrails’ is a popularised expression, and there is no scientific evidence to support their existence. The house leader goes on to say that “it is our belief that the petitioners are seeing regular airplane condensation trails, or contrails.
Official statements on the non-existence of chemtrails have not discouraged the conspiracy theorists. Various versions of the chemtrail conspiracy theory have propagated via the internet and radio programs. There are web sites dedicated to the conspiracy theory, and it is particularly favored by right-wing groups since it fits well with deep suspicion of government. In some of the accounts, the chemicals are described as barium and aluminum salts, polymer fibers, thorium, or silicon carbide. Other accounts allege that the skies are being seeded with electrically conductive materials as part of a massive electromagnetic superweapons program based around the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP). Those who believe in the conspiracy say the chemtrails are toxic, but the reasons given by those who believe in the conspiracy vary widely, ranging from military weapons testing to chemical population control to climate control. Scientists and federal agencies have consistently denied that chemtrails exist, insisting the sky tracks are simply persistent contrails. As the chemtrail conspiracy theory spread, federal officials were flooded with angry calls and letters. A multi-agency response to dispel the rumors was published in a 2000 fact sheet by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a step many chemtrail believers have interpreted as further evidence of the existence of a government cover-up.
Proponents of the chemtrail conspiracy theory say that chemtrails can be distinguished from contrails by their long duration, asserting that the chemtrails are those trails left by aircraft that persist for as much as a half day or transform into cirrus-like clouds.
In 2001, US Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced H.R. 2977 (107th) Space Preservation Act of 2001 that would have permanently prohibited the basing of weapons in space, listing chemtrails as one of a number of “exotic weapons” that would be banned. Proponents have interpreted this explicit reference to chemtrails as official government acknowledgment of their existence. Skeptics note that the bill in question also mentions “extraterrestrial weapons” and “environmental, climate, or tectonic weapons. The bill received an unfavorable evaluation from the United States Department of Defense and died in committee, with no mention of chemtrails appearing in the text of any of the three subsequent failed attempts by Kucinich to enact a Space Preservation Act.
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