This is Dave Cohen's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Dave Cohen's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Dave Cohen
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Denial is not just a river in Egypt.
Interests: evolution, energy, the economy, climate, astrobiology, music, paleontology, culture
Recent Activity
Ah, the beleaguered oceans. These will not be discussed at the COP 21 meeting in Paris. Christiana Figueres, the top U.N. climate official, explained why at reddit. The Climate Change Convention is structured based on emissions of greenhouse gasses within national territories. Despite the fact that oceans are being directly affected by rising temperatures, they are not included in the Convention or in the negotiations due to their transboundary nature. This does not mean we can forget about the oceans. I permanently carry a blue marble with me everywhere I go to remind me of the oceans. But those in... Continue reading
Posted 10 hours ago at Decline of the Empire
Unless you're living in a cave, you are aware that the Paris climate talks started today. And starting today, and no doubt continuing until the talks conclude in a couple weeks, climate change has become inextricably linked with terrorism. The French authorities, exercising their near infinite wisdom, have banned demonstrations, marches and protests, and pre-emptively put some "climate activists" under house arrest. Some people protested anyway, and a few turned to mild forms of violence, which prompted this quote in the Los Angeles Times report linked-in here: French President Francois Hollande called the violence "scandalous" and accused protesters of dishonoring... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Decline of the Empire
George Monbiot published a remarkable column recently called False Promise. In so doing he called my attention to a 2013 paper entitled The material footprint of nations. It would hard to overstate the importance of this study, as Monbiot explains. The belief that economic growth can be detached from destruction appears to be based on a simple accounting mistake. Before we get into this, remember that "mistake" is a Flatland word. Here at DOTE we interpret the word "mistake" as typical exercise in human self-delusion. We can have it all; that is the promise of our age. We can own... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Decline of the Empire
A few days after the Paris terror attacks, Diane Rehm interviewed Ted Koppel, the anchor and managing editor of ABC's Nightline from 1980 to 2005. Follow the link to listen to the interview or read the transcript. You remember Ted, right? Ted Koppel, Doomer Long story short, Ted thinks it is only a matter of time before terrorists bring down America's power grid, which would no doubt result in a total breakdown of American society (such as it is). How is Ted preparing? REHM — What have you personally done? KOPPEL — Oh, you mean, apart from the barbed wire,... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Decline of the Empire
A reader (Mike C.) sent me a recent Guardian article The scientists with reasons to be cheerful. That article quotes Max Roser, whose full-time job is to look for things to be cheerful about. Consider this quote, and read the Guardian article for background. [Ruth] DeFries is not the only academic trying to tell a more positive story with data. We are hardwired to seek out bad news and focus on the things going wrong. We’re on the edge of our seats, secretly waiting for calamity. Usually the news provides. “Things that happen in an instant are mostly bad,” says... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Decline of the Empire
A new Pew Poll reveals that only 19% of Americans trust the Federal Government (chart below). It was surprising to me that National Public Radio discussed these results given the fact that trust in government is what NPR is all about (audio, partial transcript below). Here at DOTE we know that you can trust the government just as far as you can throw it, so the only mystery is why 19% of Americans still have faith in government. I suppose that number includes all those who are feeding one way or another off the government trough. So maybe the number... Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
For no good reason, my post A Total Disaster In Brazil went viral on Facebook, as indicated by my traffic records over the last 3 days. That's viral with a small "v" because I've gotten thousands, not millions, of hits. Did this sudden spurt of interest increase the number of those who might be interested in reading DOTE? The answer is "no" because my traffic records also indicate that no one at Facebook reading that Brazil article also looked at anything else I've written. So when I wrote this text in the Brazil disaster post We see here that effectively... Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
I heard the following discussion in a New Yorker podcast in which David Remnick interviews Elizabeth Kolbert. They are discussing the upcoming Paris climate talks. The quote starts at the 9:47 mark and runs to the end. Remnick — Isn't this part of the problem? That in addition to the fact that we all have to change the way we live, the way we move around the globe, etc., etc., the political way [the climate issue] is discussed, and the intricacies of having to do it on an international level with countries having radically different interests, make it so hard... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
