Obituary: Kirk Smith

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is greatly saddened to learn of the loss of its long-serving contributor, Kirk Smith, who passed away aged 73 on 15 June 2020.

Professor Smith contributed to the IPCC in numerous ways, including as a contributing author to the Fourth Assessment Report, for which the IPCC received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He was the Coordinating Lead Author of the chapter on Human health: impacts, adaptation, and co-benefits in the Working Group II contribution of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report – a landmark report which provided the scientific basis for the Paris Agreement in 2015. Working Group II assesses impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability to climate change.

Professor Smith devoted his career to the field of environment and health, focusing on the effects of health-damaging and climate-changing air pollution in developing countries, and particularly on the exposure of women and children to these risks. He conducted field research on air pollution, both ambient and in households, in more than 20 countries in Asia and Latin America, and was recognized as a pioneering researcher in this field, establishing that the impacts of indoor air pollution on health worldwide are estimated to be similar or larger than any other environmental risk factor.

Dr Smith was a Professor of Global Environmental Health in the School of Public Health of the University of California, Berkeley and the Director of the Collaborative Clean Air Policy Centre an initiative that explores, evaluates, and compares policy options for dealing with India’s health-damaging air pollution problems.

Professor Smith served on several scientific advisory committees including the Global Energy Assessment, U.S. National Research Council’s Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, the Expert Committee for WHO Air Quality Guidelines, the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, and the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors 2010 Study (GBD 2010). He published around 400 articles in peer-reviewed journals and books on air pollution, climate change, energy, and development. He held visiting professorships in India and China and was elected a member of the US National Academy of Sciences in 1997. In 2009 he received the Heinz Award and in 2012 the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.

Kirk Smith was born in Berkeley, United States of America, on 19 January 1947. He held bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Smith is survived by his wife, Joan Diamond, daughter Nadia Diamond-Smith and her husband, Vanja Torbica, and two grandchildren, Miro and Zoja. His many students and colleagues continue Kirk Smith’s work and research around the world.

To view his detailed biography and learn more about his work please click here.

The IPCC Secretariat gratefully acknowledges sources providing information used to draft this text, which are available online or provided by third parties. Please notify any inaccuracies to the IPCC Secretariat at