Obama faces climate change and Iraq

View 828, Saturday, June 14, 2014

John Quincy Adams on American Policy:

Whenever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

Fourth of July, 1821


It’s Roberta’s birthday and I got her the newest version Kindle Fire. It’s more advanced than my Kindle Fire and while I am sure it’s better, I haven’t figured it all out yet. I have got it running and it is registered as hers with her Amazon account. There was no book of instructions but there are supposed to be all kinds of instructions on the machine, and we are connected to the house Wi-Fi network. We’ll see but I am now going to go look for books on the new Kindle, because my experience with my older Fire doesn’t seem at all relevant. Maybe Alex can help.


The President has said that anyone who doesn’t believe in man caused global warming, and that we can do unilaterally something about it by curbing the carbon emissions of the United States, is putting partisanship over national interest, and is ignoring the indisputable scientific evidence. In his speech he was a bit short on the evidence, and had nothing to say about the obvious questions. Alas, I haven’t heard any discussion of the obvious questions from the True Believers – and oddly enough, the few who do now talk about the obvious questions have left the ranks of True Believers and have become Deniers. You can hear this speech.

President Obama Urges Action on Climate Change During UC Irvine Address


This is not science or any pretense of it. It is certainly not rational discussion. We seem to have degenerated to the point that important decisions are now made by partisan debating tactics, and to have no one in the decision making process who is actually interested in understanding what is actually going on with Earth’s climate.

Of course it gets boring to continue to ask the questions, only to be ignored – then after a while the opposition pretends the obvious questions do not exist, or that they have been answered to the satisfaction of any rational person.

The questions remain.

First, there needs to be a discussion about methods of measurement, and comparing temperatures from one year to another. In the real world, in the late 1960’s, I found it difficult to come up with the average skin temperature of an astronaut in a full pressure suit to a one degree F accuracy. I used dime sized thin copper disks with thermocouples soldered to them; we taped them to the astronaut’s skin. We chose back of hand, mid back, mid abdomen, and other such places so that we would have some comparability: the point of the tests was to measure the ventilation systems in the suit. We could measure the air flow of the controlled temperature air we used for ventilation, and the input temperature of that air, so that got another thermocouple from the harness. One of the thermocouples in the 12 thermocouple set went into a carafe of melting ice; the ice had been frozen from distilled water. That gave us a reference temperature accurate to 0.1° F. The thermocouple machine printed what it could see at one minute intervals; when we consolidated the data we sampled those one-minute readings since we didn’t have the data entry capability to use them all for average. In the modern world that would not be a problem.

But I do not know how to get the average temperature of my city block to any 0.1 ° F accuracy: where would I take the measurements so they would be comparable from day to day? Assuming I can answer that question, how would I do it for the City of LA? California? USA? But we want an average temperature of the entire Earth to that accuracy, and average all that over a year. We need 0.1° accuracy because that is what we find we need to describe the warming. Now I understand how we could come up with the measurements now, and take the same measurements year after year: but we were not doing that fifty years ago, much less 100 years ago, or 200 years ago. In the 1800’s the way we got sea temperatures was to pull up a bucket of sea water from some depth, put a mercury thermometer into the bucket, wait a bit, and read the thermometer. I think we can safely assume that these readings were not accurate to any 0.1 degree and probably not to 1 degree.

The same is true of most of the other measurements in the 19th Century. We have measurements from many places, but from the same place every year. We know that in 1800 the Thames froze over solid enough to allow merchants to set up market stalls on the frozen river, and this practice continued until sometime into the century. The climate was certainly changing, but we don’t have a very good picture of how it changed. On Christmas Eve 1776 the cannon captured by Ethan Allen at Ticonderoga were taken to General George Washington on Haarlem Heights, saving his army from Howe who was working up the nerve to storm Washington’s position and end this rebellion once and for all. When he heard that Washington had cannon he called off the attack, and Washington escaped to fight another day. There was a time when every American school child knew this. The point being it was very cold in New York in 1776 although it was considered a warmer than usual winter. No one was astonished that the Hudson was frozen hard enough to cross with cannon. By 1850 the Hudson did not freeze so hard.

As The Hudson River Freezes, Classic Ice Yachts Emerge

It’s a rare sight of a sport that drew thousands of spectators in the late 1800s, when Hudson Valley gentry like the Roosevelts and brewer and New York Yankees owner Jacob Rupert raced their yachts on lengthy courses up and down the river north of Poughkeepsie. Commodore John E. Roosevelt — FDR’s uncle — built the 69-foot Icicle and formed the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club in 1869. A 46-foot version of the yacht was later clocked at more than 100 m.p.h. FDR so loved his own iceboat Hawk – a gift from his mother in 1901 — that he included it in the collection at his presidential library.


