International Water Politics, Climate Finance, Vulnerability, Environmental Justice, International Borders, Climate Change Adaptation, Environmental Politics, Transboundary Water, Resource Governance, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Asia
As a broadly-trained human-environment geographer, my research fundamentally focuses on flows—be they of water as it crosses international borders, people who migrate in response to environmental hazards, or capital as it leaches out of some parts of the world and pools in others. Such flows vary spatially and temporally and have vitally important consequences for human and environmental well-being.
I employ qualitative and quantitative methods to interrogate what processes produce and sustain flows, as well as their differential impacts on people and places. I draw on my diverse background in the social and natural sciences to conduct mixed-methods research that ranges from historical and ethnographic examination of human vulnerability to environmental hazards, to quantitative analysis of water-sharing treaties, to policy-based assessment of climate-compatible development aid. My research advances an approach to understanding environmental crises that pays critical attention to flows of materials, people, opportunities, and hazards. In so doing, it facilitates productive conversations about the ways resources – and the people who use them – are governed. My work on flows can be divided into two major research areas: international water governance and climate change adaptation finance.
International Water Politics
Nearly every non-island state sits partially or wholly within a transboundary river basin. My research examines how states negotiate conflicts around shared water resources, including issues of resource distribution, access, and hazards. This project focuses on conflicts between India and Bangladesh over the Ganges River and examines how uneven power dynamics between states affect international water cooperation. This work also draws attention to the relationship between state borders and international waterbodies, demonstrating how borders and international rivers influence each other and with what effects.
While climate change may be a global phenomenon, its impacts are socially and spatially uneven, whereby those least responsible for the problem are the most vulnerable to its effects. My research examines how industrialized states address their responsibility for climate change through funding adaptation programs in developing countries. In this project, I evaluate the costs and benefits of foreign-financed infrastructure projects in the low-lying deltas of Vietnam and Bangladesh. This work is funded by the Council of Overseas American Research Centers and the Institute for Human Geography.
- Thomas, K. 2021. International rivers as border infrastructures: En/forcing borders in South Asia. Political Geography. 89: 102448. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2021.102448
- Strube, J. and K. Thomas. 2021. Damming Rainy Lake and the ongoing production of hydro-colonialism in the US-Canadian Boundary Waters. Water Alternatives. 14(1): 19–41. http://www.water-alternatives.org/index.php/alldoc/articles/vol14/v14issue1/607-a14-1-2/file
- Thomas, K. 2020. The problem with solutions: Development failures in Bangladesh and the interests they obscure. Annals of the American Association of Geographers. 110(5): 1631–1651. https://doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2019.1707641
- Thomas, K. 2020. Shifting baselines of disaster mitigation. Climate and Development. 12(2): 147–150. https://doi.org/10.1080/17565529.2019.1605875
- Thomas, K. and B. Warner. 2019. Weaponizing vulnerability to climate change. Global Environmental Change. 57: 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2019.101928
- Thomas, K. et al. 2019. Explaining differential vulnerability to climate change: a social science review. WIREs Climate Change. 10(2): e565. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/wcc.565
- Thomas, K. 2017. The Ganges Water Treaty: 20 years of cooperation, on India’s terms. Water Policy. 19(4): 724–740. https://doi.org/10.2166/wp.2017.109
- Thomas, K. 2017. Governing international rivers in the Anthropocene. IN: Clarke-Sather et al. The shifting geopolitics of water in the Anthropocene. Geopolitics. 22(2): 332–359.
- Thomas, K. 2017. The river-border complex: A border-integrated approach to transboundary river governance illustrated by the Ganges River and Indo-Bangladeshi border. Water International. 42(1): 34–53. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02508060.2016.1247236
- Climate Change and Security
- Political Ecology
- Environment and Society
- Global Capitalism, Labor, and the Environment