Thursday, March 22, 2018

Russia's "Can't Lose" Financial Strategy

17 February 2014 - updated 22 August & 22 December 2014; 30 January 2015; 21 April 2015; 2 January; 20 September 2016; & 22 March 2018

This is a legacy article, dating back to February 2014. I have been adding updates as they come available. Russian gold reserves have almost doubled since I first published this article, and now stand at fifth in the world. 

Here's a strategy I've thought about for a while now. This is only possible because we have abandoned the gold standard (and with it, sound money - you can talk to Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen about that). 

Let's just say a government decided to print money out of thin air and use it to buy gold. You start with something that is an entirely artificial construct (any national currency in today's world meets this criterion) and use it to buy something that is real, scarce and irreplaceable (gold still meets THOSE criteria!). Voila, you have a "can't-lose" strategy for getting leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else. 

And... I think one country may actually be doing this (I originally commented on this a couple of years ago). Check out these two Russian charts.... 

(1) They are buying-up gold hand over fist; and 

(2) They are printing funny money like crazy (it's virtually without cost for any nation to increase their "money supply" like this today, for as long as the current insanity lasts). 

Vladimir Putin is NOT a nice guy. We all know that. But is he a smart guy? Yeah. And a wise guy, too. Perhaps a few of the rest of us should clue in... and catch up. 

Russia's gold reserves are up 150% in 7 years:

Russia's money supply is up 33% in 2 years:

I have said earlier that the Federal Reserve should have just put $10,000 in the mailbox of every US citizen (yes, they HAVE spent that much "new" money to "rescue" the still-staggering economy). This would have done MUCH more for the economy than bailing out BOTH political parties, GM, Countrywide Financial and Bank of America. 

But a better scheme even that that would have been to take the $3 trillion printed dollars (yes, they did print $3 trillion to bail out the government and the banks) and to quietly, discreetly, buy gold with it. 

Well, have no fear. Ben Bernanke gave all his money to Citibank, Fannie Mae, General Motors, and the US Congress. It's gone. 

But Vlad Putin bought gold with his "printed money." In my world, Mr. Putin is BY FAR the wiser man.


22 August 2014: While some reports show slow periods and even temporary reversals in Russia's accumulation of gold, the most recent figures from the World Gold Council show that Russia has (again) reported an increase in its official reserves since February 2014, moving its place in global national gold rankings up two additional slots. What can I say? Print money, buy gold. It's legal. Just what I don't really get is why only the Russians are doing it.... (Believe me, some day, this will no longer be allowed!)

Russia (#5 globally):
Official gold holdings:
1,094.7 tonnes

Percent of foreign reserves in gold:

Russia has increased its gold holding since February 2014 and has eclipsed both Switzerland and China. In August 2014, Russia's central bank decided to buy up even more gold and diversify away from the dollar and the euro as a result of economic sanctions imposed by the West.

Russia's central bank gold holdings crossed the 1,000-tonne mark for the first time in Q3 2013.

Source: World Gold Council

22 December 2014: While I disagree with Mr. Putin on many points, in particular, the suppression of diversity at home and my belief that Ukraine should shape its own future, the Russians continue to be cleverer than we in many respects. Despite rumours that they have been selling gold, in fact, it is US dollars that they are unloading, while (wisely) buying ever more gold.

For more information, click here.

30 January 2015: Russia's gold purchases were up 123% during the first 11 months of 2014, including the period during which the Ruble began to collapse. The Financial Times reports:

"Russia’s central bank purchased 152 tonnes of gold worth $6.1bn at today’s prices, according to GFMS estimates. Analysts also said Russia’s purchases might have been due to the buying of domestically produced gold that could not be easily sold overseas due to sanctions.

“'This is a clear positive for the gold price,' said Matthew Turner, analyst at Macquarie. 'If central banks had not purchased that gold it would have been bought by private investors or jewellery consumers, and this would likely have required a lower gold price.'

"While Russia was a strong buyer this year, analysts say purchases could slow and the country could become a seller if it continues to liquidate its reserves to support the domestic currency."

For the full story, click here.

21 April 2015: Kitco News reports that Russia has resumed gold buying following a 2-month hiatus (click here):

"After a two-month hiatus the Central Bank of the Russian Federation jump back into the gold market, demonstrating that official demand remains strong, say analysts.

