Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Tennessee lawmakers ban geoengineering, with allusions to ‘chemtrails’

By 37ci3 Apr2,2024

House of Representatives of the State of Tennessee passed the bill Monday is designed to prevent geoengineering, the practice of deliberately altering the atmosphere to prevent global warming.

The bill, which has already passed the state Senate, includes a variety of technological interventions. These include theoretical ideas about cooling the climate through an approach known as solar radiation modification, as well as more limited experiments that affect the weather, such as cloud seeding, which is used to increase rainfall and snowfall.

Most geoengineering options are theoretical and untested. Federal researchers have taken only a few small steps to explore their feasibility, and atmospheric scientists say there is no evidence of large-scale programs.

For its part, the Tennessee bill represents an attempt to prevent the practice or application of such technologies.

However, lawmakers’ debate over the proposal has drawn a line between fact and fiction, with some suggesting solar geoengineering projects are already underway and others citing fears and misunderstandings stemming from the “chemtrails” conspiracy theory.

“This will be my wife’s favorite bill of the year. He has been worried about it for 10 years. This has been going on for a long time,” Republican Sen. Frank Niceley said at a hearing on the bill last month. “If you look, it will become clear one day. The next day they will look like some angels playing tic-tac-toe. They are everywhere. I have pictures on my phone with an X on top of my house. They denied that they did anything for years.”

None of the six Senate sponsors responded to requests for comment. Niceley, who voted for the bill, also did not respond to a request for comment after the House vote. Rep. Monty Fritts, a Republican who sponsored the bill on NBC News, which NBC News was unable to arrange before the vote, would only agree to an in-person interview.

The theory of chemtrails is a loose cluster of ideas that suggest that airplanes do not create contrails, known as contrails, but instead spray government-produced chemicals to control people’s behavior or affect their bodies.

In recent years, some chemtrails conspiracy theories have developed, with believers suggesting that contrails are actually aerosols designed to manipulate the weather or climate. One of the sponsors, Republican Senator Steve Sauerland, reported the non-profit news organization Tennessee Lookout Reference is made to the chemtrails theory as he presented his argument for the bill to a reporter.

Dartmouth University climatologist Justin Mankin said: “This is conspiratorial nonsense. The problem here is that the whole chemtrails conspiracy conflates and involves all these different technologies with different purposes, making it difficult to separate.

The Tennessee Legislature is not alone in its effort to enact anti-geoengineering policies. Legislators in Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Dakota have introduced or are considering similar bills.

The trend shows that conspiracy theories, confusion, and genuine concern about the possibility of climate change are taking hold in the public consciousness and among some Republican lawmakers.

“There are people in places like Tennessee, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire who fear the truth of the chemtrail theory,” Mankin said. “Instead of relying on science to adequately undermine conspiracy belief, policymakers have legitimized it through legislative action.”

Josh Horton, a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School who studies solar geoengineering policy, said that as far as he knows, Tennessee is the first state to pass such a bill in both houses of the legislature.

If signed into law by the governor, the bill would prohibit the “intentional injection, release, or release” of chemicals into the atmosphere “with the intent to directly affect temperature, weather, or sunlight intensity.”

The bill claims that the “federal government” or those acting on its behalf “may engage in geoengineering practices by intentionally releasing chemicals into the atmosphere.”

A White House official said in an email that “the federal government is not involved in outdoor testing or deployment of solar radiation controls.”

The official said the government is “engaged in a limited number of research activities on this topic, including modeling, measurement and monitoring and laboratory studies.”

The Tennessee vote was controversial Monday night.

Democrat John Ray Clemmons derided the bill and added an amendment that mimicked its original language but suggested that geoengineering “could threaten Sasquatch and its natural habitat.” His amendment failed.

Rep. Bo Mitchell, another Democrat, said: “It is very appropriate that this bill is on the calendar on April 1st.”

However, House sponsor Fritts pointed to federal funding for aerosol research as evidence of the government’s goals.

“There is an intention and a plan,” he said. “I suspect that some of those who have these plans with solar radiation modification intend to inject these chemicals, chemical compounds, substances and devices into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays from Earth.”

Not surprisingly, lawmakers would struggle with the basic concepts of geoengineering. The term is broad and loosely defined, and many of the ideas that fall under its umbrella are little more than back-of-the-napkin sketches of scientists dreaming up ways to mitigate global warming.

“He is not fully formed. It doesn’t exist,” Horton said. “The terminology is all over the place.”

The broad category includes solar geoengineering, which the Tennessee bill would ban. The term refers to activities such as stratospheric aerosol injections, an untested theory that the planet could be cooled by spraying particles into the stratosphere from high-altitude aircraft.

Other geoengineering concepts not mentioned in the bill include marine cloud brightening — the use of aerosols over the ocean to brighten the clouds there — and cloud thinning, which refers to the thinning of certain icy clouds to allow more heat to escape from Earth.

Tennessee’s bill would also ban weather modification such as cloud seeding, a decades-old practice used to encourage precipitation in Western states.

Some states regulate cloud seeding operations, usually small-scale efforts to increase snowfall on mountain ranges, but most other forms of geoengineering remain in the “regulatory Wild West.”

Committee hearings on the legislation have resulted in a bewildering mix of truth, fiction, and fabrication.

The defender of the bill, who testified in front of both chambers, Dr. Denise Sibley suggested that the federal government was spraying chemicals into the atmosphere.

“There is no doubt that climate change is happening within our state,” Sibley said, adding, “We do not agree with the deliberate blocking of the sun through the use of particulate aerosols and heavy metals.”

He asked Tennessee legislators to a 2023 White House report as evidence. The document discusses what a geoengineering research program might look like, but does not represent an active program.

Sibley did not respond to requests for comment.

During the hearings, lawmakers also confused contrails with “chemtrails” and questioned whether wildfires in Western states are caused by cloud scattering or whether geoengineering is causing cancer rates to rise.

Republican Rep. Bud Hulsey wondered if geoengineering was the cause of the honey bee decline.

“Absolutely — and that’s why the honey bees are going away,” said David Perry, who testified in support of the bill and told the committee he has 40 years as a licensed health care professional. “The microcosm they live in is affected by these aerosols.”

There is no evidence to support Perry’s claim. A Tennessee chiropractor with the same name who matched the biographical information provided by Perry during his testimony did not immediately respond to a request for comment. They face serious problems, including bees threats from pests, pesticidesreduced habitat and climate change.

“What you’re seeing is all of this mixing and mingling — geoengineering is the same as weather modification,” said Horton, reviewing a video of recent legislative testimony.

State Sen. Heidi Campbell, a Democrat, voted against the bill.

“While it’s quite common to see people buy into these conspiracy theories wholesale, it’s disturbing,” Campbell said, adding that he believes the bill is a distraction from major climate issues.

Mankin and Horton agreed that there are important conversations to be had about how to direct and regulate solar geoengineering research, which is controversial even among many scientists.

“Is the Tennessee Legislature a place with this protection?” Horton said. “Probably not.”

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By 37ci3

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