Sunday, November 29, 2015

Paris First Movement

"The Paris talks are doomed even if they succeed, because even if they succeed they will have won the wrong argument."

On November 17 we heard David Wasdell, of Project Gaia-Apollo and Team Leader of the Global System Dynamics and Policy Co-ordination Action of the European Commission, speaking on Radio Ecoshock. His overriding theme: 2 degrees is not safe; we are past the point of safe now; and we need to get back to safe as rapidly as we can. The timetables given by the Structured Expert Dialogue (SED), or what we called the “70 wise men” in our previous post, would be disastrous if implemented.

David Wasdell
His arguments were very cogent, and based on solid evidence, but had to ask ourselves why this person, who is not a climate scientist (he is a self-described “systems analyst”) should hold greater credibility than 70 of the world's best climatologists? We decided it is because we are someone who has never given the Wizard of Oz a blank check but peers behind the curtain. As we picked through both sides – Wasdell's several PDF and video presentations and the SED report to the UNFCCC  – we found undeniable logic in his and indefensible timetables in theirs. Here is a segment from Wasdell's radio interview:

IPCC Temperature Holocene/Anthropocene

David Wasdell: The set of computer models used by the IPCC only work with the feedback mechanisms that can be quantified. Inevitably that only gives part of the picture. In contrast, the history of planetary change includes by definition all the feedback processes, known and unknown, positive and negative (that is amplifying or damping), together with all the complex interactions between them. The computer models predict that the temperature change from doubling the concentration of CO2 would be about 3°C. Using the history of the actual relationship between temperature and CO2 concentration we find the outcome is more like 8°C. That is a huge difference with massive strategic implications. The reality of earth System Sensitivity is about 2 and a half times that stemming from the partial computer models.
Going back 400,000 years

Moving from the specific example of change since the last ice-age, we can derive the value of the more generalized “Climate Sensitivity”, the equilibrium change in average surface temperature of the planet following a doubling of the concentration of atmospheric CO2. The temperature change required to compensate for the effect of doubling concentration of CO2 on its own is calculated to be 0.97°C. Climate sensitivity when only fast feedbacks are taken into consideration stands at 3°C. Including the effects of the carbon-cycle feedbacks raises the value of Climate Sensitivity to 4.5°C. Adding the contribution from the ice-sheet dynamics correlates with a 6°C value for Climate Sensitivity. While the Sensitivity value representing the equilibrium dynamics of the Earth System as a whole stands at 7.8°C. Though please note that this figure is derived from slow and close to equilibrium conditions of change in the Quaternary period. It may be too low in the current conditions of the Anthropocene. 
Now if you are working with computer models using only the fast feedbacks, you would predict that 2°C would be achieved at around 440 ppm. But if you are using the Earth System Sensitivity, then at 440 ppm [which we will likely hit between 2030 and 2035] we would be looking at more like 5°C of change. However, as I keep reminding you, the computer simulation, inadequate and partial though it may be, is what is still being fed into the process of strategic policy-making on the assumption that the temperature change will only be 2°C for a concentration of 440 ppm of CO2. 

Alex Smith: At various conferences, in the business press and in scientific circles, there has been a lot of effort to work out how much carbon we can still burn, in the form of oil, gas, and coal, and still remain below the supposed 2 degree warming safety limit. No doubt diplomats at the Paris Conference will talk about this "carbon budget."  How much of a budget do we really have left? 
David Wasdell: At present the CO2 concentration stands at 400 ppm. If it is thought to be safe to go up to 440 ppm, then we have a good budget to play with.  There is still plenty of room in the sky-fill site. However, if we don't use the inadequate computer models, and instead apply the real Earth System Sensitivity, then we were already committed to passing the 2°C ceiling when CO2 concentration stood at 334 ppm. That was back in 1978. We have already overspent the budget by a large amount! Getting the picture?
National promises (“INDCs”)(Independent Nationally Determined Contributions) concerning reduction in CO2 emissions, have been tabled ahead of the COP21 in Paris. Those promises look like pushing us to about 700 ppm by the end of the century (if they are implemented, and there is no guarantee about that whatsoever!). Business as usual is driving us up towards 800 or 900 ppm up here. If we cannot improve the level of promised emissions reduction, then “We might hit 4°C” predicts the IPCC using its low value for sensitivity. But if we use the full Earth System Sensitivity to examine the way the climate behaves at the level of 700 ppm. We are not looking at something around 4°C, but an increase of more like 10°C. That is twice the temperature shift between the ice ages and the pre-industrial benchmark. If we are not able to cut back on our current “business as usual” behavior, then the temperature rise increases to more like 12 or even 15°C, (and two or three times that amount in the Arctic!)  Good bye all the ice on earth. Welcome to something like 90 feet of sea level rise, or even more when all the Greenland ice-cap and the whole of the Antarctic ice sheet melts. Civilization would have collapsed and we would have evacuated London and New York well before then!