I cannot find a reference to the time when the Hudson froze so hard that you could bring cannon across to Haarlem Heights, but it doesn’t seem to have happened in this century. Sometime back in the days when the Vanderbilts and the Roosevelts raced ice boats.

My point is that the climate has been warming since 1800; exactly when the warming trend began to accelerate doesn’t seem to have been determined; yet isn’t that important if you are doing climate models?

Clearly the Earth has been colder, and it is now warming, and has been since 1800 or so.

But we also know that it has been warmer. We don’t have any good numbers for the average global temperature in Viking times, but it used to be that every schoolchild knew that Leif the Lucky discovered Vinland, which was either Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. The name Vinland is interesting: certainly no place it could possibly have been grows grapes now. Leif sailed from the dairy farms his father, Eric the Red, had founded in Greenland. There are no dairy farms in Greenland now, although some of the old settlements are now emerging from the ice.

In the same time period (Leif the Lucky 970 – 1020 AD) we have records from Scotland and northern England: they grew grapes and made wine there. We have records from continental monasteries where they recorded planting and harvest dates: the growing seasons were longer than at present. We have records from eastern Europe. Same message, and also from China. The obvious conclusion is that the Earth was warmer than it had been in the earlier period after Marcus Aurelius when the growing seasons began to shorten, northern climates were colder, and the great migrations that wiped out the Western Roman Empire began in full force.

In other words, the Earth has been both warmer and cooler than it is now, and this in historical times. Clearly this was not a consequence of human industry. Something else happened. The best guess is solar activity, but there is some evidence of volcanic activities as well. Benjamin Franklin on passage to England observed the thick volcanic clouds streaming downwind from Iceland and wondered if enough of those would not cause an age of ice: evidence that the Great Lakes and much of Canada and New England had been covered with ice at one time was being gathered and discussed, and Franklin read everything.

I note that none of the climate models that predict the climate for a hundred years from now have any explanation of the Viking Warm or the 1400—1800 Little Ice Age. Indeed they don’t really account for the period in which annual average temperature fell after 1960 to after 1980.

Extreme Weather In The 1960’s & 1970’s

We are all familiar with the “ice age “scare of the early 1970’s. Science News ran a report at the time, with an interview with C C Wallen, chief of the Special Environmental Applications Division, at the World Meteorological Organization.

According to the article,

By contrast, (with the Little Ice Age), the weather in the first part of this century has been the warmest and best for world agriculture in over a millennium, and, partly as a result, the world’s population has more than doubled. Since 1940, however, the temperature of the Northern Hemisphere has been steadily falling: Having risen about 1.1 degrees C. between 1885 and 1940, according to one estimation, the temperature has already fallen back some 0.6 degrees, and shows no signs of reversal.

Extreme Weather In The 1960’s & 1970’s

There are no climate models that can take the initial conditions of 1900 and show the actual climate patterns that took place from 1900 to present.

I do not see these questions being addressed by the True Believers, or any indication that President Obama even knows they exist.

There are other questions never addressed.

Antarctic Glacier Melt Due To Volcanoes, Not Global Warming


“A new study by researchers at the University of Texas, Austin found that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is collapsing due to geothermal heat, not man-made global warming:”


“Researchers from the UTA’s Institute for Geophysics found that the Thwaites Glacier in western Antarctica is being eroded by the ocean as well as geothermal heat from magma and subaerial volcanoes. Thwaites is considered a key glacier for understanding future sea level rise. UTA researchers used radar techniques to map water flows under ice sheets and estimate the rate of ice melt in the glacier. As it turns out, geothermal heat from magma and volcanoes under the glacier is much hotter and covers a much wider area than was previously thought.

“Geothermal flux is one of the most dynamically critical ice sheet boundary conditions but is extremely difficult to constrain at the scale required to understand and predict the behavior of rapidly changing glaciers,” UTA researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The geothermal heat under the glaciers is likely a key factor in why the ice sheet is currently collapsing. Before this study, it was assumed that heat flow under the glacier was evenly distributed throughout, but UTA’s study shows this is not the case. Heat levels under the glacier are uneven, with some areas being much hotter than others.

“The combination of variable subglacial geothermal heat flow and the interacting subglacial water system could threaten the stability of Thwaites Glacier in ways that we never before imagined,” lead researcher David Schroeder said in a press release.

And volcanoes are a significant source of CO2 as well.


Volcanoes can cool by putting up articulate matter. Underwater volcanoes can heat the seas and trigger El Nino and La Nina events. None of this is well understood. It is certainly not general purpose “global warming” or even “climate change” that has caused the change in Antarctic Ice; indeed, this latest cold period has produced more ice in polar regions that has been normal in the past few years. There appears to be a cycle at work here. It is apparently not well understood or perhaps not understood at all.

