The claim: Post implies the UN creates climate change using geoengineering and chemtrails
An April 28 Instagram post (direct link, archived link) features a photo of world leaders at the United Nations 2021 Climate Change summit alongside a photo of airplane condensation trails.
“They speak to us about ‘saving the climate’ & ‘going green’ in the meanwhile they are the ones pulling the strings completely altering & poisoning nature/earth at an ever increasing (sic) rate,” reads the caption of the post. “Stop geoengineering//chemtrails//climate terrorism!”
Some social media users took the post as evidence of a covert program to artificially engineer climate change.
“It’s so frustrating seeing the manmade “weather” and sheeple denying that it is happening,” one commenter wrote.
The post garnered more than 5,000 likes in four days. Other versions of the post are circulating widely on Instagram.
Follow us on Facebook!Like our page to get updates throughout the day on our latest debunks
Our rating: Missing context
Multiple elements of the implied claim here are false. There’s no evidence the U.N. or its member states are utilizing geoengineering technology to manufacture climate change. Scientists say climate change is driven by greenhouse gases emitted from human activities. Geoengineering technologies are still being developed and are not yet in use, according to researchers. Experts have repeatedly debunked the “chemtrails” conspiracy theory.
Climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions, not geoengineering or ‘chemtrails’
The posts mention geoengineering, which refers to a number of emerging climate intervention technologies that could manipulate the atmosphere to mitigate the effects of climate change.
But the U.N. is not currently utilizing or endorsing the use of these kinds of technologies, according to Florencia Soto Niño-Martinez, associate spokesperson for the U.N. secretary-general.
“We’re not trying to change the climate. It’s changing on its own,” Soto Niño-Martinez said. “The U.N. cannot force policies or specific methods to reduce emissions, on countries in any way. Furthermore, the U.N. does not have the mandate or capabilities to carry out these methods.”
Multiple climate scientists and geoengineering researchers previously told USA TODAY these technologies are not the cause of climate change.
“The variables that we associate with climate change like global temperatures have been changing for decades,” David Fahey, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chemical Sciences Laboratory, previously told USA TODAY. “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.”
Scientists have ample evidence that modern climate change is driven by the emission of greenhouse gasses from human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels.
Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global surface temperatures to rise. As a result, the average global temperature has increased by nearly 2 degrees since 1880.
There are two broad categories of geoengineering being researched: carbon geoengineering, which aims to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and solar geoengineering, which aims to modify the amount of solar radiation absorbed and released by the Earth’s atmosphere.
But these technologies are still being developed and are not yet in use, Alan Robock, a climate science professor at Rutgers University, previously told USA TODAY. Robock said many of the technologies necessary to make it work don’t exist yet, and much remains unknown about the potential risks.
The posts appear to erroneously conflate geoengineering technologies with the chemtrails conspiracy theory, which claims 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 the claim is baseless. Claims purporting to prove chemtrails exist have been repeatedly debunked by USA TODAY and other fact-checkers.
Fact check: No, the media did not ‘admit’ governments are utilizing geoengineering technologies
Some of the posts also appear to incorrectly equate geoengineering with weather manipulation. A localized form of weather manipulation called cloud-seeding is possible and utilizes aerosolized silver iodide to condense water in clouds and induce precipitation at a small scale.
But Julie Gondzar, the program manager for Wyoming’s Weather Modification Program, previously told USA TODAY that cloud seeding efforts can only increase precipitation on a “microscale” in a localized area. Cloud seeding cannot manipulate weather patterns, she said.
USA TODAY reached out to the Instagram users who shared the post for comment but did not receive an immediate response.
Our fact-check sources:
- USA TODAY, April 28, 2023, Fact check: No, the media did not ‘admit’ governments are utilizing geoengineering technologies
- USA TODAY, Feb. 28, Fact check: False claim geoengineering is behind climate change
- USA TODAY, Jan. 25, Fact check: False claim ‘chemtrails’ and HAARP are used to manipulate the weather
- USA TODAY, Jan. 19, Fact check: Greenhouse gases are a driving factor in global warming, contrary to post
- USA TODAY, Jan. 11, Fact check: No evidence of negative health effects from airplane contrails
- USA TODAY, Aug. 16, 2016, Scientists disprove airplane ‘chemtrail’ theory
- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, June 2019, Technology Factsheet: Solar Geoengineering
- Encyclopedia Brittanica, March 17, Cloud seeding
- Environmental Protection Agency, Aug. 1, 2022, Climate Change Indicators: Greenhouse Gases
- Environmental Protection Agency, September 2000, Aircraft Contrails Factsheet
- Florencia Soto Niño-Martinez, May 3, Email exchange and phone interview with USA TODAY
- Harvard University, accessed Feb. 20, Geoengineering
- Harvard University, accessed Jan. 19, Chemtrails Conspiracy Theory
- NASA Vital Signs of the Planet, accessed May 4, Carbon dioxide
- NASA Vital Signs of the Planet, accessed May 4, How Do We Know Climate Change Is Real?
- NOAA, June 28, 2022, Climate Change: Global Temperature
- NOAA, June 17, 2022, Climate Change: Annual greenhouse gas index
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.