C2GTalk: An interview with Shuchi Talati, Founder of The Alliance for Just Deliberation on Solar Geoengineering

How can Global South civil society be engaged in deliberations about Solar Radiation Modification?

31 July 2023

Is there sufficient governance of Carbon Dioxide Removal?

What role should Carbon Dioxide Removal play?

What public engagement is needed around emerging climate technologies?

Could solar radiation modification reduce adverse climate impacts?

How can you build trust when engaging communities about Solar Radiation Modification?

What lessons about public engagement did you draw when Sweden stopped the SCoPEx Solar Radiation Modification experiment?

Are climate vulnerable communities interested in solar radiation modification?

How will the Alliance for Just Deliberation on Solar Geoengineering support just and inclusive discussions?

This interview was recorded on 15 June 2023 and is also available with interpretation into 中文, Español and Français.

Consultation and engagement with civil society in the Global South is essential for inclusive governance of solar radiation modification (SRM), says Dr Shuchi Talati, the founder of the Alliance for Just Deliberation on Solar Geoengineering during this C2GTalk. This will not be easy, and requires building trust and knowledge over time, but as international attention to SRM increases, it will be increasingly important to empower vulnerable communities.

Dr. Shuchi Talati is an emerging climate technology governance expert and the founder of The Alliance for Just Deliberation on Solar Geoengineering. She is also currently a co-chair of the Independent Advisory Committee to oversee SCoPEx, an effort to provide oversight for the potential outdoor solar geoengineering experiment proposed by Harvard University. Dr. Talati is a Visiting Scholar at the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania and a Scholar in Residence at Forum for Climate Engineering at American University. She most recently served as a Presidential Appointee in the Biden-Harris Administration as Chief of Staff of the Office of Fossil Energy & Carbon Management at the U.S. Department of Energy where she was focused on creating just and sustainable frameworks for carbon dioxide removal. She was also previously the Deputy Director of Policy at Carbon180 and the Fellow on geoengineering research governance and public engagement at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Dr. Talati was a AAAS/AIP Congressional Science Fellow in the U.S. Senate and served at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under President Obama. Dr. Talati earned a BS in environmental engineering from Northwestern University, an MA in climate and society from Columbia University, and PhD from Carnegie Mellon in engineering and public policy.

Below are edited highlights from the full C2GTalk interview shown in the video above. Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Let’s start with why we are here ultimately.  What are your top-line big thoughts on where we are in the climate challenge, how serious a situation are we in today, and how would you characterize humanity’s current state of efforts to tackle it? 

Starting with a very simple question I see, I think we are in a very challenging situation, but by no means do I think it is one that we cannot tackle.  Historically we have not done a particularly good job at handling climate change over the last 30 to 40 years.  I don’t think we have done a good job at taking into consideration climate impacts thus far and how they might perpetuate into the future, taking into consideration the deep need for widespread adaptation, need for loss and damage, and the need for carbon dioxide removal and mitigation of course.  I think all of these things are parts of the portfolio that we are just starting to address.   

We have seen recent landmark climate legislation pass in the United States, but that is a first step.  I am really worried about both how that might continue into the future and at the same time really heartened to see this huge, huge moment of progress in the United States. 

Globally we are seeing similar movements towards thinking about the different components that have to happen across this wide portfolio.  At the same time, things are not happening fast enough. 

So all of these things are coming together for me.  My biggest concern in this space started with impacts.  We are seeing so many impacts affect so many people in the most vulnerable places today, and I don’t think we are really thinking about how that is going to become a much larger problem over the next several decades.  Even if we were to hit net zero “tomorrow” — in the most ideal, optimistic version of that, which is likely 2050 — we are going to see impacts continue to worsen for the next several decades, and we are not making that a central part of the conversation around climate change. 

To bring that to a sense of what has happened recently, we had these apocalyptic scenes in New York, red skies due to the Canadian wildfires.  I was wondering if in the United States you have seen or whether you think we will ever see one of those moments where suddenly — people theoretically know about climate change and do or don’t agree with it on an intellectual basis — but do you think people have that sort of emotional moment where they are thinking: Oh, wow.  This is really here.  It really affects me”?  Are we at that point or nearing that point? 