Another question not addressed:


There is no doubt that parts of the world are getting warmer, but the warming is not global.

Freeman Dyson, American physicist.



President Obama told us today that CO2 traps heat. He said in a way that implies that no one can question that, and everyone must know it, and there is nothing else to discuss. Dyson points out that water vapor traps heat much better than CO2: indeed, anywhere there is high humidity, CO2 is irrelevant because there is no heat escaping for CO2 to trap. The water vapor has got it all. Therefore the effects of CO2 will mostly be on cold dry places. Most of the Earth is covered with water.

Methane is also a much better greenhouse gas than CO2, and any place that has methane in the atmosphere – above certain evergreen forests, and near large herds of cattle, as an example – CO2 will be irrelevant because all the heat escaping through the atmosphere will already be absorbed.

We could continue but there is no need to break a butterfly on the wheel: these are questions that are seldom addressed by the Climate Change True Believers, and when they are it is generally with condescension, as if everyone knows what brought about the Greenland farms. When pressed for a bit more specific information one usually is told “Gulf Stream” as if the Gulf Stream could simultaneously affect the temperature of Greenland, the Western Scottish Islands, Northumberland, York, Denmark, Saxony, Lithuania, and China, all of which recorded warmer weather and longer growing seasons. I have never had any of the True Believers offer to go beyond that condescension.

The President apparently is going to make Climate Change a big and important driver of his policies for the next few years. He seems quite positive that he knows all that anyone needs to know about the subject, and the topic is closed. Anyone who does not understand this believes that the Moon is made of cheese. There is nothing to discuss.


President Obama on Iraq: extract from Speech in 2008

When you have no overarching strategy, there is no clear definition of success. Success comes to be defined as the ability to maintain a flawed policy indefinitely. Here is the truth: fighting a war without end will not force the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future. And fighting in a war without end will not make the American people safer.

So when I am Commander-in-Chief, I will set a new goal on Day One: I will end this war. Not because politics compels it. Not because our troops cannot bear the burden– as heavy as it is. But because it is the right thing to do for our national security, and it will ultimately make us safer.

In order to end this war responsibly, I will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq.


We can’t say he didn’t warn us.

Meanwhile the collapse of the Shiite Iraqi government we left behind continues. Sunni jihadists kill Shia heretics. The Kurds continue to consolidate. Since there are as many Kurds in Iran as in Iraq, and as many in Turkey as in Iraq, a consolidated independent Kurdish state on their borders is a major threat. Turkey is predominantly Sunni and Sufi. Iran is of course Shiite. Kurds are considered Sunni, sort of (“Compared to infidels, Kurds are Moslems”) but are closer to the West’s notion of “moderate Islamics” than almost any other powerful group. As I have noted, Saladin (1139 – 1193), the conqueror of Crusader Jerusalem in 1187, was a Kurd.

The latest news shows that the ISIS Sunni conquests continue as the government forces run away, but there is vigorous recruiting in Baghdad, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is said to be sending help to the Iraqi Shiites. No one is calling this civil war yet, but it certainly looks a lot like one.

Obama to Iraq: Your Problem Now

In his State of the Union address, in January, President Obama said, “When I took office, nearly a hundred and eighty thousand Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq.” It was a boast, not an apology. The descent of Iraq into open civil war in the past week has not, to judge from his remarks on Friday, fundamentally changed that view. He did grant that it was alarming that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, “a terrorist organization that operates in both Iraq and in Syria,” had made what he delicately called “significant gains” in Iraq. (That is, it has taken control of more than one city.) He said that he wasn’t entirely surprised—things hadn’t been looking good in Iraq for a while, and we’d been giving the government there more help. “Now Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces,” he said. After all, as he put it, “Nobody has an interest in seeing terrorists gain a foothold inside of Iraq.” But there were limits: “We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq.”

Speaking from the South Lawn, Obama argued that this was not just a matter of what the American people would accept, or the limits of our capacity to make sacrifices for humanitarian goals. It’s more that he doesn’t see the point. As he sees it, after all our investment of lives and money—“extraordinary sacrifices”—the Iraqis have not been willing to treat each other decently, and until they do our air strikes won’t help. “This is not solely, or even primarily, a military challenge,” he said, and went on:


We await the news from Baghdad with abated breath. Note that the Russians are inclined to support Bashar Assad in Syria, because he is the only major leader there who has religious tolerance as a policy. Given the substantial number of Druze in northern Syria and Lebanon this may be important.  Only Israel and Lebanon seem aware of the Druze; I see no evidence that the State Department has ever heard of them.

Of course that isn’t the only reason for Russian support of Assad in Syria. His father had the support of the USSR; but not all former allies of the USSR are now allies of Russia.  The issue is complex, and Russia’s interests in that part of the world are not all in synch.






Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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