"According to media reports, the Russian central bank bought 28 tonnes of gold in March, the biggest one-month purchase since September. In January the central bank sold 0.5 tonnes of gold and didn’t purchase anything in February.

"The report noted, as of April 1, Russia’s official gold reserves stood at 1,128.3 tonnes, compared to the previous level of 1,207.7 tonnes. According to data from the World Gold Council, Russia has the fifth largest gold reserves in the world (not including reserves held by the International Monetary Fund).

2 January 2016, The world's smartest gold buyers have done it again. As of November 2015, we have these figures:

- Russia adds another 700,000 ounces (22 tonnes) to gold reserves in November
- Russian ally Kazakhstan increased gold reserves for 38th month – 7 Mil ounces
- Russia has added 197.1 tonnes in 2015 – Compared with 172 tonnes in all 2014
- November gold buying is Russia’s ninth straight month of increase
- Russia now has sixth largest gold reserves in the world
- Central bank buys all Russian gold production
- Other Russian gold demand imported
- Russia views gold bullion as “100% guarantee from legal and political risks”


Russia continues to add to its gold reserves and added another 700,000 ounces in November or another 22 metric tonnes, and analysts believe this buying will continue and may intensify in the coming months.
Russian ally Kazakhstan increased its gold reserves for a 38th month to 7.03 million ounces in November from 6.96 million ounces a month earlier.
The latest large increase in Russia’s gold reserves – a “buying spree” as reported on Reuters Africa has again gone largely unnoticed by most analysts. Indeed, the important monetary and geopolitical ramifications continue to be largely ignored in western media.
Russia’s total gold reserves have now increased to 44.8 million ounces or around 1,392.8 metric tonnes (up 40% from February 2014, when this article was originally published), with a current value of just $48.3 billion. Russia’s total FX reserves are $371.2 billion and their gold allocation remains just 13% of their total reserves.
The share of gold in Russian foreign exchange reserves is much lower than in many other countries such as the U.S., Italy and France. Russian diversification into gold is likely to continue and could intensify if relations with the U.S. and NATO powers further deteriorate.
Russia still has less than a fifth of the gold reserves of the U.S. which are believed to be over 8,400 metric tonnes of gold. However, the U.S. has no foreign exchange reserves and is the largest debtor in the world – indeed it is one of the largest debtors the world has ever seen.
Russia now has the sixth highest gold reserves in the world – behind the U.S., Germany, Italy, France and China.
In 2014, Russia bought more gold in than in any year since the break-up of the Soviet Union. The country acquired over 173 metric tonnes according to World Gold Council figures. Reserve diversification intensified after April — averaging about 20 tonnes per month....
Click here for the full story from GoldCore....

Meanwhile, Russian money supply has grown another 7% since the end of 2014, an increase of about 2.2 trillion roubles. 

As I've been commenting, why not print money and buy gold with it? The Russians have got it figured out.... 20 September 2016. The Russians have outdone themselves again. Russia, which has defaulted 5 times and has been in that state for 10 of the last 26 years, just sold a stack of bonds to a collection of hedge funds, pensions and "smart" buyers. Some if not all the proceeds at the government level apparently went to buy yet another 700,000 ounces (21.77 metric tons) of gold in a single month! The Russians are truly unequaled at the level of long-term financial strategy. Click here for more information. 

There is more information here, regarding Russia's fast-rising store of gold. 

Clearly the Russians know something we don't!

22 March 2018. When bars of gold came flying out of a cargo plane taking off from a Siberian airport earlier this month, littering the run-way with precious metal, it was more than symbolic: Russia is hoarding gold, and it’s apparently got so much it can’t keep it contained.

Russia’s been hoarding gold for a while—but it’s going for a new record in 2018, dumping U.S. treasuries for gold at a rate not seen in years as it overtakes China for fifth place among the world’s sovereign holders of the precious metal....


Monday, October 09, 2017

For America, There Can Be No Returning to North Korea

9 October 2017

David Halberstam has been gone ten years now. I had not realized that he had died in an automobile accident on April 23, 2007. He was one of my great heroes in uncovering the misdirected brutality and needlessness of the Vietnam War. 

Recently, I've been revisiting the Korean Conflict, which was raging at the time of my birth, and thus a part only of my indirect memory. I do recall that at school, we were told to finish the food on our plates, because Korean children didn't have enough to eat. 

