Fact Check: CIA Head Did NOT Acknowledge 'Chemtrails' Are Real By Discussing 'Stratospheric Aerosol Injection,' A Proposed Solar Geoengineering Technology

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: CIA Head Did NOT Acknowledge 'Chemtrails' Are Real By Discussing 'Stratospheric Aerosol Injection,' A Proposed Solar Geoengineering Technology Not Chemtrails

Did the head of the CIA acknowledge in a speech that "chemtrails" are real? No, that's not true: In a 2016 speech then-CIA Director John Brennan was discussing a controversial and untested solar geoengineering method called Stratospheric Aerosol Injection technology. "Chemtrails" are not the same thing as Stratospheric Aerosol Injection, which aims to potentially reverse global warming by reflecting a small fraction of sunlight away from Earth. The "chemtrails" term is a misnomer used by conspiracists and misapplied to contrails, the commonly seen water vapor trails made by airplanes.

A video clip was posted on Instagram (archived here) by @dark2light.q on October 3, 2023, with the caption:

Geoengineering & Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI) otherwise known as 'Chemtrails'.
Straight from the devils mouth. 👹👇
Aerosols include black carbon, metallic aluminum, aluminum oxide, and barium titanate
Barium & Aluminum = Ba+Al (periodic table)
Baal (Baphomet/Moloch)

This is how the post appeared at the time of writing:

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Thu Oct 05 18:57:25 2023 UTC)

This video shows a June 29, 2016, forum hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. Brennan sat down with PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff to discuss global threats. He spoke to the forum audience for about 15 minutes before the interview, when he spoke of his interest in Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI). The clip of one minute 45 seconds in the Instagram post can be found at the timestamp 12:35-14:19 in the original video of the full event on c-span.org. Brennan said:

Another example is the array of technologies, often referred to collectively as geo-engineering, that potentially could help reverse the warming effects of global climate change. One that has gained my personal attention is stratospheric aerosol injection, or SAI, a method of seeding the stratosphere with particles that can help reflect the sun's heat in much the same way that volcanic eruptions do.

This proposed method of climate control is a real hypothesis, but in the seven years since Brennan spoke, it still has not been put into practice. There are many considerations that stand in the way of launching a full-scale global Stratospheric Aerosol Injection program, and Brennan mentioned a few of these in his talk. This portion of his speech, which leaves no question the SAI has not yet been deployed, is included in the Instagram video:

As promising as it may be, moving forward on SAI would also raise a number of challenges for our government and for the international community. On the technical side, greenhouse gas emission reductions would still have to accompany SAI to address other climate change effects, such as ocean acidification, because SAI alone would not remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere. On the geopolitical side, the technology's potential to alter weather patterns and benefit certain regions of the world at the expense of other regions could trigger sharp opposition by some nations. Others might seize on SAI's benefits and back away from their commitments to carbon dioxide reductions. And as with other breakthrough technologies, global norms and standards are lacking to guide the deployment and implementation of SAI and other geo-engineering initiatives.

The Instagram caption suggests that the SAI Brennan is discussing is the same thing as "chemtrails" -- that by mentioning SAI, Brennan is verifying the chemtrail conspiracy. Although not phrased in the form of a question, this claim presents the debunking quandary of a loaded or leading question.

SAI is an authentic prospective scientific concept that has yet to be deployed. "Chemtrails" is the misnomer applied by conspiracists to describe contrails, the real and commonly seen line-shaped water vapor trails made by aircraft. Contrails are real, "chemtrails" are not. Neither of them are a hypothetical SAI technology being researched for the purpose of geoengineering.

A PDF factsheet (archived here) on aircraft contrails was produced by the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration in 2020. It explains:

Contrails are line-shaped clouds or 'condensation trails,' composed of ice particles, that are visible behind jet aircraft engines, typically at cruise altitudes in the upper atmosphere. Contrails have been a normal effect of jet aviation since its earliest days. Depending on the temperature and the amount of moisture in the air at the aircraft altitude, contrails evaporate quickly (if the humidity is low) or persist and grow (if the humidity is high). Jet engine exhaust provides only a small portion of the water that forms ice in persistent contrails. Persistent contrails are mainly composed of water naturally present along the aircraft flight path.

The Instagram caption also lists the aerosols black carbon, metallic aluminum, aluminum oxide and barium titanate. This list of potential aerosol materials are mentioned in a January 19, 2016, paper titled, "Assessing the direct occupational and public health impacts of solar radiation management with stratospheric aerosols" (archived here), which was published in the journal Environmental Health.

There is one additional material that is mentioned first in the paper's list, but is omitted in the Instagram caption, "environmental sulfates." In more recent factsheet publications from Harvard's Solar Geoengineering Research Program (here and PDF here), only "sulfate aerosols or perhaps calcium carbonate" are suggested as the potential aerosols.

Lead Stories has published several fact checks addressing false claims about chemtrails and solar geoengineering.

  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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