Friday, 20 July 2018

Arctic sea ice update - 07/19/2018

Update on Arctic sea ice - 07/19/2018

This graphic from the NSIDC from today shows what is not immediately obvious from an uniformed perusal of the satellite pictures (below): that is that there is very little ice that is at full 100% concentration and large areas are at 50% concentration in large areas.

This a satellite view of the same area - also from today.

Margo goes through the data in a way that is easily intelligible to non-experts like myself.  She demonstrates that a 'hole' in the ice identified some days ago was in fact what it seemed.


This is the view from Climate Reanalyzer


Here is a 300 foot iceberg passing through a Greenland town a couple of days ago.

This is the data on methane emissions at surface level from today. There is nowhere on the planet that has emissions much lower than 1800 ppb. The emissions from Britain and Scandinavia are almost off the chart.

If you are in any doubt about rising levels of methane see this historical chart of emissions.

I have lost the desire to follow this process in great detail but with rapidly-declining sea ice thickness it is not difficult to imagine that what remains will disappear very quickly, whether this season or next.

Sam Carana has demonstrated clearly how sea ice volume has declined year-on-year in an almost unbroken progression

For me there are two key concepts (in addition to the exponential function) to keep in mind.

The first is latent heat:

This is expressed very clearly by Sam Carana:

Latent heat can make such disappearance come abruptly and - for people who only look at changes in extent - rather unexpectedly.

Latent heat is energy associated with a phase change, such as the energy absorbed by solid ice when it changes into water (melting). During a phase change, the temperature remains constant.

Sea ice acts as a buffer that absorbs heat, while keeping the temperature at zero degrees Celsius. As long as there is sea ice in the water, this sea ice will keep absorbing heat, so the temperature doesn't rise at the sea surface.

The amount of energy absorbed by melting ice is as much as it takes to heat an equivalent mass of water from zero to 80°C.

A very useful practical experiment to illustrate the proccess is to put some ice cubes in water and bring it slowly to the boil. What you will find is that the water stays at the same temperature when heat is applied until all the ice has melted. 

From there the temperature of the water rises very rapidly.

Once the ice has gone, if only for a few weeks a number of positive feedbacks get triggered – primarily the loss of albedo and the release of methane from the shallow water column in the ESAS.

The second concept is that of loss of habitat for humans and other species with rapid warming that has been identified (almost solely) by Guy McPherson. It is not the amount of warming but the rate of warming that presents such challenges for our ability to feed ourselves. 

A perusal of recent headlines should bear this out:

Report: US winter wheat forecast down amid drought

A government report shows U.S. farmers are expected to harvest their smallest winter wheat crop in more than a decade amid an ongoing drought that has devastated fields across the nation's breadbasket and a global surplus of the grain that has depressed prices.

Europe's Blistering Heatwave Is Ruining This Year's Harvest 

  • EU grain growers brace for smallest harvest in six years

  • It looks like a desert out there,’ German farmer says

See my report on Europe from a few days ago.

If crop failures in Europe and America are not enough to worry about we have this headline.

Wheat production in Russia is expected to drop to 67.4 million tonnes this year, down 21.5 percent from a record 2017 crop, after adverse weather affected both winter and spring wheat, French consultancy Agritel said on Thursday.

It takes little imagination and a little intellectual honesty to acknowledge that if we get simultaneous crop failures then we are in deep trouble and that the melting of the Arctic ice and rapid warming will lead to the collapse of the whole economy in a scenario that is laid out with frightful clarity by Guy McPherson.

The president of Finland expresses things in a way that no other political leader will

In this context all I can say is "brace for impact" !

REVEALED: FSB officers arrested for spying for the CIA and allegedly hacking the DNC

According to Hal Turner, in December, 2016 two officers of the FSB were arrrested and charged with treason for spying for the CIA. One of the things they admitted to was being paid for hacking, among others, the Democratic Party by the intelligence agency in the last days of the Obama presidency.

