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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

We Need to Finance and Subsidize Mass Transit

(1) Comments | Posted March 30, 2015 | 9:42 AM

This past week, New York City's subway fare rose from $2.50 to $2.75. In some ways this system is one of the great bargains in American transit. Last week, I traveled to Washington D.C., where metro fares are often double the cost of New York's subway. Commuter lines in New...

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The Emergence and Importance of President Obama's Climate Policy

(2) Comments | Posted March 23, 2015 | 8:38 AM

In a quiet and low-key move last week, President Obama took what may turn out to be one of the most significant steps he has ever taken to reduce greenhouse emissions. As reported by Julie Hirschfeld Davis in the New York Times, the president signed an executive order...

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The Divestment Distraction and a Positive Vision of Sustainability

(6) Comments | Posted March 16, 2015 | 9:17 AM

The environmental community has long needed to stop bad things from happening and over time has developed the mindset that the job of environmental protection is to avert damage and destruction. Emerging naturally from that mindset is the tactic that to prevent damage we must scare people about the potential...

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Sustainability Planning in New York City: Let's Build on the Path-Breaking Work of the Bloomberg Team

(1) Comments | Posted March 9, 2015 | 8:30 AM

One of the signature, legacy accomplishments of Michael Bloomberg's time as New York's mayor was PlaNYC 2030, the city's path-breaking sustainability plan. This plan and the metrics established to monitor its implementation were an important part of New York City's revival at the start of the 21st century. In the...

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Energy Technology: Deploy What We Have vs. Build Something New

(7) Comments | Posted March 2, 2015 | 8:00 AM

Last week, the American Energy Innovation Council, a group of six prominent business leaders, including Bill Gates, issued a report maintaining that the U.S. government is spending far too little on energy research. As Justin Gillis reported in the New York Times:

The leaders pointed...

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Preventing Sea Level Rise in New York City While Cleaning the Air in India and China

(2) Comments | Posted February 23, 2015 | 7:37 AM

Last week, the New York City Panel on Climate Change predicted a hot and stormy future for the city that never sleeps. Apparently, by the end of the century New Yorkers will have ample reason to lose sleep. I view these projections as possible yet avoidable scenarios. New...

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Educating Sustainability Professionals: Learning By Doing

(0) Comments | Posted February 16, 2015 | 7:58 AM

For many years, law schools, medical schools, social work schools and public policy schools have performed pro bono services as an integral part of their teaching and learning processes. As Columbia University's Earth Institute works with schools at Columbia to develop a comprehensive set of offerings in sustainability education, we...

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Studying Sustainable Finance

(0) Comments | Posted February 9, 2015 | 8:30 AM

In my view, there are four key elements of green finance:

  • The first is to develop private financial instruments and techniques, along with public policies to help attract capital to the sustainable elements of the economy.
  • The second is to identify, for investors, the relative risk of investing in...
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The Defeat of Climate Denial

(101) Comments | Posted February 2, 2015 | 8:01 AM

Over the past weekend, a poll was released indicating that Americans have conclusively rejected climate denial and understand the reality of climate change. According to New York Times reporters Coral Davenport and Marjorie Connelly:

An overwhelming majority of the American public, including half of Republicans, support government...

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Science, Policy, and Decision Making

(22) Comments | Posted January 26, 2015 | 8:44 AM

I started my professional career at the U.S. EPA and even though I was in a "policy shop," analyzing policies to develop regulations, I was struck by how few of us had expertise in environmental science. One of my areas of doctoral study was environmental policy, and in the late...

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How Governmental Sustainability Policy Can Speed the Transition to a Cleaner Economy

(0) Comments | Posted January 20, 2015 | 8:11 AM

In the next several days, Jossey-Bass will publish a new book I have co-authored with my Columbia University colleagues Bill Eimicke and Alison Miller. It is entitled: Sustainability Policy: Hastening the Transition to a Cleaner Economy. The book is an effort to describe what government is already doing...

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Banning Styrofoam, Managing Our Waste, and Promoting Sustainability

(4) Comments | Posted January 12, 2015 | 8:50 AM

New York City, following the lead of San Francisco and Portland, has banned styrofoam containers in an effort to change the nature of its waste stream, as the type of styrofoam being banned cannot be recycled. The ban will result in the use of substitute forms of packaging--probably more expensive...

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The Governors Cuomo

(2) Comments | Posted January 5, 2015 | 8:16 AM

It was deeply poignant that Governor Mario Cuomo passed away on New Year's Day, 2015, the very same day his son Andrew was sworn into his second term as New York's governor. The Cuomos, father and son, remind us of the power of public service and the need to couple...

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The Growing Level of Environmental Awareness

(7) Comments | Posted December 29, 2014 | 7:36 AM

While it is far from universal, more and more people understand that we need to sustainably manage our planet's resources and ecosystems. This awareness has been growing for about a century, but has picked up momentum in the past decade. Evidence of deep support for environmental protection is an old...

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Coal Ash and Fracking Fluid: Two More Victories for Environmental Protection

(3) Comments | Posted December 22, 2014 | 7:34 AM

While America recently elected a new and possibly anti-environmental Congress, we are still ending 2014 on a high note with two environmental victories. Both originated in the executive branch of government--one in our national government and the other in the New York state government. Over the past week: 1) EPA...

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Educating the First Generation of Sustainability Managers

(0) Comments | Posted December 15, 2014 | 7:37 AM

The field of organizational management is undergoing a fundamental transition, one of a number that have taken place over the past century or so. At the start of the 20th century, management needed to understand mass production and the first complex supply chains, and so, under Taylorism, labor was mistakenly...

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NYC's de Blasio Administration and the Path to 80 Percent Greenhouse Gas Reductions

(2) Comments | Posted December 8, 2014 | 7:33 AM

Although it took almost a year to get there, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has put in place the third critical piece of the city's sustainability leadership. Last week, he appointed Nilda Mesa, an experienced sustainability professional, as the first director of a new Office of...

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Everyone Likes to Breathe

(1) Comments | Posted December 1, 2014 | 8:10 AM

This past week, at President Obama's direction, the EPA continued to use its extensive powers under the Clean Air Act (thank you, 1970 U.S. Congress) and announced a new, tighter regulation on ozone pollution. As one might expect, these rules are being described by some in the new Republican Congress...

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America's Infrastructure Disinvestment Will Slow the Development of a Sustainable Economy

(40) Comments | Posted November 24, 2014 | 9:30 AM

This is the 50th anniversary of New York's Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the span that connects Staten Island with Brooklyn. As a child growing up in Brooklyn I remember watching its towers rise as if by magic. I always connected it with the 1964 World's Fair which took place the...

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The Importance of the U.S.-China Climate Accord

(2) Comments | Posted November 17, 2014 | 7:29 AM

Last week, the United States pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26% from 2005 levels before 2025, and China agreed to stop growing its carbon emissions by 2030. Since we do not have a world government and are unlikely to get one anytime soon, we are dependent on...

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