I think we have seen a lot of those moments for people in very different ways.  As we think about all the different types of impacts of climate change, those are the ones that people are seeing for themselves across different geographies and regions.  Whether it be wildfire smoke, hurricanes, drought, or food security issues, I think there is definitely a realization that climate change is impacting all of these things.  I think now the question is: How willing are people to actually engage in changing the politics of the system to actually affect better policy?  

Ending CO2 emissions in the first place is the priority — “When in a hole, stop digging” — but over recent years there has been growing interest in large-scale carbon dioxide removal (CDR).  I bring this up because you have obviously done a lot of work on this in the past, have had a lot of experience in government and in a nongovernmental organization called Carbon180.   

Describe where you see the state of carbon removal right now.  Is it mainstream?  Are we beginning to see a pushback against it?  How do you see the evolving debate around its governance — how to measure it and how to put it alongside other policies?  What is the state of CDR right now? 

The state of CDR is shocking to me actually.  If we look back even five years ago, the idea that there would be billions of public dollars going into carbon dioxide removal would have been unprecedented.  I think we are seeing quite a bit of hype around the potential for CDR and a lot of new entrepreneurial ventures and a lot more private companies coming into this space.  It is incredibly exciting to see flourishing research and development and the potential for really new, exciting systems to actually capture and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

At the same time, I don’t think governance has kept up with that pace.  I remain deeply concerned about how we create a system that is not profit-motivated, that is disentangled from the fossil fuel industry, and that actually leads to effective, permanent, durable carbon dioxide removal.  We have problematic offset markets, we have problematic systems in which there are perverse incentives related to CDR, and we have to think about what we need to build and what guardrails we need to make sure that CDR is done effectively.  There is a lot more thinking on that that has to be done. 

When it comes to trust and ensuring that just outcomes are the priority, we have never really done robust public engagement to the level that is needed and at the scale that is needed to ensure that this system can have legitimacy.  In thinking about what that looks like, it is really not something that the Department of Energy and other comparable agencies in the world have done effectively before.

I would love to pick you up on that point in a second and dig into it.   

I just want to go back briefly to some of the concerns you raised, the governance challenges, before we go into the justice issue.  There is a lot to talk about the concept of high-integrity removals and how you actually go about measuring, monitoring, and verifying it. 

I want to go to what is often the critique that people most often jump on, which is known as the “moral hazard” or “mitigation deterrence,” basically the idea that by saying we can removal carbon from the atmosphere that lessens the pressure on society to not put it in there in the first place.  Where do you see the state of that and also policy to make sure it does not happen? 

I think it is still very much a central issue in CDR that we have to keep thinking about what policy mechanisms can ensure that we do not end up in that space.   

I think, as we all know, it is much easier to avoid emissions than to remove them, it is much cheaper and more effective, and we have to ensure that mitigation is the priority.  

When we think about this concept of net zero, which has a lot of issues surrounding it, we have to think about the role of CDR in getting to net zero and then separately the role of CDR in actually addressing legacy emissions.   

For me, CDR should play as small a role as possible when it comes to mitigative measures.  We do not want to build CDR that has allowable offsets just generally speaking.  We want to make sure that CDR is used for the hardest-to-decarbonize sectors.  More importantly for me is using CDR to address legacy emissions, to address things like overshoot, and making sure that we actually have the capacity available to address those aspects of the climate system. 

How to do that remains a huge question in my mind, and the idea of moral hazard changes over time.  Right now we do need to think about doing large-scale R&D, we have to think about what we need to do to prepare to scale — and that takes investment, right? —but as we start getting down the road, that is when we have to think about: What is the role of CDR as compared to large-mitigation systems; what is the role of renewable electricity in use for CDR systems when we also need renewables to phase out things like coal and natural gas? 

These are really big policy questions that I don’t think we have had the opportunity to think about at the federal level yet.  This is going to take state-level policy, federal policy, and global policy to think about how these systems will interact with each other because the ways that make sense in the United States might not make sense in places like India or China, and we have to make sure that these technologies have guardrails around them and are used in the most effective ways.

