Three fully-funded 3.5 years Leverhulme PhDs are available to UK/EU candidates

Living Well Within Limits [LiLi]

Contact: Dr Julia Steinberger, j.k.steinberger(at)
Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth & Environment, University of Leeds.

Three fully-funded 3.5 years Leverhulme PhDs are available to UK/EU candidates only. The funding will included tuition fees, tax-free stipend at the RCUK rates (£14,296 for 2016/17), and research training and support grant.

Application deadline: 1 March 2017

Project Summary

The Living Well Within Limits (LiLi) project is an ambitious interdisciplinary programme, addressing crucial but understudied questions: What are the biophysical resources, more specifically energy, required to achieve human well-being? What influence do social and technical provisioning systems have on the levels of resource use associated with well-being? The LiLi project’s ambitious aim is to construct the conceptual and methodological framework upon which this type of research can be carried forward, and to apply it using both quantitative and qualitative methods to analyse and model the energy requirements of well-being. The LiLi project is based on an innovative framework (shown below), integrating biophysical resource use, the social and physical provisioning systems which draw up on these resources as inputs, and the social outcomes which depend upon them.

Summary of the PhD projects

The three PhD projects within LiLi will principally pursue quantitative analysis on three different levels. In each case, the analysis focuses on explaining the role of provisioning systems in explaining variations and trends in the “environmental efficiency of well-being”.

  1. The first project will take the nation-state as its unit of analysis, conducting top-down international analysis over several decades (highest geographic and temporal coverage). This project will investigate differences in the resource endowments of countries, their level of infrastructure build-up, economic and technological capabilities, governance characteristics, and social and cultural factors. The applicant should therefore be capable of working with large international datasets, and should be interested in international development pathways and political economy.
  2. The second project focuses on economic distribution within countries, by using income classes as its unit of measurement. This project builds on much recent interest wealth and income inequality, but extends this type of analysis to quantify the affordability and availability of key provisioning services and well-being outcomes within countries. Applicants should be interested in deriving insights from multiple disciplines (economics, health, sociology) to explain the drivers of inequality in provisioning.
  3. The third project will consider household-level (micro-data) differences with an eye on geographic factors, such as urban-rural differences, for a single year. The applicant will be working mainly with household survey and expenditure data and should be interested in input-output analysis and/or spatial techniques, and will focus on 5 or 6 specific countries (developing and developed).

In all cases, the PhD analysis will focus on the role of physical and social provisioning systems in explaining (in statistical terms) international, income and household variations. The outcomes of these analyses will be estimates of the energy service “baskets” required, at the international, income class and household levels, for human need satisfaction. Most importantly, the significance of social and physical provision systems in explaining differences in well-being vs. energy use performance will be fully explored, thus enabling priority energy service systems for well-being to be identified.

The PhD research will in all cases be undertaken within a larger collaborative group related to the LiLi project. The outcomes of their analysis will enable more precise estimates of the energy services required for human need satisfaction, taking into account the importance of economic inequality and geographic location (climate, housing & transport types, urban-rural differences) in determining the services accessible and affordable to different groups.

There will be opportunities to translate the research findings into formal models to test scenarios upon, as well as to participate in community-level case studies of energy use and well-being in several countries. The Faculty of Environment at the University of Leeds encourages PhD dissertations by alternative format, encouraging the publication of PhD research in international peer-reviewed journals.

Suggested reading for all projects

Steinberger, J.K., Roberts, J.T., 2010. From constraint to sufficiency: The decoupling of energy and carbon from human needs, 1975–2005. Ecol. Econ. 70, 425–433. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2010.09.014

Steinberger, J. K., J. T. Roberts, G. P. Peters and G. Baiocchi (2012). “Pathways of human development and carbon emissions embodied in trade.” Nature Climate Change 2: 81–85.

PhD 1: International scope, nation-state level focus

Lamb, W.F., Steinberger, J.K., Bows-Larkin, A., Peters, G.P., Roberts, J.T., Wood, F.R., 2014. Transitions in pathways of human development and carbon emissions. Environ. Res. Lett. 9, 1–9. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/1/014011

Abu Sharkh, M. and I. Gough (2010). “Global welfare regimes: A cluster analysis.” Global Social Policy 10(1): 27-58.

PhD 2: international scope, income class focus

Chancel, L., Piketty, T., 2015. Carbon and Inequality: from Kyoto to Paris. PSE Work. Pap.

Gough, I., S. Abdallah, V. Johnson, J. Ryan-Collins and C. Smith (2011). The distribution of total embodied greenhouse gas emissions by households in the UK, and some implications for social policy CASEpapers. London, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Beckfield, J., C. Bambra, T. A. Eikemo, T. Huijts, C. McNamara and C. Wendt (2015). “An institutional theory of welfare state effects on the distribution of population health.” Social Theory and Health 13(3-4): 227-244.

PhD 3: Selected diverse countries, individual household focus

Hertwich EG. The Life Cycle Environmental Impacts of Consumption. Econ Syst Res 2011, 23: 27–47.

Di Donato, M., P. L. Lomas and O. Carpintero (2015). “Metabolism and Environmental Impacts of Household Consumption: A Review on the Assessment, Methodology, and Drivers.” Journal of Industrial Ecology 19(5): 904-916.

Zhang X, Luo L, Skitmore M. Household carbon emission research: An analytical review of measurement, influencing factors and mitigation prospects. J Clean Prod 2015, 103: 873–883

The LiLi project is funded through Dr Julia Steinberger’s Leverhulme Trust Research Leadership Award.


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