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Dave Cohen
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Denial is not just a river in Egypt.
Interests: evolution, energy, the economy, climate, astrobiology, music, paleontology, culture
Recent Activity
More sharing... The journal Science has published a special issue called Vanishing Fauna (aka. The Sixth Extinction). You can read the introduction to the issue here. Let's look at some of the abstracts. This first one gives a succinct statemate of the problem. An animal-rich future (Joshua Tewksbury and Haldre Rogers) The rate at which animals are vanishing from this planet is one of the signatures of this age, as sure a sign of human dominance as our impact on Earth's nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon cycles. This disappearance of animals from the world's ecosystems is generally a by-product of human... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Decline of the Empire
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I thought I'd take a look at The Daily Ticker, Yahoo Finance's blog. It was gone. Shut down, presumably by Chairman Marissa or one of her toadying Silicon Valley underlings. Some of you may remember that I used to quote that blog and embed their videos. That was 3 or 4 years ago now, when the 2008 meltdown was still fresh in people's minds. Henry Blodget and Aaron Task were running the show then, and they had some good things to say about this god-awful mess called the United States. But no more. Yahoo watered the blog down, and then... Continue reading
Posted Jul 19, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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I thought I'd share again today... With all the hype surrounding U.S. shale oil production, Americans forgot to think about what they fondly call the Rest of the World (RoW). But that omission has been addressed by two British papers on the same day, the Telegraph (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard) and the Financial Times (Guy Chazan). You may be wondering, from an American perspective, whether the U.K. is included in the RoW. You know, Iraq, Tony Blair, extreme toadying, and all that. Rest of World? Hard to say! Sorry, with Iraq falling apart and all ... but I digress. I'll quote the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 11, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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From Elizabeth Kolbert's Save The Elephants. Poaching data from Thomson Reuters. Meanwhile, as disturbing as the recent carnage is, the long-term view is, if anything, worse. Elephants and rhinos are among the last survivors of a once rich bestiary of giants. Australia was home to thirteen-foot-long marsupials. North America had mammoths and mastodons, South America glyptodonts and enormous sloths, Madagascar massive elephant birds and giant lemurs. Before people arrived on the scene, these megafauna were protected by their size; afterward their size became a liability. The giant beasts couldn’t reproduce fast enough to make up for the losses to human... Continue reading
Posted Jul 2, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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I first realized about 16 years ago that the loss of the Earth's most vulnerable ice sheets (West Antarctica, Greenland) was inevitable and irreversible. And so here it is. The collapse of large parts of the ice sheet in West Antarctica appears to have begun and is almost certainly unstoppable, with global warming accelerating the pace of the disintegration, two groups of scientists reported Monday. The finding, which had been feared by some scientists for decades, means that a rise in global sea level of at least 10 feet may now be inevitable. The rise may continue to be relatively... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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Reader Alexander Ač of the Czech Republic (blog here) put a question to European commissioners discussing climate change adaptation and mitigation: key messages from the IPCC's 5th Assessment Report and implications for policy and decision making. Whew! — a long title, but very official sounding. There is a video at the website linked-in above, but I can not embed it. This Q&A took place at the 2:44:20 mark. If you watch the video, you can jump ahead to that point. Here is a partial transcript. Alexander Ač — I have a very short question. The Club of Rome told us... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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Folks in D.C. are surrounded by their own bubble. A bubble where there are lots of telecom lobbyists walking around who describe net neutrality as politically toxic — Marvin Ammori, a lawyer who has been vocal in his support of net neutrality Today's subject is net neutrality, which is basically what we've got today. In our likely future, the big ISPs (internet service providers) will give most of the internet bandwidth they control, which is 70% of it, to "content" providers (like Disney, ABC, NBC, etc.) who will pay for privileged access to their data pipes. Source Sometimes the ISP... Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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Hope springs eternal in the human breast — Alexander Pope, An Essay On Man This post is not for the faint-hearted, because I am going discuss "hope" honestly without illusions. This post was prompted by a TED talk by Lawrence Lessig (brief discussion and video below). First, what is "hope"? Common definitions include— wanting something to happen or be true and thinking that it could happen or be true or a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen Clearly, wanting or thinking (believing) something could happen or be true is not the same as a derived... