Kirk R. Smith, UC Berkeley
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Professor of Global Environmental Health
Director of the Global Health
and Environment Program
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley

Fulbright-Nehru Distinguished Chair, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (2013)

Prof. Smith is Professor of Global Environmental Health and is also founder and director of the campus-wide Masters Program in Global Health and Environment. Previously, he was founder and head of the Energy Program of the East-West Center in Honolulu before moving to Berkeley in 1995. He serves on a number of national and international scientific advisory committees including the Global Energy Assessment, National Research Council’s Board on Atmospheric Science and Climate, the Executive Committee for WHO Air Quality Guidelines, and the International Comparative Risk Assessment of the Global Burden of Disease Project. He participated, along with many other scientists, in the IPCC’s 3rd and 4th assessments and shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize and is Convening Lead Author for Climate and Health for the 5th Assessment. He holds visiting professorships in India and China and bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees from UC Berkeley and, in 1997, was elected member in the US National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors awarded to US Scientists by their peers. In 2009, he received the Heinz Prize in Environment and in 2012 was awarded the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.

Research interests
Prof. Smith’s research focuses on environmental and health issues in developing countries, particularly those related to health-damaging and climate-changing air pollution from household energy use, and includes field measurement and health-effects studies in India, China, Nepal, Mongolia, Mexico, and Guatemala as well as development and application of tools for international policy assessments. He also develops and deploys small, smart, and cheap microchip-based monitors for use in these settings.

Prof. Smith has demonstrated that the highest exposures to air pollutants occur in rural, indoor settings in developing countries where biomass and coal are the principal fuels. He has documented the associated risk for pneumonia and adverse birth outcomes in children and cataracts, tuberculosis, heart disease, and chronic lung disease in women as well as developed a range of small, smart, cheap microchip-based devices for field measurements. Since 40% of the world’s population uses these fuels, the total health impacts of this exposure are estimated to be larger than any other environmental risk factor He has also shown that renewable biomass fuel cycles are not greenhouse-gas neutral by conducting extensive measurements in India and China. He also created the concept of natural debt (net result of polluting our planet faster than natural processes can dissipate the damage) and applied it to international greenhouse-gas negotiations. This enables countries to negotiate how much responsibility each has for cleaning up the environment based upon relative contributions in the past and present. He pioneered the concept of exposure efficiency, now called “intake fraction” that simplifies exposure assessment. Finally, he created the concept of risk transition to complement traditional epidemiologic and demographic transitions models. He is author or co-author on several hundred publications.

Two NGOs run by former students have spun off from Prof. Smith’s research group: Impact Carbon, which develops improved stove programs for the international carbon market, and Berkeley Air Monitoring Group, which conducts independent monitoring and evaluation of household energy programs around the world.

Ph.D. Biomedical and Environmental Health: Energy & Environment (1977), University of California Berkeley
M.P.H. Environmental Health Sciences (1972), University of California Berkeley
B.A. Physical Sciences: Physics and Astronomy (1968), University of California Berkeley

Selected Recent Activities

  • Convening Lead Author, Health Impacts Chapter, Global Energy Assessment, 2012
  • Co-Convening Lead Author, Health Impacts Chapter, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment (WGII), 2014
  • Chair of National Academies’ Research Council Committee on Exposure Science for the 21st Century, 2012
  • International Advisory Boards, Schools of Environmental Science and Engineering and Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University
  • Member, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, NRC/NAS (2006-2012)
  • Global Comparative Risk Assessments (2004, 2012)– Ambient air pollution, household air pollution (chair), and secondhand tobacco smoke
  • Contributing Author, IPCC 4th Assessment, WGs II and III, 2007 (Extensively shared Nobel Peace Prize 2007)
  • Member, Core Groups, WHO Global Guidelines for Air Quality, 1996-
  • Chair, Combustion Particle Pollution, International Scientific Group on Methods for the Safety Evaluation of Chemicals
  • Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, NRC/NAS (1998-2004)

Honors (selected)
2012: Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement
2012: 14th Distinguished Lecture, Qatar Foundation, Doha
2011: Visiting Distinguished Professor, Beijing University of Chemical Technology, China
2010: Visiting Distinguished Professor, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, India
2009: Heinz Award in Environment
2009: Lifetime Achievement Award, Mrigendra-Samjhana Medical Trust, Nepal
2009: Senator Frank R. Lautenberg Award, Rutgers University
2008: UCB Chancellor’s Award for Research in the Public Interest
2004: Honorary University Professor, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China
2003-07: Brian and Jennifer Maxwell Endowed Chair in Public Health
2000: Zaidi Oration, Industrial Toxicology Research Institute, India
1999: Wesolowski Award: International Society for Exposure Analysis/Science
1997: Elected Member, U.S. National Academy of Sciences
1997: Elected Member, International Academy of Indoor Air Sciences
1984: Elected by editors and scientific advisors of “Science Digest” as “One of America’s 100 Brightest Young Scientists