Yesterday, Ezra Klein published an article called ISIS can only succeed if we overreact — so we shouldn’t. I've got news for young Ezra — You're too late! That train has left the station! All the Western press has done for days now is overreact to the Paris attacks. It's terrorism 24/7 everywhere you look. And hey! — I'm talking about it too Therefore, by Ezra's logic —and mine too—those attacks have been a stunning success for these ISIS zealots. If you don't know how this self-centered publicity thing works, ask Donald Trump. He'll explain it to you. Here's Ezra:... Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
This post is not about ISIS or future terrorism threats. As much as we grieve for France, the response to the Paris attacks are not the only thing going on in the world, though you might be forgiven for thinking so, due to some truly unfortunate flaws in the human animal — Dave I will simply combine the Reuters and Guardian reports, quoting one or the other when it is convenient for the narrative. Read them if you want more details. Nine people are now confirmed dead, and a further 19 remain unaccounted for as a slow-motion environmental catastrophe continues... Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
I see from a description of last night's Democrat debate on various issues that our political system is letting us down once again. There's nothing new about that, but it's worth some of my time to focus on political corruption in the United States. It began when moderator John Dickerson asked Hillary Clinton, "You have received money from Wall Street. How will you convince voters you will level the playing field when you're indebted to some of its biggest players?" Clinton initially tried to talk about her financial regulation plan, but Sanders wouldn't let her escape the issue of donations.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 15, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
On November 3, 2015, Scripps Oceanography put out a press release about fish populations off the California coast. The California Current is home to many marine animals, including marine fishes, which are the most diverse vertebrates on Earth and critical to marine ecology. Two independent long-term time series now reveal strikingly similar trends of wide-ranging declines in fish populations in the California Current. Tony Koslow and John McGowan, researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, and Eric Miller of MBC Applied Environmental Sciences of Costa Mesa, compared two independently collected data sets from the California Cooperative Oceanic... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
I admit the human element seems to have failed us here — General "Buck" Turgidson, from Dr. Strangelove The Paris climate talks begin officially on November 30, 2015 and run until December 11. Where do we stand? This year will undoubtedly be the hottest year on record, though the temperature departure (anomaly) from the pre-industrial norm depends on the baseline period used. (Ars Technica, November 9. 2015). The Met Office’s Hadley Center for Climate Science, in conjunction with the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, based its estimate on temperatures from January through September, which show the global mean... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
Last Friday Barack Obama followed the recommendation of the State Department that the Keystone XL pipeline would not "serve the national interest of the United States," and thus he rejected it. I didn't think that would happen, so Obama's decision came as a mild surprise. And now a curious thing is happening. Environmental activists are celebrating, certainly, but victory in this case simply highlights the fact that Obama's rejection of the pipeline will have only a trivial (if any) effect on humanity's climate change problem. Whoops! And so Dave Roberts, who is perhaps the most thoughtful climate change journalist working... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
The New York Times reports that Chinese coal consumption has been 17% higher than official statistics suggested in the period 2000-2013 [image left]. And thus China's CO2 emissions, already the highest in the world, have been much higher than previously thought. What this means in effect is that every important metric associating global economic growth and energy use (and thus emissions growth) must now be revised—in the wrong direction from a climate change point of view. Complicating this picture is ongoing uncertainty regarding China's actual GDP growth numbers. It is clear enough that the official number, which was 6.9% in... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
Matt Taibbi's The Case For Bernie Sanders includes an hilarious look at the how the America media defends the status quo. Taibbi likes Sanders of course, but that's not the interesting part. Taibbi doesn't know it, but he's describing how Flatland works in some detail. For example, he deconstructs The New Yorker's John Cassidy, who is one of my go-to guys if I want to know what status quo "thinking" looks like. I used Cassidy as an exemplar in the third Flatland essay. This is good stuff. I would have been pleased to have written large parts of it. Related... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
I covered cloud physicist Tim Garrett's work in the second Flatland essay. Garrett's modeling of the world economy as a physical system is definitely bad news for humanity. And as I described in the original Flatland essay, such news must be filtered. I went over to Tim's website to see if there was anything new, and re-read an older post he wrote about the difficulties of getting his work into print. In so far as those difficulties provide a simple, direct example of bad news filtering, I thought I would reprint it here. If you read it, you will see... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