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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"Finally, here's a useful subject," I thought when I saw the Marketplace story Climate Change — how to talk about bad news. Maybe these guys could give me some useful advice And the story's subtitle? Talking about global warming makes people's heads explode. It's a tough subject. Here's the audio. I will quote the story itself (a rough transcript) below. Here we go. It’s been almost eight years since "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore’s call-to-action on climate change. Now the televison channel Showtime is taking up the challenge with its nine-part docu-series "Years of Living Dangerously." In between these two... Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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Every morning I wake up (at least so far ). Every morning I turn on NPR, I make some coffee and I peruse the internet. And every morning the Human Condition is exactly the same as it was the day before. And so it was again yesterday when I learned about Louie Psihoyos' new movie project "6" [hat tip, reader Alex]. I suppose the title stands for "sixth extinction". Louie founded the Ocean Preservation Society, which makes documentaries about saving animal life the oceans. Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) is a non-profit organization that creates film, photography and media, inspiring people... Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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It appears that I've "underestimated" activist Naomi Klein. I last demolished her delusional views in my essay Confusion In The Twilight Zone, but her new missive Climate change is the fight of our lives – yet we can hardly bear to look at it is so over-the-top that I need to reconsider my position. Before I look at her epic self-delusion, let's take a brief look at the facts (up to 2010). I'm talking about carbon dioxide emissions (CO2). Source Things have gotten worse since 2010, and the EIA now reports that U.S. emissions grew in 2013, the first increase... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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I wrote this post during the time when my blog service provider Typepad was subject to multiple denial of service attacks. I don't think this post got the attention it deserves, so I'm putting it at the top for the next few days. — Dave Lately, here in the United States, we have witnessed an astonishing socio-economic trifecta which tells us where we stand. Unfortunately for progressive thought, we are not in a good place, to wit— 1. In the McCutcheon decision, wealthy campaign donors were given the go-ahead to buy political candidates and elections by the "conservative" majority on... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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... the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy — Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page [study cited below] There’s got to be a difference between these two men, or else we’re all part of a cruel, cruel joke — Stephen Colbert, upon being asked whether anything meaningful separated Barack Obama from Mitt Romney Some stories write themselves. I'll quote from the Huffington Post's U.S. Policies Favor The Wealthy, Interest Groups, Study Shows. U.S. government policies reflect the desires of the wealthy and interest groups more than the average... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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A Google News search reveals that Obama's 2015 budget includes a much-needed Boost in Ocean Funding. And the best news of all is that there has been a 150% increase in funding for ocean acidification research. Ocean Acidification Research Funding Sees a Big Increase— Notably, the president’s budget would provide a much-needed $15 million for ocean acidification research, an increase of $9 million. As the ocean absorbs the carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, the carbon dioxide is changing the chemistry of the ocean and adversely impacting marine life. This is already having serious economic... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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Wealth, as Mr. Hobbes says, is power — Adam Smith I love this kind of stuff. I've got time on my hands, so I was perusing the latest wealth/income inequality data. There's been a flurry of activity on this front, especially after the publication of Thomas Piketty's Capital In The Twenty-first Century. Long story short, denizens of Flatland, especially economists, love to measure shit. Based on recent work by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, both of UC-Berkeley, those happy House of Debt guys Atif Mian (Princeton) and Amir Sufi (University of Chicago) wrote a post called Measuring Wealth Inequality. Before... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Being a weird guy, I was delighted by yesterday's edition of the Diane Rehm Show, which included Elizabeth Kolbert talking about the Sixth Extinction. Unfortunately, Diane was trying to swim in the Deep End of the Pool, so she was way out of her depth. Thus the show was called "Bringing Extinct Species Back To Life"—the de-extinction fantasy/stunt/sideshow—and thus Diane also included delusional fantasist Ryan Phelan in the discussion. Ms. Phelan is the executive director of Revive and Restore, which advances "genetic rescue for endangered and extinct species." What made this so entertaining for the weird is that everytime Kolbert... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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I started the day in my usual way. I made some coffee (gotta have it), turned on National Propaganda Radio, and started browsing the intertubes, starting at Tim Iacono's site. Tim is kind enough to put up a list of economy/finance links everyday. Within 15 minutes of getting out of bed, I had learned (from Matt Taibbi) that "white collar" criminals (bankers) are above the law (the Holder Memo). I learned that there is a bug in the SSL (https) protocol which protects secure transactions online. It's called the "heart bleed" bug, and the Business Insider told me to assume... Continue reading
