iOS app Android app

Steven Cohen
Steven Cohen is the Executive Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and a Professor in the Practice of Public Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He is also Director of the Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and the Director of the Masters of Science in Sustainability Management at Columbia University’s School of Continuing Education. From 2002 to 2006, he directed education programs at the Earth Institute. From 1998 to 2001, Cohen was Vice Dean of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. From 1985 to 1998, he was the Director of Columbia's Graduate Program in Public Policy and Administration. From 1987-1998, Cohen was Associate Dean for Faculty and Curriculum at SIPA.

He is a graduate of James Madison High School in Brooklyn (1970), Franklin College of Indiana (1974) and the State University of New York at Buffalo (M.A., 1977; Ph.D., 1979). In 1976-77, Cohen was a Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Environmental Policy; in 1978-79, he was a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow in Public and Environmental Policy and Implementation.

Entries by Steven Cohen

The Sustainable City

(0) Comments | Posted February 8, 2016 | 9:04 AM

A great paradox of the transition to a sustainable economy is that it will not be achieved in rural places in harmony with nature, but in cities built to exploit nature without destroying it. The problem with the idea of getting "back" to nature is that there are too many...

Read Post

Come on Mr. Mayor, Leave the Central Park Carriage Horses Alone

(28) Comments | Posted February 1, 2016 | 8:18 AM

New York City is a wonderful city, but, like many wonderful places, it has its problems: homelessness, poverty, underperforming schools, decaying infrastructure, 600 miles of vulnerable coastline, and the ever present threat of crime and terrorism. Nowhere on the list of priorities or problems would I place the horse-drawn carriages...

Read Post

The Clean Power Plan Overcomes Another Attack

(1) Comments | Posted January 25, 2016 | 8:31 AM

This past week, a federal appeals panel rejected an effort to block the Clean Power Rule while the rule is being challenged in the federal court system. Although the latest decision does not mean that the courts will uphold the rule, it does mean that the process of implementation will...

Read Post

There's Plenty of Blame for Flint, Michigan's Water Crisis

(124) Comments | Posted January 19, 2016 | 8:55 AM

Whenever I hear that environmental protection is a partisan issue, I'm reminded of New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia's famous statement that there is no Democratic or Republican way to pick up the garbage. The provision of clean air, safe drinking water, solid waste management and flood control are all...

Read Post

A Sustainable Lifestyle and the Changing Nature of Work

(0) Comments | Posted January 11, 2016 | 8:36 AM

Environmental advocates often focus on individual behavior and say we need to develop lifestyles that consume less and do not damage ecosystems. On a worldwide basis with billions of people aspiring to higher levels of material consumption, individual reductions in consumption in the developed world will have little real impact....

Read Post

The Not in My Backyard Syndrome and Sustainability Infrastructure

(1) Comments | Posted January 4, 2016 | 8:34 AM

As our communities have gotten more crowded and transportation become more congested, it has become more difficult to site major facilities for waste management, water supply, sewage treatment, mass transit, and pretty much anything from a Big Box store to a homeless shelter. We call this NIMBY, or "not in...

Read Post

Microbeads, Marine Debris, Regulation and the Precautionary Principle

(0) Comments | Posted December 28, 2015 | 8:44 AM

A small, one could say, micro-sized miracle took place earlier this month as the United States Congress enacted the Microbead Free Waters Act of 2015. This legislation requires that manufacturers remove the beads, largely used in cosmetics, from their products by July 2017. These beads are too small to be...

Read Post

Electoral Politics and Environmental Sustainability

(0) Comments | Posted December 21, 2015 | 8:42 AM

A year from now we will have a new president-elect, and will know the profile of the U.S. federal government for the next several years. The issues of environmental protection and a sustainable, renewable economy are not likely to play heavily in the Republican 2016 presidential nominating campaign, since other...

Read Post

Garbage: The Back End of the Renewable Economy

(4) Comments | Posted December 14, 2015 | 8:24 AM

Like many, I believe that the Paris climate agreement will be seen as a turning point, when the world community finally agreed to address the climate crisis. One cannot understate the importance of the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and the work of communities, cities, states and nations...