It turns out that Mr. Halberstam, originally a "liberal" supporter of the Vietnam War who had turned strongly against it after travelling to Vietnam to report it firsthand, had also disassembled the Korean Conflict. 

The Coldest Winter, Halberstam's history of the Korean War focuses on the egregious missteps of General Douglas MacArthur, who directed what became a holocaust, also presiding over the greatest American military loss since the (thankful) defeat at Little Bighorn. I recall that even as a young child, my parents had warned me of MacArthur's wrongheaded attitudes and failed campaigns. The New Yorker has summarized Mr. Halberstam's career here. 

Let me say at the outset that in my view, America was right to defend South Korea against the Stalin-inspired surprise invasion which threatened to collapse the two Koreas into one totalitarian communist police state in a matter of literally days. However, as Halberstam makes clear, MacArthur committed a series of drastic strategic errors after successfully winning back the south through a brilliant encircling tactical maneuver launched from Inchon. 

Rather than halting at what is now the DMZ, MacArthur launched a full-scale assault on the North, not believing the Chinese would send forces to their aid. When hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops met his advances, an American military disaster ensued, and this was followed in turn by what has been described as the near total retaliatory destruction of every major structure standing in North Korea, drastically punishing its civilian population. 

At the end, the death toll stood at 33,000 Americans, 415,000 South Koreans, and, one among many estimates, 1.5 million (perhaps 2-3 million) North Koreans and Chinese --- on the order of 20% of the population of North Korea left dead in the first great post-war holocaust. (Until let go by President Truman, MacArthur sought to assuage his defeat and finish his devastation of the North by launching a nuclear assault on China.) 

Given today's renewed hostilities with North Korea, we would be well-advised to be alert to its history. I am in no way sympathetic to the brutal, totalitarian North Korean regime, but in the light of history, it is rational to conclude that the present impasse with the North is not America's to resolve. North Korea is now a regional Asian problem. We should not, indeed, cannot, go back to North Korea. MacArthur's dark legacy cannot be escaped.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

The Three Holocaust Perpetrators of the Past Century: The Nazis, the Communists, and the Americans

7 October 2017

I've been doing some research on holocausts. This is not a pleasant topic, but it is one of our era's inescapable realities. 

Prior to the past century, there have been many other holocausts and genocides, with assaults on indigenous people and the engagement in slave-trading by European and Asian colonialists the most extensive over the past several centuries. 

Here are the quick numbers for roughly the past century (and I don't believe you can get this in one place):

1. The Nazis/Fascists killed 17 million or more people prior to and during WWII. They targeted Jews, Poles, Slavs, Russians, Romany, disabled people and other social minority groups. The holocaust began with killings of disabled citizens and non-German babies, and spread from there. The intent to wipe Jewish people from the face of the earth was total. 

2. The communists have killed 85-100 million, with Stalin responsible for the deaths of 10 million or more, and Mao having killed 40 million or more. The communists are noted for killing and imprisoning those who resist their totalitarian vision of centralized total state authority. 

3. Not usually listed, but regrettably and most clearly also meeting the criteria for holocaust perpetration, the United States has left 20-30 million dead through military action and strategic arms sales since WWII. Americans target those who are identified as hostile to US interests and security, but the definition has been loose, and, repeatedly, American interventions have been extended, disproportionate and difficult to rationalize. Millions have died through US interventions in North Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor, and 32 other identified nations. This estimate does not include the additional many millions displaced or dead through US actions that have destabilized their nations, initiated civil wars, etc. (Libya and Syria are important recent examples).

Currently, death tolls are mounting rapidly in various Muslim states, but, so far, only the Nazis, communists and Americans have created overt holocausts during the period of recent history. 

To my eyes, Saudi Arabia is currently the most dangerous Muslim state, due to its high level of interventionism (mounting a genocidal war in Yemen, funding global terrorism and jihadism, etc.). US arms sales to the Saudis are $35 billion annually.

The US presently spends $1 trillion a year on military activities, surveillance operations and veterans' services. It is difficult to devote that much expenditure annually to such purposes without causing overt and widespread harm, and I believe that to be the actual and ongoing result of America's unfocused military and strategic adventurism.