I guess that brings us back nicely to the question of justice.  How do we go about involving different communities around the world affected by climate change in understanding carbon removal, picking the right policies for carbon removal, giving consent where necessary for their land to be used for aspects of carbon removal, whether nature-based, machines, transport, storage, or whatever?   

Moving also a little bit further than that in the concept of justice, could you see carbon removal as a tool of justice in the sense whereby historic polluters who have benefited most from the fossil fuel economy actually have the weight of the responsibility to take out what they put in in the first place, actually redress some of the harms they have done, if we could touch on that a little bit before we move on to your current work. 

I think the first question of “How do we do this?” is a huge question.   

The first thing for me is to start.  

I think we really have not tackled large-scale engagement, knowledge building, and awareness building around these types of emerging topics.  I think that is true of CDR and solar geoengineering, and I think it is going to take a lot of resources and effort to figure out the best ways to do that, it is going to take trial and error, and we have to make sure that we are doing that in ways that are unbiased and done by actors that have trust.  That is incredibly challenging. 

And then when we think about engaging on specific projects, making sure that people have voices in decisions and communities have power to say no to projects that they do not want, these are systems that really do not exist yet, so thinking about how to build them and what that looks like at this front end of early demonstrations versus commercialization are things that we have to talk about at important federal policy levels.   

I think that is starting to happen, which is incredibly exciting to see, but when we have a lot of political volatility in a lot of different countries. it is really concerning to see the commitment to these types of issues fluctuating, because if you lose momentum around them you inevitably will see people being less engaged from this space.

Do you see an order then in which countries should be engaging in carbon removal?  Should it be that the developed world does it first and foremost, goes net negative earlier?  Is there a sense that it could be used as a tool to help with the differentiated responsibilities in addressing historic injustice? 

That is a possibility, but I do not really think that is a decision that we could make.  Countries will have to make those decisions for themselves to best decide what pathways make the most sense for them from a labor perspective, justice perspective, energy perspective, and resource perspective, and those are not decisions we can make for them.   

But thinking about ways in which CDR could be used as a tool for things like climate reparation is an important conversation.  What is the role of reparation in developing an incredibly expensive technology, implementing it, and making sure that it is being used in the best way? 

I think it is a really, really important topic that I do not think we have spent enough time with as a global community, and we need a lot more awareness and participation from the countries that would potentially be either places where CDR is deployed or places that would be “receiving” benefit from this type of technology.  But that in itself is a tricky issue; defining what the benefits are from CDR is challenging. 

I guess there is an awful lot of commonality between what you’ve addressed now regarding CDR on some of these issues and your current work regarding solar geoengineering. 

You have started up this project, The Alliance for Just Deliberation on Solar Geoengineering.  I am going to ask you all about it in a second.  First of all, I would love to hear you describe it.  What is solar geoengineering, and how might it harm or help with some of these climate risks? 

Solar geoengineering refers to large-scale efforts that reflect sunlight to cool the planet.  The reason we think this might work is because we have seen large volcanic eruptions, most recently Mount Pinatubo in 1991, which released a large amount of sulfur aerosols into the stratosphere, which cooled the entire planet by over 0.5°C for over a year.   

Whether or not this would be an effective strategy to address some types of climate impacts remains to be seen.  It is an approach that could potentially limit a lot of human suffering and harm, but it might not.  It is an incredibly double-edged sword.  It could potentially address some of the injustices that we have perpetuated from climate change, but at the same time it could potentially exacerbate them.

 The biggest challenge here is that we do not actually know what climate-vulnerable communities want. When it comes to knowledge around it and awareness of solar geoengineering, even in the Global North, it remains very, very low.  When we see people in the Global North talking about what should happen, it is being done in a very elite, narrow way.  I think the loudest voices we hear are largely Global North white, elite actors making claims on behalf of these communities. 

When we think about what we need to do to build a better system, to build a potentially more just and inclusive system, that really starts with knowledge and engagement, so this effort that I recently launched in April is focused on that: How do we best build more inclusive and just deliberation around this topic?

