May 3, 2024 - Energy & Environment

Veteran climate diplomat to advise geoengineering startup

Illustration of the Earth shaped like metal cog

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Janos Pasztor, a veteran climate scientist and diplomat, has joined a solar geoengineering firm as an independent consultant, he tells Axios.

Why it matters: The move is a sign of how quickly geoengineering, which refers to deliberately modifying the environment to temporarily slow or halt human-caused climate change, is being viewed as a viable option as global warming worsens.

Pasztor's job will be to consider the governance implications of a private company potentially modifying conditions in the upper atmosphere, and he tells Axios his work products will be made public.

Zoom in: The company is called Stardust Solutions, and it claims to have raised $15 million from private investors, with some money said to be coming from the Israeli Defense Ministry. The company, however, denies receiving any funding from the Israeli military.

  • Pasztor will donate his earnings to an NGO working on climate change, he told Axios.
  • Pasztor spent two years contemplating the governance needs for managing geoengineering, specifically solar radiation management schemes.
  • Now "retired," he said he overcame his reluctance to take on this role (and to engage with a U.S.-Israeli company given the ongoing war in Gaza) because of the work's urgency and importance.
  • Companies are moving ahead with geoengineering demonstration projects and raising millions for ultimately deploying such technology, without governments and society at large weighing in on such an immense topic.

What they're saying: "Whether one is for or against, or even unsure of the eventual use of stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI, or solar geo-engineering), it needs society-wide discussions," Pasztor told Axios in an email.

  • "Societies and their governments need to decide whether they wish to ban such activities; allow them to continue, but within guardrails; or do nothing, and let these different actors do what they want!" Pasztor said, knowing he may take some heat for consulting for such a venture.
  • "This governance gap needs to be urgently filled."

Between the lines: Paztor is a longtime, well-known climate scientist and diplomat who once served as a top climate advisor to former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

  • His willingness to take on an independent geoengineering consulting gig indicates how quickly this field is moving, as compared with the development of any coherent governance structures.
  • It is a sign that if governments and society at large do not act soon, the tech could simply be deployed, with unknown and potentially large-scale consequences.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Stardust Solutions says it has not received any funding from the Israeli military.

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