VIENNA/May 7, 2014: Kirk R. Smith, Professor of Global Environmental Health and Director of the Global Health and Environment Program School of Public Health University of California, Berkeley gave a guest lecture on the "Health and Solid Fuel Use - Five New Paradigms" at the SEforALL offices in Vienna today.

In his lecture Professor Smith touched upon the challenges for very low and low income households in rural and urban areas in current day India, in obtaining clean, safe and affordable cooking systems to curb household air pollution. Worldwide around 3 billion people living in low- and middle-income countries still cook using solid fuels like wood, crop wastes, charcoal, coal and dung in open fires and leaky stoves. Inefficient cooking technologies based on solid fuels produce high levels of houehold air pollution with a range of health-damaging pollutants. Exposure is particularly high among women and young children and contributes to an increasing prevalence of respiratory and cardiovasular diseases. The latest WHO "Burden of Disease Study" ascertains that 4.3 million people a year die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution caused by the use of solid fuels. Switching from solid to liquid fuels and electricity is extremely challenging in low and middle income countries.

Based on his recent field studies in India in Haryana, Gujarat, Kerala and Odisha Professor Smith elaborated the following five paradigms on curbing the problem connected to necessary transformations in the household energy ladder:

  • Make the clean available as well as making the available clean - focusing on transition to gaseous fuels and electricity as well as making biomass stoves cleaner
  • Promote transformational leap-frog technologies such as induction stoves which use electricity as the energy carrier
  • Support community solutions as positive health outcomes can often be more efficientlh attained by converting entire communities to smokeless cooking instead of one household at a time
  • Enhance the displacement of clean fuels from rich to poor households, as richer households adopt other cooking systems it frees up LPG for rural use without comensurate increase in national imports and subsidies
  • Recognise that the need to move from solid to clean fuel is primarily a health issue and only secondarily represents energy access and climate issues

Prof. Smith serves on a number of national and international scientific advisory committees including the Global Energy Assessment, 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 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 bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees from UC Berkeley and, in 1997, was elected member in the US National Academy of Sciences. In 2009, he received the Heinz Prize in Environment and in 2012 was awarded the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.