Click here for more information on the US-initiated holocaust

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Putting Global Warming into Context: We are Ice Age Creatures Living on a Planet That Was Already Getting Warmer Before We Started Speeding Up the Process

18 July 2017

I think I've pretty well figured it out. Speaking in terms of the Phanerozoic Era and a bit longer (750 million years or so), our planet is usually more than 7° Celsius warmer than today. The earth has already warmed almost 3° C, half of it before the industrial revolution. 

We're still in an ice age now (the ice is just disappearing rapidly). The last ice age ended roughly 280 million years ago (they don't happen often). Humans have speeded up warming dramatically. The oceans are already up 300 feet from their ice age lows. They have 225 more feet to go. 

Humans and our evolutionary progenitors have existed only during the ice age of the past 6-8 million years. We can probably extend the current cool period by not putting carbon into the atmosphere (though possibly not indefinitely, and at some point, it may be too late --- possibly now). 

Climate is twice as variable when the planet is cooler (as it is now). When the planet is hot, it's basically hot everywhere, and probably too hot for human survival at the equator. The sun is gradually growing warmer. Thus the long-term trend over hundreds of millions of years is almost certainly going to be towards somewhat hotter temperatures. 

Modern humans have walked the earth for only 200,000 years, 2/3 of that time only in Africa. It is possible, perhaps probable, that without the recent ice age, we couldn't have come to exist. We were almost extinguished as a species only 70,000 years ago. Could it happen again? We should be alert to the possibility. 

Thinking over the next few centuries, I'm pretty sure we'll stop adding carbon to the atmosphere, and we'll probably start removing it. Fossil carbon is limited in supply, and we've already burned most of the easy-to-find fossil carbon. It would be better to use carbon to synthesize organic molecules. To our descendants, burning carbon for fuel will appear incomprehensible. Will the end of carbon burning stop global warming, at least for a while? Not in itself. However, I'm optimistic. I think the current (natural) warming trend can be reversed or slowed, though possibly only temporarily. 

It's conceivable, perhaps likely, that humans may eventually learn how to manage global mean temperature for the benefit of biological diversity. The best way to start will be by developing non-carbon forms of energy generation. While solar and wind and other sustainable methods will be helpful, fusion power will eventually transform the power grid. 

Though fusion power doesn't generate carbon as a waste product, it releases considerable levels of heat, and thus will still contribute to global warming. It will be better to get started on living without carbon sooner rather than later, but we will eventually need to learn how to manage all forms of human energy generation and to regulate global climate. 

If the ice age norm of the past 6 to 8 million years can be sustained, our planet will remain more diverse. It may be that we can achieve this as a long-term climate goal. Much more examination of that question will need to take place than has so far occurred. 

A positive and desirable multi-species outcome to the current problem of global warming is possible. We must remember that what we don't know is still markedly greater than what we do know. We have much to learn, and many important decisions to make. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017


15 July 2017

I've been doing a little bit of research, based on the observation that humans are ice age creatures, even though ice ages have made up only 5% or so of our current era (roughly the past half billion years or so). So today's topic is, "What was the earth like during the much warmer climatic periods during which humans and our precursors hadn't yet evolved?" An implication of this discussion is that, due to human-initiated massive carbon release, we might be headed back to such conditions sooner rather than later (that is, in a few hundred years, vs. several million years).

The underlying question we're asking is, "Did the earth have to cool before humans could emerge?" Our working hypothesis is that humans are specialists in handling ecological and climatic diversity, and that the "hot" earth that is more typical of the last several hundred million years lacked the diversity that may have been needed for humans and our precursors to evolve. It is notable that even our evolutionary forebears don't show up in the fossil record until the earth transitioned into its most recent ice age (we're technically still in it) about 6 million years ago. Homo Sapiens has about a 200,000 year history, and our genus (homo) has been around for only about 2-1/2 million years.

Well, let's take as an example the late Cretaceous period, roughly 65 to 100 million years ago, and just preceding the extinction of the dinosaurs: In general, the climate of the Cretaceous Period was much warmer than at present, perhaps the warmest on a worldwide basis than at any other time during the past 542 million years (the Phanerozoic Eon). No ice existed at the poles. The oceans were stagnant and similar to hot springs in temperature. Dinosaurs migrated between the Warm/Hot Temperate and Cooler (extreme north and south) Temperate Zones as the seasons changed. High temperature conditions were almost constant until the end of the period. The warming may have been due to intense volcanic activity which produced large quantities of carbon dioxide.

