17 Aug 2016

The mother of all conspiracies has been debunked

4:22 pm on 17 August 2016

There are many, many conspiracy theories: the moon landing was a lie, jet fuel can’t melt steel beams, Beyoncé was never actually pregnant. But the mother of all conspiracies has got to be chemtrails.

Harmless condensation or CHEMTRAILS?

Harmless condensation or CHEMTRAILS? Photo: 123rf

Multiple websites are devoted to the theory that governments and big businesses use jet aircrafts to spray chemicals from the sky to control us, control the population size, or control the climate.

A recent international survey shows nearly 17 percent of people believe in the existence of a secret large-scale atmospheric program (SLAP) to be true or partly true.

So a team of scientists from different universities across the US conducted the first peer reviewed study on chemtrails to debunk the myth once and for all.

One of the authors, Steven J Davis of the University of California, says he knew it was time to find answers after a mattress salesman asked him about the theory.

“When he found out I was a researcher on climate studies, he asked me right off the bat about chemtrails,” he says. “It sort of took me by surprise and made me realise that it wasn’t all just folks sitting in their underwear at home on the internet. Rather there were everyday folk, reasonable people, who had questions about the topic.”

But it’s not all benign mattress salesmen. One climate scientist, who co-authored the study with Davis, was once “targeted by the chemtrail conspiracy theorists as someone who was complicit in the spraying of these toxic chemicals”, says Davis. At the time, his colleague was simply looking into what might happen if we put aerosols into the upper atmosphere to (try to) offset global warming.

Davis says he went into the study knowing the theory was “incredibly far-fetched” but was dedicated to the scientific method. “I’m a scientist and I didn’t have strong evidence one way or the other to argue with these folks about the nature of the contrails – condensation trails – which we all see in the sky all the time. It seemed reasonable to pose some questions to the experts.”

There are plenty of folks out there, like my mattress salesman, who are curious about this but they haven’t yet made up their mind

Davis and his team went to the websites of the conspiracy theorists and pulled off photographs and lab results that were purported to be hard evidence of chemtrails.

“We showed the experts at various institutions and asked them, based on what we showed them, whether they thought the most reasonable explanation was secret large-scale spraying programme.”

Obviously, most said no and were able to explain what was actually going on with science. “They had fairly rudimentary explanations based on chemistry and physics and nothing sinister about it.”

But in a twist that will undoubtedly give fuel to chemies the world over, one of the 77 scientists interviewed didn’t completely debunk the theory.

“An atmospheric deposition experts said that he or she had, in their own experience, encountered high levels of barium in atmospheric samples from an area where there was low barium naturally occurring soil.

“This person said they could not rule out the possibility that this was evidence of some secret spraying programme.”

Davis was never setting out to change the minds of the hard core believers, he’s just reporting the facts. “There are plenty of folks out there like my mattress salesman, who are curious about this but they haven’t yet made up their mind about whether they believe it’s happening or not.

“Now hopefully, when they google [chemtrails] they’ll come up with at least one study that expresses the scientific perspective that there are natural explanations for these condensation trials.”

Check out the full interview on Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm show