David L. Downie
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David L. Downie

David Leonard Downie (born 1961) is an American scholar focusing on international environmental politics and policy. He currently writes and teaches at Fairfield University.

Research and writings

Downie's research focuses on factors that can promote or impede the creation, implementation and effectiveness of international environmental policy. 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 international 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 prevent stratospheric ozone depletion, 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 [3] and POPs,[4], he worked with the Secretariat as part of the team that drafted the official negotiation reports. For his informal work with the Ozone Secretariat at negotiations in the mid-to-late 1990s and his scholarly writing on global ozone policy from 1993-2014, he was nominated and awarded inclusion in the Montreal Protocol Who's Who, a collection maintained by the United Nations Environment Programme's OzonAction unit, "intended to honor the visionaries, innovators, and implementers who are making the Montreal Protocol a global environmental success story."[5] 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 [6], written with Professor Pamela Chasek (a co-creator of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin), is one of the most widely used in the field.

Academia career

David Downie joined the Politics Department at Fairfield University[7] in 2008. He had been recruited to Fairfield to become the first director of the revamped Environmental Studies program [8]. Prior to moving to Fairfield University, Downie taught courses in international environmental politics at Columbia University[9] from 1994-2008. While at Columbia, Dr. Downie held several research, administrative and academic appointments in the Earth Institute[10], School of International and Public Affairs, and Department of Political Science, including: Associate Director of the Graduate Program in Climate and Society [11](2004-2008), Director of the Global Roundtable on Climate Change(2004-2008), and Director of Environmental Policy Studies at the School of International and Public Affairs (1994-1999). In 2000 he moved from a primary appointment at the School of International and Public Affairs to one at the Earth Institute in order to focus on applied policy research and on creating and expanding new interdisciplinary educational programs. As part of his work at the Earth Institute.

The Global Roundtable on Climate Change brought together representatives from corporations, research institutions, and government organizations to discuss the scientific consensus, economics, technology, and public policy issues associated with climate change. Following preliminary research and discussions, the group first met in 2005 and held a series of public and private meetings over the next five year. As part of this work, Downie organized two side-event panels during sessions of the global climate negotiations that featured presentations by Roundtable Participants, including himself, and also discussed the climate policy, the Roundtable, and related issues at other events during the climate negotiations and in other forums [12][13]

At Fairfield, Downie worked with faculty, administrators and students to expand the University's Environment Studies Program,[14] including adding more classes, internships, and co-curricular activities; creating a new major; increasing the number of faculty active in the Program; seeking external funding; and integrating environment courses into the University's core curriculum. 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 served as a Faculty Director in the Residential College program. These sophomore living and learning communities include 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, The 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. Locally, Downie worked with the Town of Fairfield Clean Energy Task Force, Solarize CT, Earth Day Committee, Westport GVI, and other initiatives and has spoken to a wide variety of local groups and events including the CT League of Woman Voters, Darien Public Library Speaker Series, Westport Public Library GVI Series, Town of Fairfield Earth Day Festival, Gathering of the Vibes Music Festival (Green Vibes Stage), Where We Live - WNPR Radio Show, Y's Men of Westport/Weston, Connecticut Outdoor & Environmental Education Association, American Chemical Society, Solar Connecticut Conference, Sustainable Solutions conference, and many others.

At Fairfield University, Downie worked with a growing group of administrators and faculty, including Jim Biardi, Jim Bouchard, James Fitzpatrick, Dina Franceschi, David Frassinelli, Jenn Klug, Tod Osier L. Kraig Steffen and others, to advance sustainability efforts on campus and to document these achievements for use at other institutions.[15][16][17] While Downie did not contribute to all of these outcomes, in recent years, the University signed and begun to implement the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, developed a new campus sustainability plan, instituted a large number of practical sustainability initiatives, developed environment-related internships with the City of Bridgeport, created a funded competition for student-led sustainability projects, started an internal Environmental Studies Paper series, removed trays from the cafeterias, increased service learning opportunities related to sustainability, and opened several buildings built to LEED standards, a rating system of the U.S. Green Building Council that promotes responsible building practices and sustainable design. These efforts have earned the university recognition as one of the nation's "Cool Schools" from the Sierra Club. In 2010, the Princeton Review first included Fairfield in the "Guide to 286 Green Colleges." The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honored the university with a 2010 Energy Star CHP Award for its energy smart CHP.[18] In 2011, Downie accepted a Green Coast Award given to Fairfield University on behalf of its sustainability efforts.[19]