Before we jump into that — and I am looking forward to that because it is such a big topic — I just wanted to get a sense of — all the reasons you outlined are very good reasons; however, there are a lot of people who are scared by this topic and think they should not talk about it all, do not want to jump into it, and almost see those who do engage with this topic as having gone off-track.   

What motivated you to really pursue your interest in solar geoengineering?  What led you to think, Wow, this is something I need to dedicate myself to

It is interesting to me because I completely understand the fear and the reaction to this topic as being totally crazy — and it is, it is absolutely insane, and you will get no argument from me on that.   

I think the fact that we are having to think about solar geoengineering in itself is unfortunately very insane, and I am really, really sad that we are at this point. 

But we are here and not talking about solar geoengineering will not make it go away.  This is not something that only exists on the fringes.  It is becoming a part of major assessments and processes, and not talking about actually is a contributor to unjust outcomes.  When we hear voices saying that we should not even be able to talk about this, for me that is a very clear civil privilege, where we have seen a lot of these actors have had the opportunity to engage with this topic and to come to the opinion that this is not something we should do.  That is an absolutely valid opinion, but from my perspective we have to also make sure that other people have that same opportunity to engage with this topic, and limiting that is unfortunately very symbolic of how colonialism has perpetuated in the past.

In terms of why I came to this topic, it has been a winding 15 years of my career in climate change and I have spent a lot of time on different approaches, thinking about mitigation and adaptation in different ways.   

I have been working on CDR for some time, but I have been thinking a lot about climate impacts and the really huge dearth of action in this space and thinking about solar geoengineering as potentially a very important way to address things like heat waves or sea level rise. 

We do not know the answers to these things, but we do not have a lot of adaptation solutions that can address some of the things that solar geoengineering may potentially be able to address.  Thinking about the human rights component to solar geoengineering, which to me is clear should be the only reason to consider solar geoengineering — there should be no profit motivation behind this whatsoever — but, thinking about that perspective and the fact that we are seeing such little engagement from the most vulnerable was concerning to me. 

The dangers of solar geoengineering and the fact that this is something that is relatively inexpensive and could happen very quickly makes it the complete opposite of CDR in those key ways.  I really see this as a very narrow window of opportunity to be able to actually build knowledge and awareness, build capacity to engage in governance on this topic, but if we do not start doing it now, I think it will be too late. 

Other than the amazing work that C2G does and the Degrees Initiative, I really was not seeing very much action in this space, so I wanted to think about how I could contribute to building a better path to just outcomes, to inclusion, that we just really have not done enough on at all across the climate space. 

It is explicitly stated on your website that your mission is “to work towards just and inclusive deliberation about research and potential use of solar geoengineering.”  I think few could, in a sense, argue on one level with the ideas behind that, but in practice what does that mean?  What does it look like?  What are the challenges?  How are you actually going to go about deciding how to do it and what to do? 

It is incredibly hard.  This is something that there are not really good models of, and I am trying to learn from the best versions of community engagement and the best versions of capacity building that have existed thus far and try to stand on their shoulders around this topic. 

When we look at capacity building as an overall topic over the last hundred years, we have not done it very well.  There have been one-off efforts that have been very biased, that have been not sustainable, and they have been led by efforts that have very particular outcomes in mind.   

What I want to try and build are efforts that build knowledge in sustainable ways that are locally led and built to empower the perspectives of the people on the ground.  That is very hard. 

Thinking about the ways to build partnerships and collaborations, to build the best versions of resources — like how do you build materials and mechanisms that make sense for the people in different places — takes time; and people learn in different ways; and different communities will have different things that they want to learn more about.  All of this is hard work, but I am excited to try to figure it out. 

By no means do I want to claim expertise around this type of work so far.  I am also learning.  I am building my own capacity in trying to do this work, and I think it is important to say that I am not trying to build a certain kind of knowledge toward a certain kind of outcome.  The only thing I am really advocating for in this organization is procedural justice, this idea that we have to think about fairness in decision making.  That is my leading priority in trying to think about the best ways to do this.

