Welcome to the inaugural issue of Disaster Management Insights, a publication dedicated to sharing expertise and innovative approaches to mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. In this first issue, Mary Beth Woodin interviews Dr. Steven Cohen, the Executive Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Dr. Cohen discusses how data from the National Climate Assessment can be used to develop mitigation and preparedness strategies in response to climate change impacts.

What are some of the challenges for states and cities face in making evidence-based investments to build climate resilient communities? How might these challenges be addressed?
  • The greatest difficulty is in generating the resources needed to invest in more resilient infrastructure when those long-term and uncertain needs must compete against immediate and certain needs.
  • Repairing damaged infrastructure and making it more resilient is easier since the damage has already taken place. New York City is repairing its subway tunnels and making them more water resilient, an investment that would have been impossible without the experience of Hurricane Sandy.
  • Real estate developers building by the shore front are taking steps to ensure that power systems have back-up and to place building utilities above the basement level. These type of voluntary steps could be mandated.
How can data from the National Climate Assessment support states and cities with these efforts?
As states and cities begin to implement climate actions, what mechanisms could be put in place to promote sharing of results and lessons learned?
  • Organizations such as the C-40 Cities and other NGOs can be useful.
  • “Leadership states” such as California and New York might convene conferences of key stakeholders.
  • Universities and organizations such as the Earth Institute can also collect, analyze and share lessons. 
Dr. 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 the 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 Professional Studies. Cohen is also the Director of the Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management. He served for over a decade as Associate Dean of Faculty and then Vice Dean of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.
Mary Beth Woodin is co-lead of Abt Associates’ Disaster Management Task Force, which helps communities recover from and mitigate disaster risk by marshalling Abt’s capabilities in the environment, health systems, housing, logistics, and communications. Ms. Woodin also is the global project director of HealthRise, a five-year effort to expand access to care for cardiovascular disease and diabetes in the U.S., India, South Africa, and Brazil. She holds a Master of Public Health from New York University, an MBA in International Business from Bentley University, and a Bachelor’s in Microbiology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Disaster Response and Resilience

Abt Associates has extensive expertise and experience helping to prepare for, evaluate the impact of, and recover from disasters – hurricanes and oil spills among them.
Learn More >