I did not recall anything on this from the time and it took a while to track down reports on this. The English-language Russian media seem to have been silent on this and even the Russian language media was fairly reticent.

Very different from when Russian spies (real or otherwise) are arrested by the Americans!

Two Russian FSB officers arrested and charged with treason for spying for the CIA

Russian spies 'caught passing secrets to CIA'
RUSSIAN security agents have been arrested over accusations they “leaked secrets to the CIA”, reports claim.

1 February, 2017

Sergei Mikhailov, a top cybersecurity expert for the Russian Federal Security Service and his deputy Dmitry Dokuchaev have been accused of treason and illegal hacking after alleged links to the US intelligence community, according to Russian media.
Mikhailov and Dockuchaev are reportedly being held over claims they leaked information to the CIA about Russia’s involvement in the alleged hacking of the US election.
FSB, former KGB, headquarters

Mikailov is accused of sharing information about alleged breaches of election systems in Arizona and Illinois.
Ruslan Stoyanov, the head of cybercrime investigations at Kaspersky Labs, and a fourth suspect have also been arrested – but it is unclear if they were connected to the CIA.
A source close to the investigation said: “Each of the suspects performed his own role.
One person developed and deployed the cyberattacks, and another person collaborated with foreign intelligence agents.”
Mikhailov was reportedly taken out of an FSB meeting by police in December with a bag over his head and has not been heard from since.

Did the CIA have a mole at the heart of Putin's hacking operation foryears? Russians charge spy colonel with treason, find $12m in hishouse - then discover his identity is fake

Treason charge: Sergei Mikhailov, a FSB colonel (pictured) is awaiting a treason trial along with Dmitri Dokuchahaev, his subordinate and a former hacking who worked for the FSB to avoid a prison term for his cyber crimes
Treason charge: Sergei Mikhailov, a FSB colonel is awaiting a treason trial along with (pictured) Dmitri Dokuchahaev, his subordinate and a former hacking who worked for the FSB to avoid a prison term for his cyber crimes
Treason charge: Sergei Mikhailov, a FSB colonel (left) is awaiting a treason trial along with Dmitri Dokuchahaev (right), his subordinate and a former hacking who worked for the FSB to avoid a prison term for his cyber crimes
  • Sergei Mikhailov faces treason changes in Moscow linked to leaks leading to US investigators saying Putin's spies hacked the presidential electionFSB colonel was led away in handcuffs with a bag over his head from a meeting of senior officers in December - and faces 20 years in jail
  • He and his subordinate are said to have passed information to the CIA which led to the conclusion Putin ordered election hacking
  • A Siberian server owner linked to attempts to interfere with election machines in Illinois is said to have been identified by the CIA because of their information
  • Now an investigation has found no evidence that he really is called Sergei Mikhailov, raising fears he is long-time plant at the heart of the Kremlin 

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Russia Liquidates Its US Treasury Holdings

Russia just DUMPED $80 billion in US debt

The US Treasury published a report naming those countries that are the largest holders of US bonds. The list includes 33 countries, and for the first time Russia is no longer in it.

Paul Goncharoff

18 July, 2018

Russia has stopped “inching towards de-dollarization” as I wrote about on July 3rd, and has now energetically walked out of the list of largest holders of US government bonds, hence this update. For the two months ending in May 2018, Moscow has offloaded more than $80 billionin US Government debt obligations.

The $30 billion “minimum” listing Rubicon has been crossed by Russia.
As of the end of May, Russia had bonds worth only $ 14.9 billion. For comparison: in April, Russia was on the Treasury list with bonds totaling $48.7 billion. Even then it was offloading US$ debt securities as Russia owned in March over $96 billion. At the end of 2017, Russia had US treasury securities worth $102.2 billion. It is anyones guess what Russia will own when the June and July figures are released in August and September – probably less than today.

