David L. Downie

David L. Downie

David Leonard Downie (born in 1961 in the United States) is an American scholar focusing on international environmental politics and policy and currently serves as Director of the Program on the Environment and Associate Professor of Political Science at Fairfield University.


Research and writings

Downie has written extensively on factors that can promote or impede the creation, implementation and effectiveness of international environmental politics. This includes frameworks of scientific knowledge, patterns of economic interests, extant institutions and regime development as well as obstacles that stem from: the structures and interaction of the international political, legal, ecological and economic systems; common procedures employed in environmental policy making; characteristics of environmental issues themselves; and the need to implement and fund internationally developed rules, norms and policies on the national and local level.

His research also examines global efforts to protect the ozone layer, address global climate change[1], and restrict anthropogenic emissions of mercury and of toxic chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). He has attended dozens of global negotiations on these topics. At many of the meetings associated with the ozone layer [2], mercury and POPs,[3], he has worked with the Secretariat to draft in-session and summary documents used by negotiators. Downie has also been a long-time advocate of examining opportunities to reduce state, national and international taxes and fees focused on income, especially those paid by the lower and middle classes, and replacing them with taxes on pollution. The author of numerous publications on a variety of topics, his co-authored book, Global Environmental Politics [4], written with its lead author, Professor Pamela Chasek, is one of the most widely used in the field.

Academia career

Prior to moving to Fairfield University in 2008, Downie taught courses in international environmental politics at Columbia University[5] from 1994-2008. While at Columbia, Dr. Downie held several research, administrative and academic appointments in the Earth Institute[6], School of International and Public Affairs, and Department of Political Science, including: Associate Director of the Graduate Program in Climate and Society [7](2004–2008), Director of the Global Roundtable on Climate Change[8] (2004–2008), and Director of Environmental Policy Studies at the School of International and Public Affairs (1994–1999). In 2000 he moved from the School of International and Public Affairs to the Earth Institute to focus on applied policy research and creating and expanding new interdisciplinary educational programs.

After moving to Fairfield, Downie worked with faculty, administrators and students to expand the University's Environment Program, including adding more classes, internships, and co-curricular activities and increasing the number of faculty active in the Program. Fairfield's environment program now includes faculty and classes from many different departments and schools, including Anthropology, Applied Ethics, Art History, Biology, Business, Chemistry, Economics, English, Engineering, Environment, Philosophy, Politics, and Physics. Downie also helped to create and serves as Faculty Director of the Environment Residential College. This sophomore living and learning community includes access to special classes, dinner speakers, co-curricular events, and mentors. Professor Downie's course lectures have been noted for their use of visual examples; guest appearances by local, national and international visitors; and musical introductions that range from Mozart to Miles Davis, the Grateful Dead, Clash, Bian Eno, and Arcade Fire.

Downie has argued that the proliferation of academic conferences and journals has produced potentially counterproductive incentives on University faculty to pursue even greater volumes of academic conference and journal publications at the expense of working more extensively with undergraduate students, community groups, or government organizations. Such settings could present opportunities to make far greater contributions than the impact afforded by most conference presentations or journal articles.


His education includes a B.A. in Philosophy from Duke University and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Dr. Downie is the son of Leonard Downie, Jr., Executive Editor of the Washington Post from 1991–2008, and Barbara Sims, an environmental lawyer. The couple divorced in the early 1970s and Ms. Sims married Carl Sims, a newspaper editor. In 1992, Dr. Downie married Dr. L. Whitman, a specialist in internal medicine and out-patient medical education at Yale University. Dr. Whitman is the daughter of Marina von Neumann Whitman, the noted economist, and Robert Freeman Whitman, professor emeritus of English at the University of Pittsburgh, and granddaughter of John von Neumann, one of the foremost mathematicians of the 20th century. Dr. Downie and Dr. Whitman are the parents of two children.

Selected publications

  • Global Environmental Politics, 5th Edition, with Pam Chasek. Westview Press, 2010.
  • Climate Change: A Reference Handbook, with Kate Brash and Catherine Vaughan, 2009.
  • Global Environmental Politics, 4th Edition, with Pam Chasek (lead author) and Janet Welsh Brown (Westview Press, 2006). This book was translated into German and also published as Handbuch Globale Umweltpolitik (Parthas Verlag Gmb, 2006).
  • The Global Environment: Institutions, Law and Policy, edited with Norm Vig and Regina Axelrod (CQ Press, 2005);
  • Northern Lights against POPs: Combating Toxic Threats in the Arctic, edited with Terry Fenge (McGill-Queens University Press, 2003).
  • "The Vienna Convention, Montreal Protocol and Global Policy to Protect Stratospheric Ozone.” In Philip Wexler, Jan van der Kolk, Asish Mohapatra, and Ravi Agarwal, eds., Chemicals, Environment, Health: A Global Management Perspective. Oxford: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Publishing Group, 2011.
  • “Global Environmental Regimes.” In Regina Axelrod, Stacy VanDeveer and David Downie, eds., The Global Environment, 3rd Edition. Washington: CQ Press, 2011.
  • "Preventive Planetary Care", with Lyndon Valicentim and Gavin Schmidt in Gavin Schmidt and Joshua Wolfe, eds., Climate Change: Picturing the Science, (W.W. Norton, 2009).
  • “The United Nations Environment Programme at a Turning Point: Options for Change”, with Marc Levy in Pamela S. Chasek, ed., The United Nations and the Global Environment in the 21st Century: From Common Challenges to Shared Responsibilities. Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2000.
  • "The Power to Destroy: Understanding Stratospheric Ozone Politics as a Common Pool Resource Problem", in J. Samuel Barkin and George Shambaugh, eds., Anarchy and the Environment: The International Relations of Common Pool Resources. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999.
  • "Road Map or False Trail: Evaluating the Precedence of the Ozone Regime as Model and Strategy for Global Climate Change." International Environmental Affairs, 7(4):321-345 (Fall 1995).
  • "UNEP and the Montreal Protocol: New Roles for International Organizations in Regime Creation and Change", in Robert V. Bartlett, Priya A. Kurian and Madhu Malik, eds., International Organizations and Environmental Policy. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995.


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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