You mentioned that as you have been doing this exploration and learning yourself you were inspired by and have seen the great work of some others.  Can you give a sense of who they are and what kinds of models made you think, Wow, that is the kind of way I would like to approach this

I think there are a few different leaders in this space I have learned a lot from.  There are leaders in countries with whom I am hoping to engage, like Saleemul Huq, who has led a lot of interesting and effective capacity-building efforts in least-developed countries with the organization that he is leading.   

I think there is also really amazing work done on advocacy for public engagement in efforts like the Climate Protection and Restoration Initiative that we are seeing in the United States, efforts led by Carbon180 and the National Wildlife Federation, American University, all of these kinds of organizations that are thinking about: How do we build the best version of public engagement? 

There are also a lot of writings from scholars and philosophers who have thought about how we think about ethics and morality in this space, and  I have had the privilege of working with some of them in some of my own writings around this topic. 

There are so many things that I am drawing from and building upon that I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to engage with.   

A lot of this too is work that we are building from the ground up and thinking about what justice really means for solar geoengineering and what are the intersections in this space.   

And what does “inclusion” mean?  I think that is a word that is used a lot, that is thrown around and quoted all over the place, so we are really thinking about what inclusion in solar geoengineering deliberation means.  I think it is actually incredibly important to say: “If we want to get to just outcomes, what does that look like?  What is the best version of it?”  

I think we also have to really think about engaging with the uncomfortable.  Solar geoengineering is not an easy thing to talk about — how it fits into the climate response portfolio, why people do or do not want to talk about it — and these are all hard questions.  I don’t think there are not enough organizations — I don’t think civil societies have the opportunity to engage with this topic enough.   

That has to start shifting, so thinking about how the issue can also impact that narrative — to say, “It’s okay that we don’t know the answers to these questions, but we have to start talking about them” — and then to be the honest broker in this space, which is something that has largely been missing, to be a voice of trust and learning in a field that has been very empty.  

That is such an important issue, the question of the honest broker and trust. 

There is a difficult situation sometimes in this field whereby if you go to somebody and say, “Here’s a thing you haven’t really heard about, let’s talk about it so that we can govern it properly” and all the rest of it, there can be a response of, “Oh, you’re advocating for this.”  There is a sense of, “Well, why would you have brought it to me in the first place if you didn’t think this is something?” 

How do you be neutral and impartial while at the same time you are proactively saying, “This is something that we need to talk about,” and how do you convince people of that? 

I think it is about being very clear about my motivations.  My motivation is not to advocate for this in any which way, but it is to say that outside of this organization and my work there is momentum growing in this space.  We are seeing it across sectors — in the United Nations, in the U.S. government, at academic institutions, and in research institutions.  We are seeing a really growing shift in the way people are talking about it and engaging with it.  Unfortunately, we are seeing that in the private sector too with recent efforts to deploy solar geoengineering and sell cooling credits. 

My motivation is to say: “This is happening and, regardless of how you feel about this topic, you deserve to be engaged on it and to be part of the decision making that is happening.  By not talking about it you are actively disempowering yourself from this conversation.  If that is not something that you want to do, that is absolutely fine, but I think that opportunity and awareness of this topic and those processes is incredibly important for people to be aware of.”

In your experience so far as you have been doing this and speaking to a whole bunch of people, what sort of responses have you gotten?  Is this approach working?  I would obviously love any sort of specific examples, but I also understand that a lot of these conversations have to be quiet, but just to understand how this work is evolving some sort of practical examples would be great. 

This is very new.  This is work that I started scoping out a year ago and I just launched this organization in April.  I feel like trying to have these conversations is something that we are actively doing. 

In terms of the responses thus far, I think that has been an effective way to engage people.  To say, “I want to help build capacity in ways that are most important and most effective for you.  You can or cannot do anything with that information, that it is entirely up to you, but if you would be willing to think about it, that might make sense” seems to be a good way to bring people to the conversation. 