Posted Apr 9, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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The other day I noted the end of climate "exceptionalism" in the latest IPCC report (5th Assessment) on the impacts of climate change. But I didn't know the half of it when I wrote that. As The Dude said, new shit has come to light. Let's look at some of that new shit (The Economist, April 5th, 2014). In the oceans both animals and plants are migrating from the tropics to temperate latitudes in pursuit of cooler waters. Benthic algae—seaweeds, to the layman—are shifting their ranges polewards at 10km (6 miles) a decade. Their single-celled planktonic cousins are moving much... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Here's a funny video (in a dark kind of way) from The Daily Ticker. Lauren Lyster interviews Nomi Prins, author of Nomi Prins, author of the new book All the Presidents' Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power. "She tells The Daily Ticker in the video below that the relationship between bankers and presidents is historic and runs deep." No kidding. Listen for the discussion about whether there's been any "progress" in stifling the cozy relationship between bankers and politicians over the last hundred years or so. And have a nice weekend. Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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One can view the previous decade in the United States as a history lesson. Here's the abbreviated timeline. Housing Bubble (2004-06) Financial Meltdown (2007-08) "Great" Recession/Painful Aftermath (2009-13) Consolidation of the New Normal (2014) And what have we learned? Yesterday's headlines explicate the lesson. The Perpetual Bubble Economy (New York Times, April 2, 2014) Want a thriving labor market? Blow a bubble. The big idea is that — absent extraordinary intervention in the economy through fiscal policy, monetary policy or both — growth and employment will prove lackluster. That has been true since the late 1990s for the United States,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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As a former member of the so-called "peak oil blogosphere" I don't write much about oil much anymore. That's not because I no longer think oil is important to our global industrial civilization—I do. It's more because every time I wrote about oil in the past various & sundry peak oil acolytes, unburdened by considerations of the data or the ravages of rational thought, would take that as an opportunity to foist their "oil collapse" religion on me and my readers. Jesus wept. Generally I have found that all human discussions of anything important (like crude oil) are primarily faith-based.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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Associated Press April 1, 2014 Reporting by Arthur Schopenhauer, Jr. Humans all over the world woke up dazed and confused today after last night's "clue" miracle. Some said the clue came for God, while others said it didn't matter where it came from. "What the fuck have we been doing?," asked Wanda Fahrenwald of Bloomington, Indiana. "We're fucking up the climate, we're fucking up the oceans, and, God Knows, there are way, way too many of us consuming too much shit we don't need. I mean, they're having trouble finding that missing airplane because there's so much garbage in the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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Following up some recent posts, Suzanne Goldenberg, an environmental correspondent for The Guardian, is quoted concerning the IPCC's latest bureaucratic tour de force regarding the economic impacts of anthropogenic climate change. We just got to one of the really tricky sections of the report - how much will climate change hurt the bottom line? This is one area where there really isn't much hard data, because of a lack of reliability in economic models. One number that is out in the report is that climate change will shave between .2 and 2% of global income, if warming remains at about... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Here's a follow-up to yesterday's post The Death Of "Climate Exceptionalism". Although only a few hundreds of people read it, that post's message was surely a major bummer for anybody who cares about the long-term health of the Earth's biosphere. I want to call your attention to this part of the post. (Quoted text is shaded.) Indeed, the IPCC finds that climate change poses no substantial economic risk to our ever-growing global economy. And the report is, on the face of it, more optimistic than the famous review of the economics of climate change by Britain’s Nicholas Stern in 2006.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Human psychology is an astonishing thing to behold. For all sorts of reasons I don't want to get into today, the simple rule of thumb says— You can only tell humans what they want to hear. If you try to give them some Bad News, they won't (can't) listen. If you tell them stuff they want to hear, they applaud wildly and then go off and continue doing the stuff which makes the news bad. Nothing changes with humans. A forthcoming IPCC report on climate change impacts beautifully illustrates this simple rule. Those who have seen the almost-final draft have... Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2014 at Decline of the Empire