This simply serves as a confirmation that Russia is steadfastly following a conservative policy of risk diversification in several areas such as financial, economic, and geopolitical. The US public debt and spend is increasingly viewed as a heightened risk area, deserving sober assessment.
So where have all the dollars gone? The total reserves of the Russian Central Bank have not changed and remain at approximately the equivalent of $ 457 billion, so what we are seeing is a shift of assets to other central banks, other asset classes, just not US$ government bonds.
During the same time (April-May) as this US$ shift happened, the Russian Central Bank bought more than 1 million troy ounces of gold in 60 days, and continues.
For comparison sake, the maximum Russia investment in US public debt was in October 2010 totaling $176.3 billion. Today it is $14.9 billion.
The largest holders of US government bonds as of May are China ($ 1,183.1 billion), Japan ($ 1048.8 billion), Ireland ($ 301 billion), Brazil ($ 299.2 billion), Great Britain ($ 265 billion).
Using the similar conservative metrics that the Russian Central Bank has been rather successfully applying through this geopolitically and economically challenging period with the US and the US Dollar, it may not stretch the imagination too much that other countries such as China may eventually follow suit. Who will finance the debt/spend then?
Russia Liquidates Its US Treasury Holdings
18 July, 2018

Last month we showed that as Trade Wars began in April, the world's central banks and other official institutions dumped more Treasuries than in any month since January 2016, some $48.3BN, perhaps over concerns of others selling first, and precipitating a sharp move higher in yields. Fast forward one month later to May, when according to the latest just released Treasury International Capital (TIC) update, in May the selling of Treasurys by official entities continued, with another $24BN sold in the month of May, when yields continued to rise and eventually hit the 2018 highs of 3.11%.

But while the selling of Treasuries was to be expected - after all someone had to sell aggressively to push yields sharply higher in April and May - the question was who.

What we showed last month, is that contrary to some speculation, it wasn't Beijing, because after shedding a modest $6BN in April, China actually bought $1.2BN in Treasurys in May, leaving its holdings largely unchanged over the past month.

And while Japan did sell $12BN in TSYs in April, it more than made up for its in May when it purchased $17.5BN, bringing its total to $1048.8BN in May, which means that over the past two month, Japan was a net buyer of US paper.

Meanwhile, the third most prominent holder, hedge funds, aka "Cayman Islands", bought for a second consecutive month, adding another $5BN.

* * *
So if the usual suspects were buying, who was selling?

Here is the answer.

Readers may recall that last month we first reported  that for all the confusion about sharply higher yields in April, the explanation was simple: it was Vladimir Putin who liquidated a whopping half of Russia's Treasury holdingswhich declined by $47.4BN to just $48.7BN - the lowest since 2008 - from $96BN in March.

But wait, it gets better, because as Trump continued to jawbone about more sanctions targeting Russia, Putin did not stop and in May he continued what was an outright liquidation of Russia's TSY holdings, which plunged by another $40BN, or 82%, from $48.7BN to just $9BN in May. Keep in mind this was over $100BN at the start of the year.

It appears that When Putin warned he would diversify Russia's state reserves  -out of Treasurys - he was serious.

And this is what a very politically motivated liquidation of Treasury holdings looks like.

In other words, in just two months, Russia sold a whopping $81BN in treasurys, a liquidation flow that was likely responsible for much if not all the blow out in rates over the period. Because what else happened as Russia was liquidating 85% of its Treasury holdings in 2 months? 10Y yields soared from 2.7% at the start of April to the 7 year high of 3.11% in late May.

At that point, yields tumbled again as traders freaked out over Trump's escalating trade war with China, and proceeded to rush into deflationary safety. 
So just like last month, we can't help but wonder - as the Yuan-denominated oil futures were launched, trade wars were threatened, and as more sanctions were unleashed on Russia - if this wasn't a dress-rehearsal, carefully coordinated with Beijing to field test what would happen if/when China also starts to liquidate its own Treasury holdings.