Floral evidence suggests that tropical to subtropical conditions existed as far as 45° N, and temperate conditions extended to the poles.
Large magma deposits were sufficient to raise sea levels to extremely high elevations, creating vast, shallow seas across the continents. The Tethys Sea connecting the tropical oceans east to west also helped to warm the global climate. Warm-adapted plant fossils are known from localities as far north as Alaska and Greenland, while dinosaur fossils have been found within 15 degrees of the Cretaceous south pole.

An equable temperature gradient from the equator to the poles (one-half that of the present) meant much less climatic variability than today, and weaker global winds, which drive the ocean currents, resulted in less upwelling and more stagnant oceans than today. This is evidenced by widespread black shale deposition and frequent anoxic events. Sediment cores show that tropical sea surface temperatures may have briefly been as warm as 42° C (108° F), 17° C (31° F) warmer than at present, and that they averaged around 37° C (99° F). Meanwhile, deep ocean temperatures were as much as 15 to 20° C (27 to 36° F) warmer than today's.
As to geography, the continents had differentiated from Pangaea, but were bunched together more closely than today. A vast watery channel divided North America north to south, with only the Rocky Mountains above the sea in the west. Despite sea levels more than 200 feet higher than today, Antarctica and Australia were still one continent. India was an island located east of Madagascar. There was much more sea surface, and much less land surface.
So, there are two questions to wrap up: (1) Is there any particular reason that our human precursors waited until the climate described above had cooled by about 10° C before showing up? (2) Are humans and other species going to adapt well to a planet that is 7-8° C warmer than today?

The scientist I have so far identified who seems most interested in this question is Dr. Rick Potts at the Smithsonian Institution. The following is an abstract for one of his journal articles.


Variability selection (abbreviated as VS) is a process considered to link adaptive change to large degrees of environment variability. Its application to hominid evolution is based, in part, on the pronounced rise in environmental remodeling that took place over the past several million years. The VS hypothesis differs from prior views of hominid evolution, which stress the consistent selective effects associated with specific habitats or directional trends (e.g., woodland, savanna expansion, cooling). According to the VS hypothesis, wide fluctuations over time created a growing disparity in adaptive conditions. Inconsistency in selection eventually caused habitat-specific adaptations to be replaced by structures and behaviors responsive to complex environmental change. Key hominid adaptations, in fact, emerged during times of heightened variability. Early bipedality, encephalized brains, and complex human sociality appear to signify a sequence of VS adaptations—i.e., a ratcheting up of versatility and responsiveness to novel environments experienced over the past 6 million years. The adaptive results of VS cannot be extrapolated from selection within a single environmental shift or relatively stable habitat. If some complex traits indeed require disparities in adaptive setting (and relative fitness) in order to evolve, the VS idea counters the prevailing view that adaptive change necessitates long-term, directional consistency in selection. © 1998 Wiley-Liss, Inc.


15 July 2017

Scientists have recorded five significant ice ages throughout the Earth’s history: the Huronian (2.4-2.1 billion years ago), Cryogenian (850-635 million years ago), Andean-Saharan (460-430 mya), Karoo (360-260 mya) and Quaternary (2.6 mya-present). Approximately a dozen major glaciations have occurred over the past 1 million years, the largest of which peaked 650,000 years ago and lasted for 50,000 years. The most recent glaciation period, often known simply as the “Ice Age,” reached peak conditions some 18,000 years ago before giving way to the interglacial Holocene epoch 11,700 years ago.