I think those are just critical first steps to building relationships.  I cannot go in and say, “I want to lead a capacity-building effort in your country.”  That is not going to work.  That is also entirely not sustainable and not effective. 

I want to think about ways to empower locally led efforts in ways that could be sustained and built by the people who are in these places in whatever ways the resources can be built or provided by this organization.  That is what I want to contribute to. 

Will you be focusing on any particular continent to begin with?  Are you starting things out in any particular place in terms of feeling out for the willingness to engage and ways to engage? 

Yes.  At this point we are thinking about how to prioritize different places and where it makes sense to go first.   

So far, South Asia is a place that I think will be incredibly important to engage with.  I am hoping to go to Africa and South and Central America later this year and early next year.  It is critical to have the perspectives of all these places, and figuring out where to start collaborations and projects I think will be steered by them — where responses are stronger, where the civil society landscape is empowered for us to engage with, and just where people are interested. 

I hope that is something that is not entirely dictated from the front end.  I think there is a huge part of this that it is supply-driven because the whole problem is that there is not this demand because there is not knowledge; but at the same time, as we start having these conversations, there has to be some sort of demand for some of this work to be built.  We do not know the answers to that yet because no one is engaged with it yet.   

I hope it becomes clear to us over the next year, two years, three years, and I hope it is work that is driven by the communities that we want to engage with.  

I really look forward to seeing where this goes.  It is an exciting thing. 

Let’s take one example, though, where something did happen very specifically, which underlined some of the reasons why you are doing this work.  There was this controversy in 2021 when Harvard was looking to do the SCoPEx experiment over the skies of Sweden.  The Saami Council found out about it, indigenous groups found about it and opposed it, and this led effectively to the cancellation of at least that part of the project. 

You are co-chair of the Independent Advisory Committee to oversee this experiment.  Not so long ago, I think last year, the Committee gave recommendations on how to improve local engagement.  I wonder if you could share a little bit about what the outcome and learning have been from what happened with that experiment and what practically is going to happen now to take this forward. 

I think an incredibly important learning for the Committee after what happened in Sweden was thinking about how people perceive solar engineering experimentation.   

The Committee had built guidelines for public engagement before Sweden, and when we thought about when communities should be engaged, we made this assertion that, “For the engineering testing to just test the equipment we did not necessarily need to think about public engagement yet; rather, we should focus on the particle release for the actual experimental portion of the entire project.  That is what was happening in Sweden; there was the test of the equipment. 

That was a mistake.  That is not how people perceive this work.  The new guidelines we built followed that, about how this is a holistic thing and we have to make sure that engagement is done at the front end. 

At the same time, this Committee was put together in an effort to build oversight for an experiment that was supposed to be domestic.  We were a group of largely American scholars and some global scholars to think about all the different components of a governance framework for these experiments, which is public and available online and we hope will be utilized by future research groups. 

This experiment then moved to a place where we were not prepared to provide the same type of governance.  We did not have any Swedish experts, Saami experts, or language speakers on our Committee, and that was a mistake.   

When we think about future experiments and the role of research governance and ad hoc committees that have this oversight, what we have learned is that it is very hard and that the best thing we can do is to be as anticipatory as possible.  Understanding the location and the needs of a particular experiment is absolutely necessary for us to be able to provide appropriate governance, and I think the earlier these pieces start the better the folks engaged in governance can be prepared to provide the right kinds of tools. 

SCoPEx is not canceled yet.  We do not know what is going to happen.  These are local engagement guidelines we have provided to the research team, and they are taking that up and trying to figure out what are the best ways to deploy those guidelines for this experiment.

Earlier when you mentioned consultations you were talking a little bit about the right to say “No.”  I know it is quite hard to answer this in the abstract and that every case will be different, but how do you go about determining who has the right to say “No?”  Do some people have privilege over others in terms of their ability to say “No?”  For example, something like SCoPEx takes place over Sweden but at the same time has potential consequences for the whole world, and how do you determine the mix of local versus global right to say “No” or right to say “Yes?”   

It seems to be such a complex question.  On one level it sounds obvious to say somebody has the right to say “No,” but on another level when do we ever have the right to say “No?” 