Media hysteria over the Helsinki summit

Helsinki Talks - How Trump Tries To Rebalance The Global Triangle

18 July, 2018

The reactions of the U.S. polite to yesterday's press conference of President Trump and President Putin are highly amusing. The media are losing their mind

Apparently it was Pearl Harbor, Gulf of Tonkin and 9/11 all in one day. War will commence tomorrow. But against whom?

Behind the panic lie competing views of Grand Strategy.

Rereading the transcript of the 45 minutes long press conference (vid) I find it rather boring. Trump did not say anything that he had not said before. There was little mention of what the two presidents had really talked about and what they agreed upon. Later on Putin said that the meeting was more substantive than he expected. As the two spoke alone there will be few if any leaks. To understand what happened we will have to wait and see how the situations in the various conflict areas, in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere, will now develop.

The 'liberal' side of the U.S. did its best to prevent the summit. The recent Mueller indictment was timed to sabotage the talks. Before the meeting in Helsinki the New York Times retweeted its three weeks old homophobic comic flick that shows Trump and Putin as lovers. It is truly a disgrace for the Grey Lady to publish such trash, but it set the tone others would follow. After the press conference the usual anti-Trump operatives went ballistic:
John O. Brennan @JohnBrennan - 15:52 UTC - 16 Jul 2018
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
Senator John McCain released a scathing statement:

... “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. ...

These imbeciles do not understand the realism behind Trump's grand policy. Trump knows the heartland theory of Halford John Mackinder.  He understands that Russia is the core of the Eurasian landmass. That landmass, when politically united, can rule the world. A naval power, the U.S. now as the UK before it, can never defeat it. Trump's opponents do not get what Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security Advisor of President Carter, said in his book The Grant Chessboard (pdf) about a Chinese-Russian alliance. They do not understand why Henry Kissinger advised Trump to let go of Crimea.

Trump himself professed his view (vid) of the big picture and of relations with Russia in a 2015 press conference:
"...  Putin has no respect for President Obama. Big Problem, big problem. And you know Russia has been driven - you know I always heard, for years I have heard - one of the worst things that can happen to our country, is when Russia ever gets driven to China. We have driven them together - with the big oil deals that are being made. We have driven them together. That's a horrible thing for this country. We have made them friends because of incompetent leadership. I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin- okay? And I mean where we have the strength. I don't think we need the sanctions. I think that we would get along very, very well. I really believe that. I think we would get along with a lot of countries that we don't get along with today. And that we would be a lot richer for it than we are today.
There are three great geographic power-centers in the world. The Anglo-American/transatlantic one which is often called 'the west'. Mackinder's heartland, which is essentially Russia as the core of the Eurasian landmass, and China, which historically rules over Asia. Any alliance of two of those power-centers can determine the fate of the world.

Kissinger's and Nixon's biggest political success was to separate China from the Soviet Union. That did not make China an ally of the United States, but it broke the Chinese-Soviet alliance. It put the U.S. into a premier position, a first among equals. But even then Kissinger already foresaw the need to balance back to Russia:
On Feb. 14, 1972, President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger met to discuss Nixon’s upcoming trip to China. Kissinger, who had already taken his secret trip to China to begin Nixon’s historic opening to Beijing, expressed the view that compared with the Russians, the Chinese were “just as dangerous. In fact, they’re more dangerous over a historical period.”
Kissinger then observed that “in 20 years your successor, if he’s as wise as you, will wind up leaning towards the Russians against the Chinese.” He argued that the United States, as it sought to profit from the enmity between Moscow and Beijing, needed “to play this balance-of-power game totally unemotionally. Right now, we need the Chinese to correct the Russians and to discipline the Russians.” But in the future, it would be the other way around.
It took 45 years, not 20 as Kissinger foresaw, to rebalance the U.S. position.