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. He attended high school at the Blake School in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


David 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. Laura Whitman, a specialist in internal medicine and out-patient medical education at Yale University. Dr. Downie and Dr. Whitman are the parents of two children. 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 the granddaughter of John von Neumann, one of the foremost mathematicians and polymaths of the 20th century. Dr. Whitman's brother is Malcolm Whitman, Professor of Developmental Biology at Harvard University. David Downie has a brother, Scott Downie; a half-brother, Joshua Downie; a half-sister, Sarah Downie; and step-brother, Carl Sims, Jr.

Selected publications


  • Global Environmental Politics, 7th Edition, with Pam Chasek. Westview Press, 2016.[20]
  • Global Environmental Politics, 6th Edition, with Pam Chasek. Westview Press, 2014.
  • Global Environmental Politics, 5th Edition, with Pam Chasek. Westview Press, 2010.
  • Climate Change: A Reference Handbook, with Kate Brash and Catherine Vaughan, ABC-CLIO, 2009
  • Global Environmental Politics, 4th Edition, with Pam Chasek 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, Regina Axelrod, David Downie and Norman Vig, eds., CQ Press, 2005.
  • Northern Lights against POPs: Combating Toxic Threats in the Arctic, with Terry Fenge. McGill-Queens University Press, 2003.

Scholarly Articles and Book Chapters

  • Jennifer Allen, David Downie, Jessica Templeton. "Experimenting with TripleCOPs: Productive Innovation or Counter-productive Complexity?" International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics. 2018. DOI: 10.1007/s10784-018-9404-2
  • David Downie, Austin Chinal, Ryan Fritz, Natalie Intemann, and Kayla Urbanowski, "The First Six Years of JESS: Categorizing Authors and Topics." Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. 2017. DOI: 10.1007/s13412-017-0448-3.
  • Alexandra Erhardt, Carlos Rezende, Brian Walker, Dina Franceschi and David Downie. "Mercury Concentrations and Awareness in Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil: Baseline Measures for Evaluating the Minamata Convention." Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 5(4)(December 2015):517-525.
  • "Still No Time for Complacency: Evaluating the Ongoing Success and Continued Challenge of Global Ozone Policy." Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 5(2): 187-194 (June 2015). [21]
  • "Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol." In Jean Morin Frédéric and Amandine Orsini, eds., Essential concepts for Global Environmental Governance. London: Routledge/Earthscan, 2014.[22]
  • "International Environmental Regimes and the Success of Global Ozone Policy." In Regina Axelrod and Stacy VanDeveer, eds., The Global Environment, 4th Edition. Washington: CQ Press, 2014.
  • "Stratospheric Ozone Depletion." In Paul Harris, ed., Routledge Handbook of Global Environmental Politics. New York: Routledge, 2013.[23]
  • "Pesticides and Persistent Organic Pollutants," with Jessica Templeton. In Paul Harris, ed., Routledge Handbook of Global Environmental Politics. New York: Routledge, 2013.
  • "The Vienna Convention, Montreal Protocol and Global Policy to Protect Stratospheric Ozone." In Philip Wexler et al., eds., Chemicals, Environment, Health: A Global Management Perspective. Taylor & Francis, 2012.
  • "Global Environmental Regimes." In Regina Axelrod, Stacy D. VanDeveer., The Global Environment, 3rd Edition. 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.
  • "Global Environmental Policy: Governance through Regimes." In Regina Axelrod, David Downie and Norman Vig, eds., The Global Environment: Institutions, Law & Policy, 2nd Edition. Washington: CQ Press, 2005.
  • "Global Policy for Toxic Chemicals." with J. Krueger and H. Selin, in Regina Axelrod, David Downie and Norman Vig, eds., The Global Environment: Institutions, Law & Policy, 2nd Edition. Washington: CQ Press, 2005.
  • "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. 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. 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. Greenwood Press, 1995.


External links

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