Traditionally we've had a vampire problem...
Appropriately enough, it looks as though H5480 may be "rising from the dead", but repurposed from a chemtrail-based bill to one that actually addresses real geoengineering proposals.
Wil Burns, co-executive director of the Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment, has redrafted the bill, as H7578, to make it more scientifically rigorous.
Q&A with Wil Burns, Ph.D.
This bill was originally introduced into the Rhode Island House of Representatives by Representatives Karen MacBeth (D) and Justin Price (R) in 2015. It appears that the original impetus for the bill was Representative Price’s embrace of the so-called “chemtrail conspiracy,” the purported plot by the government and/or corporations to use aircraft to spray chemical or biological agents into the atmosphere for various purposes. The bill failed to clear out of the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee in 2015. It was “held for further study” in its 2016 incarnation in the same committee.
- What backstory do people need to know about this bill?
In early 2016, Representative MacBeth approached me to review the bill, and we agreed that I would engage in a re-draft. I emphasized that I did not believe in chemtrails, and that the bill should focus on responsible oversight of potential research into climate geoengineering that might transpire in Rhode Island. Because the sponsors’ primary concern appeared to be the risks posed by solar radiation management, we also agreed that this would be the cynosure of the bill’s re-drafted language. As is true with most legislation, compromises had to be made. There is language in the bill that I consider a bit overblown in terms of its characterization of climate geoengineering research, but this is the nature of politics. In the end, I felt that the bill provided some salutary mechanisms to both ensure scientific and public oversight.
- How were you involved?
I had two purposes: Firstly, I was hoping to help draft legislation that would serve as a model for discussion of what national legislation or international governance might look like in terms of regulating geoengineering research and potential deployment. This obviously won’t be the ultimate province of sub-national actors; however, state legislation often provides a model for national legislation and regulations. Some of the elements included in the bill, such as thresholds for regulatory interventions in terms of research, and environmental impact assessment, are elements that should be included in national or international governance approaches. The contours of these elements is certainly subject to further debate, but it was my hope that this bill would provide a foundation for said debates.
- What did you hope to achieve?
Secondly, I thought that a “live” bill would help to stimulate discussion among both policymakers and the public about climate geoengineering in a way that hasn’t happened to date, with geoengineering largely residing in the theoretical realm for most people. I subscribe to the theory of “anticipatory governance,” meaning that it’s critical to engage stakeholders early in the process of the discussion of potentially momentous decisions.
Ultimately, the primary people testifying about the bill were those who equate climate geoengineering with “chemtrails.” As a consequence, I think the bill wasn’t really given serious consideration by the Rhode Island House Environment and Natural Resources Committee. It is anticipated that the bill will be re-introduced in the future. Hopefully, members of the geoengineering community will weigh into the process.
- In your words, what would you say the takeaway from all this is?