Read Post

Governor Andrew Cuomo's Quiet Green Revolution

(0) Comments | Posted December 7, 2015 | 9:36 AM

Andrew Cuomo's highest priority as New York's governor has, by necessity, been the revitalization of the Empire State's upstate economy. But slowly and surely he has been trying to accomplish that goal without sacrificing environmental quality. A clear signal of his approach was last year's continued moratorium on fracking for...

Read Post

From Copenhagen to Paris: Moving From Talk to Action on Climate Change

(8) Comments | Posted December 1, 2015 | 9:22 AM

During the Copenhagen climate meetings in 2009, I posted a piece on The Huffington Post assessing the conference. At that time, I observed that:

"There is a broad consensus about the need for reductions in the emissions that cause global warming. Copenhagen is providing the entire world a crash...

Read Post

Growing the Global Economy Without Destroying the Planet

(0) Comments | Posted November 30, 2015 | 8:34 AM

As the world gathers in Paris to pursue the possibility of a limited and modest climate accord, the planet continues to become more interconnected and interdependent than ever before. Despite the growth of global communications, culture and corporations, national sovereignty and indeed the drive for community-based governance, remain as strong...

Read Post

The Small Steps That Will Lead to a Low-Carbon Economy

(1) Comments | Posted November 23, 2015 | 8:53 AM

As the world heads toward the Paris Climate talks in a few weeks, we will focus on the big ideas and large steps that will lead to a renewable resource-based future. There is a time and place for big ideas, and this year the COP21 talks in Paris are the...

Read Post

ExxonMobil and the Distortion of Climate Science

(46) Comments | Posted November 16, 2015 | 8:05 AM

Last week, Mike Tokars of the Christian Science Monitor reported that:

New York state's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, and US Rep. Ted Lieu (D) of California are both looking into whether the world's largest publicly traded oil and gas company intentionally misled the public and company shareholders...

Read Post

Symbolic Politics, the Keystone Pipeline, and Climate Policy in the Real World

(2) Comments | Posted November 9, 2015 | 8:18 AM

From burying a car at the first Earth Day to the campaign to ban the Keystone Pipeline, U.S. environmentalists have long demonstrated an affinity for symbolic politics. We obviously knew that one buried car wouldn't stop air pollution, and any reasoned analysis would acknowledge that stopping one pipeline would not...

Read Post

Getting Sustainability on the Agenda of Our Dysfunctional Federal Government

(0) Comments | Posted November 2, 2015 | 8:12 AM

Last week I participated in a very timely panel discussion at Columbia University on the impact of climate and the environment on the 2016 elections. The panel was moderated by Chuck Todd, the brilliant and politically savvy moderator of NBC's Meet the Press, and the participants included Emily...

Read Post

The White House Pushes Clean Energy While Coal States Push the Past

(4) Comments | Posted October 26, 2015 | 9:30 AM

In an article appearing in The Hill last week, Timothy Cama reported that:

A coalition of 24 states and a coal mining company filed lawsuits Friday to challenge the most significant piece of President Obama's environmental agenda, his signature climate change rule for power plants. The litigants...

Read Post

Sustainability Requires Technology, Ethics and Political Will

(6) Comments | Posted October 19, 2015 | 10:46 AM

From July 1957 until December 1958 the world experienced a period of increased global scientific cooperation called the International Geophysical Year. It was a period of great optimism and faith in the power of science, immortalized in Steely Dan cofounder Donald Fagen's 1982 hit I.G.Y. The lyrics of...

Read Post

Sustainability Has Entered the Political Mainstream

(1) Comments | Posted October 12, 2015 | 9:35 AM

In the fall of 1975 I found myself sitting in Lester Milbrath's Environmental Politics graduate seminar at SUNY Buffalo, talking to the teaching assistant, my now longtime friend and colleague Sheldon Kamieniecki.

I distinctly remember thinking, how did we get here? Sheldon and I are from Brooklyn, so what...

Read Post

A Well-Deserved Honor for Mayor David Dinkins

(0) Comments | Posted October 5, 2015 | 9:50 AM

I admit that I am biased, since he has been my colleague on Columbia's faculty for over two decades, but David Dinkins is one of the most underrated public servants in American history. His record as mayor of New York City has never been clearly understood or assessed and his...

Read Post