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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 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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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Volkswagen Needs to Adopt 21st Century Sustainability Management

(0) Comments | Posted September 28, 2015 | 9:50 AM

Volkswagen's deliberate and systematic effort to violate clean air rules is a shameful scandal, but it is also an example of management incompetence. Like BP's inability to manage its drilling contractors in the Gulf of Mexico, it is an example of massive and predictable management failure. In contrast,...

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Volkswagen's Shame and Challenge to Sustainability Management

(2) Comments | Posted September 21, 2015 | 11:10 AM

In an amazing and brazen attempt to avoid compliance with our air pollution rules, Volkswagen installed a piece of software that allowed their diesel-powered automobiles to circumvent air quality regulation. In a recent article, Coral Davenport and Jack Ewing of the New York Times reported that:


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Arctic Oil Drilling: Deluding Communities About the Benefits of Resource Extraction

(1) Comments | Posted September 14, 2015 | 9:37 AM

President Obama's recent trip to Alaska focused renewed attention on oil drilling in the frozen north. Alaska's oil bounty has long kept state taxes low and has created employment for people working in and around the local energy industry. The problem with an overreliance on resource extraction for wealth is...

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California Takes the Lead on Climate Policy

(45) Comments | Posted September 8, 2015 | 9:32 AM

With nearly 40 million people, California is our largest state by population and is in many ways the embodiment of the contemporary American Dream. California has long led the nation in environmental policy. Polling data in the state reports deep and broad support for protecting the environment.

The original...

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The Transformative Potential of Sustainability Education

(0) Comments | Posted August 31, 2015 | 9:32 AM

As the school year begins, I am thinking a great deal about the revisions I've made over the past several months to my courses and curricula for graduate-level sustainability students. The field keeps changing, and so constant study is required to keep current. At the end of last week, I...

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A Sustainable City Would Continue to Keep Cars Out of Times Square

(0) Comments | Posted August 24, 2015 | 9:14 AM

One of the signature programs of Mike Bloomberg's time as New York City's mayor was an effort to take street space from motor vehicles and give it over to other uses: sitting, biking and walking. Unfortunately, some of those uses in Times Square have come to include aggressive Elmos and...

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EPA Spilled, but Didn't Dump, the Toxics That Ended up in Colorado's River

(4) Comments | Posted August 17, 2015 | 9:29 AM

Last week, while inspecting leaks from a long-abandoned Colorado gold mine, EPA and its contractors accidentally breached the wall of an old mine tunnel, releasing an orange-colored toxic waste soup that flowed first into Cement Creek and then into the Animas River. On August 11th, the

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The Environment and the 2016 Elections

(13) Comments | Posted August 10, 2015 | 10:24 AM

It's the summer of 2015 and we have already been subjected to a Republican reality show disguised as a political debate. It is too early to know what will happen in next year's elections but obviously not too soon to start thinking about the coming election cycle. In an interesting...

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Hillary Clinton Is Right on Climate Change and the New York Times Is Wrong

(25) Comments | Posted August 3, 2015 | 9:40 AM

Last week, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton detailed her positions on energy and climate change, setting the goal of generating 33 percent of America's electricity from renewable sources by 2027. While I believe we can do better than that, her goal would create momentum toward the transition to a renewable and...

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Post-Sandy Rebuilding for Resiliency: Lessons From Long Beach, NY

(1) Comments | Posted July 27, 2015 | 11:06 AM

My small bungalow in Long Beach, New York, sits on a 60 by 40 foot plot of land one half block from the bay and one and a half blocks from the ocean. Long Beach is only two blocks wide in some parts of its west end. Hurricane Sandy required...

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Coal Miners, Extractive Industries, and a Sustainable Economy

(3) Comments | Posted July 20, 2015 | 9:39 AM

The transition to a renewable economy may be a painful one, particularly in this era of aversion to active government. When New York City endured the difficult transition from a commercial and small manufacturing city to today's post-industrial megacity, we nearly went broke. One of the reasons for our financial...

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Removing Toxic Electronics From NYC's Waste

(0) Comments | Posted July 13, 2015 | 9:42 AM

While the dangers of climate change attract more attention than other environmental issues, the problems of waste and toxics also persist--and are worthy of attention and action. One of the fastest growing environmental problems of the past decade has been the rapid increase in electronic waste. As society moves from...

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