This is a commentary on George Monbiot's Nothing To See Here. Monbiot decrys the lack of media coverage of the ongoing environmental disaster in Indonesia, which I covered here and here. I’ve often wondered how the media would respond when eco-apocalypse struck. I pictured the news programs producing brief, sensational reports, while failing to explain why it was happening or how it might be stopped. Then they would ask their financial correspondents how the disaster affected share prices, before turning to the sport. As you can probably tell, I don’t have an ocean of faith in the industry for which... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
I reported on the Indonesian fires recently, noting that burning peatlands are releasing lots of CO2 into the atmosphere. What I didn't think about was how those fires were affecting endangered species on the island of Borneo. Specifically, I didn't think about how those human-caused fires were further endangering endangered orangutan populations (SciDev, October 26, 2015). An orangutan is placed inside a cage on a bed of leaves for transport to a safe zone away from the fire OK, this pisses me off. "Orangutans in Indonesia are already under extreme pressure from the destruction of their habitat as deforestation to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 30, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
I've been doing a lot of thinking lately and not much writing. That will continue for a while. In the meantime, in the video below, Jeremy Rifkin, who envisions a Third Industrial Revolution, lays out his plan for wiring up the whole world to make human economies much more efficient. And, by the way, we're going to have to replace all our current energy systems with renewables too. No problem! You know, the usual techno-optimismist, another visionary. And isn't that just what the world needs right now? Here's what I see when I watch this video: I see a self-absorbed... Continue reading
Posted Oct 29, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
I have resisted characterizing humans as "stupid" on this blog because it's a catch-all term that doesn't tell us anything profound about our favorite subject (Homo sapiens). But now, Balazs Aczel, a professor at the Institute of Psychology at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, has teased out what people generally mean when they call human behavior "stupid". And it turns out that humans generally are indeed stupid in the most common meanings of the term. My source is How to act less stupid, according to psychologists (Washington Post Wonkblog, October 19. 2015). What are those meanings? It boils down to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
We get lots of happy talk about the seemingly limitless virtues of wind mills and solar panels, but nobody talks much about the virtues of wood pellets. Until recently, that is. Climate Central has a three-part series called Pulp Fiction. Here's the opening text from part I. As the world tries to shift away from fossil fuels, the energy industry is turning to what seems to be an endless supply of renewable energy: wood. In England and across Europe, wood has become the renewable of choice, with forests — many of them in the U.S. — being razed to help... Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
I have commented lately on the mainstream media and the political process in a series of posts (here, here, and here). An interesting post by Fredrik deBoer, a young professor in the humanities at Purdue University, bears directly on those observations. I will re-print deBoer's post here, with a few comments. This is good stuff, so I hope you'll read it. DeBoer's post is called no one doesn’t know what’s happening right now (emphasis and a few links added). You may remember a book called This Town [aka., Suck-Up City] that came out a couple years ago. Written by Mark... Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
With each passing year it becomes more and more clear that the scientific consensus on climate change has underestimated future risks. Penn State's Michael Mann has been particularly forthright about this trend (and see the video at the end). What are we to make of this? It is clear that understating risks is due in part to uncertainty and ignorance. We can model how various Earth systems will respond to greenhouse gas forcing, but those models may be wrong. The models are then subject to revision as events unfold. On the other hand, this rational view of human risk assessment... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
A new meta-analysis of the research literature introduces a new way of thinking about the future ocean — we will get "simplification" of marine ecosystems if human "stressors" on ocean life continue unchecked (carbon dioxide emissions, overfishing, nutrient run-off, etc.). I can't access the study itself without paying money, but I can quote the "significance" of the research. Significance People are not only concerned about climate change and its effects on plant and animal diversity but also about how humans are fundamentally changing the globe’s largest ecosystem that sustains economic revenue and food for many countries. We show that many... Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2015 at Decline of the Empire