My research is focused on resource access, poverty, and links between public health, social welfare, and environmental change. I study these issues through the social and technical dimensions of energy and climate change, primarily in the developing world. I use an interdisciplinary approach that emphasizes qualitative and quantitative methods across a range of spatial scales, from the household and community to the nation-state and the world.
In my dissertation research, I explored the social-ecology of Kenya’s â€Žwoodfuel commodity chain. In the study area, poorly conceived environmental regulations combined with changes in land tenure and ravenous urban demand for charcoal drove the conversion of large areas of woodland-savanna and rangelands into commercial grain cultivation and smallholder farming. These processes challenge the sustainability of both pastoral production and urban energy supply. I also teamed with colleagues at Berkeley and Harvard to develop quantitative models of public health and environmental impacts of residential energy across sub-Saharan Africa. I continue to work with Kenyan researchers to examine a range of sustainable options for the country’s energy supply, particularly in the residential and informal manufacturing sectors.
In addition, I have worked with grassroots efforts in Africa, India, and Latin America to design and disseminate household stoves with the aim of reducing both fuelwood consumption and human exposure to combustion emissions. I have helped to develop methodologies to evaluate the performance of stoves in the field and am currently exploring models of stove dissemination to better understand how and why new household energy technologies are (or are not) adopted.
In the field of climate change, I analyze the impact of energy options on climate change. Here too I focus on developing countries where access to energy is limited and near-term development needs can outweigh the need to mitigate climate change. I examine the climate implications of energy choices. I also explore the ways in which developing country actors are engaging with emerging markets for carbon emissions reductions.
Lastly, I have recently started to focus on climate change adaptation. In this work, I will examine the ways in which forest communities cope with climate change and with environmental risk more broadly. I will also explore the implications of some communities’ involvement in climate change mitigation through carbon forestry. This work is at the early stages and is likely be conducted in Mexico and India. Alark Saxena (MEM ’06) , will be starting as a PhD student at FES in 2008 and will be leading the research in India.