After the Cold War the U.S. thought it had won the big ideological competition of the twentieth century. In its exuberance of the 'unilateral moment' it did everything possible to antagonize Russia. Against its promises it extended NATO to Russia's border. It wanted to be the peerless supreme power of the world. At the same time it invited China into the World Trade Organisation and thereby enabled its explosive economic growth. This unbalanced policy took its toll. The U.S. lost industrial capacity to China and at the same time drove Russia into China's hands. Playing the global hegemon turned out to be very expensive. It led to the 2006 crash of the U.S. economy and its people have seen little to no gains from it. Trump wants to revert this situation by rebalancing towards Russia while opposing China's growing might.

Not everyone shares that perspective. As security advisor to Jimmy Carter Brzezinski continued the Nixon/Kissinger policy towards China. The 'one China policy', disregarding Taiwan for better relations with Beijing, was his work. His view is still that the U.S. should ally with China against Russia:
"It is not in our interest to antagonize Beijing. It is much better for American interests to have the Chinese work closely with us, thereby forcing the Russians to follow suit if they don’t want to be left out in the cold. That constellation gives the U.S. the unique ability to reach out across the world with collective political influence."
But why would China join such a scheme? How would Russia be 'forced'? What costs would the U.S. have to endure by following such a course? (Brzezinski's view of Russia was always clouded. His family of minor nobles has its roots in Galicia, now in west Ukraine. They were driven from Poland when the Soviets extended their realm into the middle of the European continent. To him Russia will always be the antagonist.)

Kissinger's view is more realistic. He sees that the U.S. can not rule alone and must be more balanced in its relations:
[I]n the emerging multipolar order, Russia should be perceived as an essential element of any new global equilibrium, not primarily as a threat to the United States.
Kissinger is again working to divide Russia and China. But this time around it is Russia that needs to be elevated, that needs to become a friend.
Trump is following Kissinger's view. He wants good relations with Russia to separate Russia from China. He (rightly) sees China as the bigger long term (economic) danger to the United States. That is the reason why he, immediately after his election, started to beef up the relations with Taiwan and continues to do so. (Listen to Peter Lee for the details). That is the reason why he tries to snatch North Korea from China's hands. That is the reason why he makes nice with Putin.

It is not likely that Trump will manage to pull Russia out of its profitable alliance with China. It is true that China's activities, especially in the Central Asian -stans, are a long term danger to Russia. China's demographic and economic power is far greater than Russia's.  But the U.S. has never been faithful in its relations with Russia. It would take decades to regain its trust. China on the other hand stands to its commitments. China is not interested in conquering the 'heartland'. It has bigger fish to fry in south-east Asia, Africa and elsewhere. It is not in its interest to antagonize a militarily superior Russia.

The maximum Trump can possibly achieve is to neutralize Russia while he attempts to tackle China's growing economic might via tariffs, sanctions and by cuddling Taiwan, Japan and other countries with anti-Chinese agendas.
The U.S. blew its 'unilateral moment'. Instead of making friends with Russia it drove it into China's hands. Hegemonic globalization and unilateral wars proved to be too expensive. The U.S. people received no gains from them. That is why they elected Trump.

Trump is doing his best to correct the situation. For the foreseeable future the world will end up with three power centers. Anglo-America, Russia and China. (An aging and disunited Europe will flap in the winds.) These power centers will never wage direct war against each other, but will tussle at the peripheries. Korea, Iran and the Ukraine will be centers of these conflicts. Interests in Central Asia, South America and Africa will also play a role.

Trump understands the big picture. To 'Make America Great Again' he needs to tackle China and to prevent a deeper Chinese-Russian alliance. It's the neo-conservatives and neo-liberals who do not get it. They are still stuck in Brzezinski's Cold War view of Russia. They still believe that economic globalization, which helped China to regain its historic might, is the one and true path to follow. They do not perceive  all the damage they have done to 90% of the American electorate.

For now Trump's view is winning. But the lunatic reactions to the press conference show that the powers against him are still strong. They will sabotage him wherever possible. The big danger for now is that their view of the world might again raise to power.