Scott's research focuses on the key themes of climate change, extractive industries, community relations, and development, particularly in the Andean region. His most recent project examined how cooperation and investments in desalination have affected community relations over water near three large-scale mining operations in Chile. The study included interviews and focus groups with representatives of government, mining companies, and communities, as well as GIS analysis of intersections between climate change and mining. Results indicate that existing efforts to address conflict over water often fail to resolve the fundamental sources of the problem, instead shifting negative mining impacts to other, often more vulnerable settings.
The research contributes new insight to the field of Political Ecology by revealing the broad footprint of extractive operations under conditions of climate change and explaining sources of unequal socioenvironmental harms between neighboring communities. This evidence underscores the need for improved communication and impact assessments across the diverse communities affected by a mining operation. Fieldwork for the project was funded by a Grassroots Development Fellowship from the Inter-American Foundation. View a video on this research developed for MIT's Research Slam below.
In the next phase of his research, Scott will examine why some mining operations are offsetting the use of continental water supplies with desalinated seawater and with what effect, and how the converging impacts of climate change and mining on glaciers affect local agricultural communities.