Conspiracy theorists seized on a 2010 public appearance by tech mogul Bill Gates to further spread their claims, namely that Gates wanted to spread chemicals all over them.
Posts and videos claiming that Gates “admits to chemtrails” stemmed from Gates discussing the planet’s warming climate at a TED Conferences event.
“The climate getting worse means that many years, their crops won’t grow,” Gates said. “There will be too much rain, not enough rain; things will change in ways their fragile environment simply can’t support. And that leads to starvation, it leads to uncertainty, it leads to unrest.”
During a question-and-answer session, Gates was asked about possible “emergency measures” should other ideas like embracing nuclear power and specialized uranium mining called “TerraPower” not catch on. Gates said:
There is a line of research on what’s called geoengineering, which are various techniques that would delay the heating to buy us 20 or 30 years to get our act together. Now, that’s just an insurance policy; you hope you don’t need to do that. Some people say you shouldn’t even work on the insurance policy because it might make you lazy, that you’ll keep eating because you know heart surgery will be there to save you. I’m not sure that’s wise, given the importance of the problem, but there’s now the geoengineering discussion about: Should that be in the back pocket in case things happen faster, or this innovation goes a lot slower than we expect?
The reasoning behind the conspiracy claims thus became that because Gates “admitted” to the existence of geoengineering, he also gave tacit approval for the use of “chemtrails.” But as David Keith, a professor of public policy and applied physics at Harvard University, had stated, not only is this not connected — it’s not even a secret:
Study of solar geoengineering is in the very early stages and the topic is (rightly) a very controversial area of climate policy because if it ever were tested at large scales or implemented it could involve physical risks and would raise a range of serious socio-political and ethical issues. However, there is nothing secret about the study of albedo modification, with hundreds of publications about the topic in academic journals and hundreds of articles in mainstream media.
In 2012, English newspaper The Guardian reported that Gates had provided funding for Keith to conduct an experiment using a modified balloon to spray “sun-reflecting” chemicals high into the atmosphere over New Mexico. However, Keith told Business Insider that the story had been “substantially fabricated.” The university later said in a statement:
We want to be absolutely clear that that we have no plans to implement a geoengineering field study to release “thousands of tonnes of sun-reflecting chemical particles into the atmosphere to artificially cool the planet, using a balloon flying 80,000 feet over Fort Sumner, New Mexico.”
It is premature to consider doing any such tests at a large scale to measure the climate response. Given the environmental threats to our planet and the growing pressure to seriously consider geo-engineering, we believe that we should actively begin to study (theoretically) what we might be able to learn if such proposals were advanced and ultimately undertaken.
In December 2022, MIT Technology Review reported that a tech startup, Make Sunsets, actually had released reflective sulfur particles into the atmosphere in Mexico without consulting officials in the country and had begun selling “cooling credits” for similar experiments in the future.
As a result, the Mexican government moved to ban such experiments altogether.
“Why is this company, located in the United States, coming to do experiments in Mexico and not in the United States?” said Agustin Avila, a senior official for the Mexican environmental ministry.
As climate-fueled emergencies have piled up worldwide, the debate over geoengineering and similar weather interventions has continued; The Guardian reported in December 2022 that United States President Joe Biden’s administration had developed a five-year outline into research for possible approaches.
Update 8/18/2023, 3:40 p.m. PST: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. — ag