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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Rep. Justin Price promotes whacked-out right-wing conspiracy theory

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Are those white streaks in the sky harmless vapor trails from airplanes or are they plumes of chemical-laden aerosols intended to modify the weather or, perhaps, manipulate our brains?

Conspiracy theorists claim these cloud-like “chemtrails” are part of a far-reaching government campaign spewing chemical particulate such as aluminum into the air to repair the ozone layer, cool the planet and experiment with new military weapons. These programs, they argue, poison the land and water, and trigger a host of illnesses.

Despite a lack of established research, believers of the chemtrail campaign point to lingering condensation trails, or contrails, in the sky as evidence that harmful substances are being dispersed from high-flying aircraft. Ordinary contrails, they argue, quickly dissolve, while chemtrails persist and spread into artificial, toxic clouds.

Skeptics, including meteorologists and scientists, have repeatedly dismissed this theory, saying certain atmospheric conditions, namely wind and high-moisture content, allow the white plumes from airplane exhaust to endure for hours.

For decades, scientists have debated the merits of cloud seeding and other climate-engineering methods. One process, called solar radiation management, or stratospheric aerosol geoengineering, artificially reflects solar radiation back into space with particles of metal such as aluminum. 

This controversial tactic is often debated as a solution to the higher temperatures brought by climate change, with most climate experts arguing that cost and the risk of unintended consequences are too great.

While its effectiveness is disputed, weather engineering has been attempted. Cloud seeding was employed during the Vietnam War, with uncertain results, while other aerial weather control efforts have been used to produce rain in drought-stricken regions. But, so far, there is scant evidence that an organized, wide-scale program or testing is happening.

Still, some followers suggest that aerial geoengineering is a government program run amok. 

According to one popular website, chemtrails are signs of chemical warfare used for psychological manipulation and even population control. 

Supporters of this claim believe noxious clouds contribute to drought, flooding, deforestation and higher ultraviolet radiation. Chemicals such as barium and cadmium, they believe, enter the bloodstream and brain and contribute to cancer, asthma and Alzheimer’s disease.

A growing association of believers, from celebrities to concerned parents, are convinced of a clandestine climate geoengineering operation, one that is confirmed in snippets of interviews with government scientists and references in lesser-known studies. 

Proponents argue that government scientists have no First Amendment protection allowing them to speak out while National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration employees are under a federal gag order on the topic.

Rep. Justin Price, D-Hopkinton, an advocate of the chemtrail theory, referred to an Air Force report“Weather As a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather 2025” as evidence of a coordinated weather warfare program. The 1996 report states that it depicts possible future “weather modification systems to achieve military objectives.” 

The 52-page report also maintains that it presents hypothetical findings that don't reflect military policy and viewpoints. Nevertheless, the document reports that climate geoengineering has been practiced for decades and will likely be viable as weather-monitoring technologies improve.

Many believers in the theory claim that the United Nations, NASA and the CIA are running chemtrail programs. NASA public affairs specialist Sarah Ramsey recently told ecoRI News that the aeronautics agency doesn’t address conspiracy theories and she wasn’t aware of any geoengineering programs.

“We generally don’t comment on conspiracy theories because we focus on science," she said. "All of our science is out there for people to look at.”

During a Feb. 25 House hearing, Cumberland resident Thomas Loiselle said he was a skeptic of geoengineering until after nearly three years of research and observation he concluded that something unnatural was going on.

Undisclosed spraying of chemicals, he claimed, happens regularly across the globe and in Rhode Island. Chemtrails were even visible above the Statehouse that day, Loiselle said. “It’s not only affecting the environment it’s affecting us," he testified.

Loiselle referred to the expanse of online videos about chemtrails and testimony from believers of active geoengineering programs, which he prefers to call a "conspiracy reality."
"The preponderance of evidence goes way beyond a conspiracy theory,” he said after the recent hearing.

A House bill, sponsored by Price and Rep. Karen MacBeth, D-Cumberland, asks the state Department of Environmental Management to oversee and regulate any climate geoengineering programs underway in Rhode Island's airspace. Loiselle said the legislation would therefore uncover any climate-engineering projects by requiring them to register with the state.

Rep. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, didn’t profess to believe in an active geoengineering conspiracy but called it an insane answer to addressing climate change. “If we tried that there would be significant consequences,” he said.

The legislation was held for further study.