That humans arose during an ice age may be due to chance, but over the last 750 million years, the chances of a species emerging in an ice age (global mean temperature ~12C) would have been roughly 5%, as the planet is hot (~22C) something like 80% of the time. (Mammals showed up 220m years ago in the late Triassic, one of many warm/hot periods.)
Obviously species have had successes against longer odds than that. However, my working hypothesis is that there is more ecological diversity during ice ages (though not snowball earth of 650m years ago). If the earth usually has palm trees and crocodiles in the arctic circle, then there would be a lot less maple, walnut and apple trees elsewhere. This is not to say that humans did not originate in the tropics, as it seems we did, and there is a lot about the transition from forest to savanna that I don't know much about. Also, the African drought-induced near-extinction was apparently overcome by moving to the seashore, which gets you into the aquatic ape and ecosystem boundary hypotheses.
Keep in mind that the planet was 2-3 C colder then than it is now, and a bit more than half the difference is pre-industrial (most sea level rise has been/will be preindustrial). I think it's clear on the 750m year chart that we have been in a warming phase since we became tool and technology users, at the very least. So global warming was already happening, though I think it's obvious that this is the first time in geological history that fossil carbon has been burned. Thus, this cycle can go (and obviously is going) faster and possibly higher than in the past. Other causes of climatic variation include fluctuations in solar intensity, atmospheric clarity and orbital variations (Milankovitch), but the big cycle seems to be carbon-driven, which in my view is the strongest single argument that humans putting carbon into the atmosphere is changing things (that is, accelerating an existing trend). In fact, it is bluntly an irrefutable argument if you study geological history.

One can also see that at least 8 degrees C of the big fluctuations happen very quickly (less than 1 million years) in geological terms. I honestly believe (1) that if we don't get smarter, we'll move from 15 to 22C in only a few hundred years (a new geological record), as that will put all the carbon there is into the atmosphere, but also (2) given a few hundred years, we will get much smarter and actually more or less totally eliminate carbon burning, or at least highly restrict it, and that much sooner than that, we'll have the technologies to capture carbon and take it back out of the atmosphere (no UN bureaucracy or carbon credit system needed, because we'll be rich enough that we can easily afford it).
Note that around 13-14C is where the bigger/faster moves usually happen anyway, as that is enough to get the positive feedbacks going with methane, forest fires, tectonic rebalancing, etc. That is, whatever the bureaucrats may think, we've been past the breakaway threshhold for some time already.
So let's just say that humans had tried to get their start at 22C, which would take you roughly to 35m years ago. There would have been no coral reefs, the entire equatorial region would have been uninhabitable (>120F), and there would have been only tropical and desert ecosystems. I'm pretty sure it would have been a less diverse world, which is not to say that tropical systems are not diverse.

It is probably also not accidental that we are post Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction creatures (66ma), as the meteor impact that extinguished 75% of earth's life forms occurred at the height of the last warm period, which also (perhaps meaningfully) marked the rise of mammals, though it was still very hot for another 40m+ years after the mass extinction (there is also a current mass extinction being driven by human modification of all planetary ecosystems). The meteor impact at 66ma doesn't even show up on the longterm climatic cycle chart, but it would have been very cold for a very short time, geologically.
Importantly, humans didn't show up, even our precursors (who emerged no more than 6m years ago), until temperatures dipped down to ice age levels. However, Haplorrhini (apes, monkeys, tarsiers) are a human precursor who showed up immediately post extinction event (63ma), so maybe that is also meaningful.
Finally, the real advances in human technology have occurred in only the last few thousand years, which has been a period of significant glacial retreat (warming with positive feedbacks engaged long before industry started). I have just refreshed myself on Lake Agassiz, which oversat Kenora, Ontario (where I live) as well as most of central Canada and the North Central US. Interestingly, the central North American glaciers melted for thousands of years without sea level rise, because the lake was held back by a glacial dam that first broke about 13,000 years ago, then reformed, and had its last break about 8000 years ago (both events raised sea levels several feet, and one or both may account for the multicultural flood narratives).

The rupturing of Lake Agassiz is linked to the rise of systematized agricultural in Europe which enabled the rise of cities, and that is also dependent on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), which sustains moderate European temperatures, but which has reduced 30% since 1957, associated with increased warming-induced freshwater flows into the Arctic Ocean, and thus with southward flows into the Atlantic (conversely, the Arctic Ocean is shrinking due to warm water penetration further north). On a positive note, when the AMOC reduces, we have fewer Atlantic hurricanes. On the downside, Europe would turn much colder very quickly if the circulation turns southwards (it currently forks, and half flows north around Europe, and half flows towards West Africa.
As to unanswered questions, human have obviously benefited by the plummeting of global temperatures to their lowest historic levels perhaps 6-8 million years ago, but we have also capitalized on the bounceback to warmer temperatures, which coincides with hominid evolution over the last 2-1/2 million years. In brief, it appears that humans thrive when ecosystems are multiple and diverse, and my best guess is that the Quaternary Ice Age created the exact types of increasing diversity on which emerging humans eventually capitalized.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


13 July 2017

I have become intrigued with the fact that modern humans emerged roughly 2.5 million years ago, at the absolute temperature bottom of one of the earth's relatively rare cold climatic periods (making up only 5% of the last 3/4 billion years or so). That is, we are unarguably ice-age creatures. I've found a couple of new charts that illustrate the link between human emergence and cold climate. Interestingly, a Google search on the subject doesn't really turn up anything beyond this.