I am interested in your thoughts on that. 

It is really hard because there is also this entanglement of nimbyism that has been very pervasive in for the renewable energy industry that has also been quite challenging because a lot of nimbyism has existed in very rich, privileged areas, where they just do not want wind turbines impinging on their view, versus actual legitimate concerns around air pollution or resource use.  

I think the challenge is that these are not systems that we have had experience with yet.  I have said this a lot here in our conversation, but we just have not figured that out.  We have to think about what are the right types of governance structures that could actually take in the input from a community to actually parse that input and then think about what the right decision-making structure then is.  Is the input based on the actual needs and concerns of the community or is it based on a select few who do not have the same motivations?   

All of this is to say that I do not think we know what the best system is yet, and I think public engagement is one of those things that is very easy to talk about as a theory and very hard to do in practice. 

Public engagement is not a “one size fits all” thing.  It has to exist for different purposes, with different people, and to do different things, and those are systems we just really have not created for solar geoengineering, for carbon dioxide removal, or for renewable energy in the best possible way yet.  I think there is still a lot of learning to be done. 

When it comes to the right to say “No” and the right to veto, I think these are things we are going to see play out in the very near future.  Especially in the United States we have a lot of big projects that are being funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, especially around carbon dioxide removal, we see the [inaudible] program, and thinking about who is running the public engagement —  Is it the companies?  Is it the Department of Energy?  Is it local government?  Is it nonprofit organizations?  We don’t know yet, and I think we are about to find out what that is going to look like. 

We have already seen some hints with some of the CO2 pipelines and so forth. 

One of the hardest things I see in that space is going to be trust and it is going to be actually seeing a voice for themselves in the eventual outcomes because trust is not just built at the front end, but they have to see if you actually used their input and are you responding to it.  I don’t think we have been able to see that quite yet, but I think it is going to be a very, very active space over the next few years. 

I have always thought of trust as a function of predictability over time, and it is quite hard to shortcut the time. 

I want to go back to your motivation, and perhaps we will end on this.  You talked a lot about the specifics of why SRM, but to take a step back,  it takes quite a lot of motivation to set up an organization in a difficult field, not really knowing where it is going, controversial; self-doubt must come in, like “Just do an easy job with the private sector.”   

Where do you get your broader motivation from?  Do you have any philosophies, heroes, or standards that you hold yourself by that drive you forward? 

That is a really hard question.  There are so many motivations for me.   

I think the two or three biggest ones first and foremost are my family.  My family is from India.  My parents emigrated here.  I am first-generation, and thinking about my role between these two types of societies is something I have grappled with my whole life.   

Climate change puts a lens on how these roles intersect with each other and how important they both are.  Climate change for me has been a central motivation in my entire career and education.   

This need for civil society, accountability, and policy building in ways that are not profit-driven and that are not led by largely white men is such an important driver for this type of work.  As a woman of color, I have seen how empty the solar geoengineering space is of people who look like me, and that is a huge problem.  That has also been a driver for how I wanted to think about this work and what my role could be.   

The challenge with something like this is accepting and knowing that I cannot solve the biggest problems in this field, even given how small this field is right now, but to think about what path could I be most impactful on.  This to me was a clear space that needed to be filled, was not being filled, and one that I think also needed to be filled by a woman, by a person of color, and by hopefully an organization that is dedicated to lifting up the voices of the disempowered. 

There are a lot of different philosophies that are intertwined with making these decisions, but the principles of justice and how climate justice is not pervasive enough in how we are making decisions has become really central to me over the last few years.  That has been central to how I have been thinking about carbon dioxide removal, but as carbon dioxide removal as a field becomes much larger it hopefully will become a lot more inclusive and diverse.  

I am not seeing the same type of growth in solar geoengineering.  Why I was driven to pursue this topic specifically is that there is potentially a lot that will happen over the next ten years, and if we do not start thinking about building that diversity now it will be too late. 

Shuchi Talati, thanks for being such a great guest on C2GTalk. 

Thank you so much for having me.  This is wonderful. 

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