Image result for human ice age origins

If you look at the link between human evolution and climate, you get articles explaining how climatic variability may have prompted aspects of human evolution --- tool-making, language, an enlarged brain case, etc., but we're talking in these cases about variabilities in maybe a degree or two of global mean temperature, which is small stuff if you look at the longer-term climatic record of our planet, where there is evidence of 12-25° Celsius variation in global mean temperature (today's mean temperature is in the 14-15° C range --- still near its 12° C low of 2-5 million years ago.

I also tried a search about humans as ice-age creatures, and literally all that comes up are endless articles about how hungry humans caused the extinction of the large ice-age mammals.
An examination of global mean temperatures over the past 700 million years makes clear that only about 35 million of those years were typified by today's still very low global mean temperature in the range of 12-15° C (recently warming dramatically, as everyone knows).

Note that the earth's mean temperature is much more often in the 22° C range --- with 450-500 million of the past 700 million years at or near that level. Strikingly, the transitions occur rapidly in geological time, with upward or downward spikes of maybe 8° C occurring in the space of roughly a million years (maybe less?). Positive feedback loops --- as we are seeing today --- very likely account for those geologically rapid transitions.
Keep in mind that our planet started out as a very hot fireball 4.5 billion years ago. Elevated levels of greenhouse gases kept the earth quite warm until oxygen-based life forms evolved. In turn, emerging photosynthetic life forms cooled the planet until the equatorial climate was similar to Antarctica today. When earth was a Precambrian snowball about 650 million years ago (visible on the above chart), there were no life forms to absorb atmospheric carbon, and it gradually reaccumulated, warming the planet again. It's probably the release of stored carbon in permafrost and seabeds that drives the return to 22° Celsius. Add to that today that humans are burning long-buried fossil carbon. No wonder the earth is currently warming so rapidly! 
In summary, my search for WHY humans seem to be ice age creatures has not really turned up anything at all yet. I'm not sure why the topic is not being actively discussed. One thing we do know is that humans thrive at ecosystem boundaries, so my current working hypothesis is that we also do well at climatic boundaries --- that is, trending from warm to cold and (possibly) back again. Local and regional temperature variation, which is more notable at cyclical lows than highs, would thus create the kind of ecological variation on which humans and early humans have thrived for 2-1/2 million years! 

How will humans fare when, in less than another millions years --- and possibly in only a few centuries, the planet goes back to its 22° C climatic norm (or possibly higher)? The process is gradual in individual human years, but currently extremely rapid in geological and generational terms. Our children's children will certainly be living with the ever more dramatic consequences of the current human-induced "carbon era."
As an optimist, I believe we can resolve most or all of the problems associated with a rapid return to a much hotter planet. However, we'll have to be considerably more focused than at present to accomplish the necessary ameliorations and accommodations.
Based on my reading to date, we'll do best to hold back the natural and at some point inevitable return to much warmer global mean temperatures. This will enable us to save the coral reefs as well as many other species, to preserve maximum species diversity, to keep our coastal and tropical cities where they are, and to contain northward-migrating tropical and temperate region diseases. To accomplish this, we will require fusion as well as solar power, and we'll have to put robots to work to aid us in maintaining and repairing the environments and systems we have damaged. 

This article provides the best summary of earth's long-term climatic variation that I have found: click here.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Global Warming: The Future Is Now

26 February 2017

As I learned in high school 50 years ago, atmospheric carbon retains energy (in the forms of both heat and motion) on and near our planet's surface. Humans put the carbon there by subjecting carbon-containing materials to combustion. This is known as global warming, the present round of which is caused by human activity. Please go back to your high school science class if any of what I just said is not clear to you. (You do not need a post-high school education to understand global warming.) 

Besides causing melting glaciers and soggy lawns surrounding Florida condos (including the Trump family's wintering grounds), the current human-induced warming is creating a wetter and hotter north. 

Climate change doubles size of lakes in N.W.T. bison sanctuary

Bison are a common sight along N.W.T. Highway 3 between Fort Providence and Behchoko, near the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary.

Due to other causal factors, global warming (and cooling) have happened many times before on a millennial-to-geological time scale, though never nearly so "exponentially." Many species, humans included, will have to adapt. 

Relocating coastal cities is going to prove very expensive, and northward migrating diseases and increased storm intensity will affect all of us. Shifting mass on continental plates even increases earthquake and volcanic eruption risks. 

Carbon credits and other bureaucratic schemes are equivalent to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Global warming is not a reason to give new powers to governments, which most of us probably agree have too many poorly applied powers already. Obviously as a species, we need to build sturdier homes, invest in infectious disease research (impacting both plants and animals), and, as I do not tire of stating, convert our power grids to fusion energy.

Image result for fusion reactor

Due both to the accelerating rate of change and to positive feedback loops built into the system (which we are only beginning to understand), the impacts of the current warming cycle are becoming more dramatic year by year. You can be alarmed or you can be ready. I suggest that readiness is the wiser response. 

Denial won't make it stop. 

Reallocating our carbon resources to organic molecular synthesis would be a mark of intellIgence at the species level. We know most everything we need to know now to cut this current carbon-combustion cycle short, and we can figure out the rest! The future is now. 

Keep in mind that because we're discussing systems, the warming trend at this point will persist for some time, even if we cut carbon emissions to near-zero. 

Regarding fusion power development, investors wIth a 20-year time horizon for return on investment (profitability will take longer!) will ultimately be the most rewarded ever in history. The funding could possibly be arranged through an income trust structure, which, unfortunately, Mark Carney (the thankfully-departed former Governor of the Bank of Canada, now wreaking havoc on Britain's currency) eliminated in Canada. 

I don't think it would be that difficult to undo Carney's work and set up a specialized income trust to fund this, and Canada has prior experience with this strategy. 

Thus, Canada could become the world's leader in fusion power development. 

The one new ingredient required will be the two-decade time horizon, and some kind of political initiative will probably be required to enable an investment strategy of this kind.

Monday, February 13, 2017

It's Gold's Turn in the Waltz....

13 February 2017 - charts updated 13 July 2017

The ups and downs have been harrowing. There is no other word for it. While the S&P 500 has easily outperformed gold since 2011, the two have been at a draw since December 2015, and gold has more than doubled the SPX (S&P 500 broad US stock index) since 2001 (when the collapse of the tech bubble triggered a renewed search for value and wealth preservation). Further, at least this is my view, stocks are inherently risky in an uncertain world, whereas gold is not --- particularly if you have a longer time horizon. As for the direction from here, I think there is no question that gold will outperform over the next 1-5 years, perhaps dramatically. It's how the two of them dance, and at this point in the exchange, it's gold's turn to shine more brightly still. It's a little bit of a waltz, but there are crescendos................

Just to put it all in perspective, we know in retrospect that the gain in the S&P 500 from 2002-2007 was entirely a bubble (as was the 90s dust-up before that). How moderate does that now appear, in contrast to the Himalayan ascent from 2009 to now? I'm a little at a loss as to how to describe it... The S&P trades at 26x earnings in an era of virtually zero growth. I've seen it called the "everything" bubble. It is fuelled by mad moneyprinting and/or so-called "accommodative" policy (loaning money at near or below-zero rates) in virtually every corner of the world. How can that possibly end well?

As you can see, gold got a little ahead of itself in 2011, and took a breather from Sep 2011 through Dec 2015 (51 months). Gold is now running sprints again, and training for the next marathon. It is the favourite to win.

Keep in mind, the first chart presented shows the gold price divided by the price level of the S&P 500 index. You may or may not recall the fireworks, which were mostly set off between 2007 and 2011. As of right now, another launch is being prepared, and based on the intelligence I receive, this one may actually prove to be another lunar mission (along the lines of 1976-1980, but longer, stronger, higher and more enduring).

We are preparing now for blastoff of the second and stronger stage, possibly as soon as the second half of 2017. 

Image result for moonshot