As delegates and heads of state from 190 countries gather here in Paris, the premises of the negotiations are badly flawed. It is as though the world's best negotiators are about to try to land a heavy passenger aircraft but the altimeter gauge is off by 500 feet. Despite being summoned in a timely fashion, the technicians who were brought in to repair the instrument either failed to do so, or have not been listened to, and thus we glide now towards a predictably unfavorable outcome. The Paris talks are doomed even if they succeed, because even if they succeed they will have won the wrong argument.
The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) will continue to jointly consider the report of the Structured Expert Dialogue (SED) on the 2013–2015 review at the upcoming session to be held in Paris in December 2015, with a view to concluding their considerations on this matter and reporting their findings to the COP, which shall take appropriate action based on the review. 

At Bonn in June, when the SED report was released, the negotiators asked hard questions of the Science Group:
Parties sought clarification on
  • the window of opportunity for staying under 2°C of warming and the risks created by overshooting, 
  • the practicality of achieving negative emissions, 
  • the marginal costs of mitigation for 40–70 per cent emission reduction from 2010 levels by 2050, 
  • the Cancun pledges (“INDC”s), 
  • the impact of mitigation on economic growth, and 
  • production-versus consumption-based accounting for emissions.

BECS Net Sequestration Potentials by Sector (eCO2, 2015)
The answers coming back from the SED group were poorly informed and unimaginative. So, for instance, in response to the window of available time they said it would depend on how fast low-carbon technologies could scale, and that would be known by 2030 [at 430 ppm], but not much before then. As to the practicality of achieving negative emissions, the scientists seemed to be oblivious to the applications of biochar and the potential for cool energy, cool food and cool building. They lamely opined that:

"The practicability of negative emissions depends on costs, trade-offs and the feasibility of various scenarios. The IPCC presented options for generating large amounts of energy from BECS [Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage] and the associated risks for biodiversity and food security and prices, stressing that policymakers need to consider the trade-offs [translation: consider unregulated use of genetically engineered fuel-stocks, soil- and livelihood-destroying monocrop plantations, and expensively capturing the carbon as smoke using toxic scrubbers that then have to be locked away somewhere forever]."

As for the economic cost of a 40-70 percent emissions reduction, the scientists could not answer that other than to say it would be even more if we wait. The INDC pledges, they said, would not keep us to 2 degrees, but would lock in at least 3 degrees, probably 4. For northern latitude countries like Canada, Sweden and Russia, that equates to 6 to 8 degrees, which is unsurvivable by any measure

Jason Lowe, Hadley Centre, at SED-4.
Bottom line: the world is not on track to achieve a long-term survival goal for our species, but potentially successful means are available and must be scaled up urgently.

Bill McKibben, writing a short entry for a science fiction anthology, Visions 2100 – Stories From Your Future to be released at the COP on December 5, said:
“Looking back on the century, the only real thought is: why didn’t we do this sooner? The technology we’re using – solar panels, windmills, and the like – were available in functional form a hundred years ago. But we treated them as novelties for a few decades – and it was in those decades that climate change gathered its final ferocity. Now we live in a low carbon world and it works just fine – except that there’s no way to refreeze the poles, or lower the sea level, or turn the temperature back down to a place where we can grow food with the ease of our ancestors. Timing is everything, and it hurts to think we blew it.” 

Last year the International Energy Agency (IEA) presented an action plan that could stop the growth in emissions by 2020 at no net economic cost, reducing emissions by 3.1 GtCO2e (about 10%). They (incorrectly) claimed that reduction would be 80 per cent of the savings required for a 2°C pathway.

Still, to follow the IEA's prescribed path, COP21 would have to recognize the need to fully decarbonize energy systems. Unfortunately, the wise men ultimately dropped the ball when they concluded in their SED report that “Carbon neutrality should be achieved in the second half of this century in the light of the limited global CO2 budget.” This pushes the ambition standard at Paris well below where it will need to be.

One can only hope that someone will be allowed to fix that broken altimeter before the hard landing makes repairs moot. We only get one shot at this. Paris is it.

Timing is everything. Not only should negative emissions be allowed under the Paris regime, they should be mandated.

In September 2013, David Wasdell gave a talk to the Club of Rome meeting in Ottawa entitled “Sensitivity, Non-Linearity & Self-Amplification in the Global Climate System” that included this slide, taken from NASA mission control during the Apollo-13 flight:

Paris: Le Overture

"The ‘guard rail’ concept, which implies a warming limit that guarantees full protection from dangerous anthropogenic interference, no longer works. What is called for is a consideration of societally acceptable risk."

Today we are in Paris, site of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 21st Conference of Parties (COP21). We have been reporting from these conferences for this blog since early 2008, with the run-up to COP19 in Copenhagen. Each time there has been much ado about the potential for transformative action and each time, by the end of the two weeks, it turns into just adieu and see you next year.

The past three conferences in particular (Doha 2012, Warsaw 2013, Lima 2014) were really just treading water, trying to iron out differences enough to proceed to a formal, legally binding document to be adopted here in Paris this year, in 14 days time.

In 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, the UN member countries negotiated an international treaty to cooperatively consider what they could do to limit average global temperature increases and to cope with whatever other impacts of reckless fossil fuel use were, by then, inevitable. These annual conferences at the beginning of every December were intended to reach those decisions.

It took only three years for the COPs to recognize that the minor emission reductions they had imagined at first glance in the giddy Summit at Rio would be totally inadequate. So, they launched negotiations to strengthen the international response and, two years later, in 1997, adopted the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol legally bound overdeveloped countries to emission reduction targets while giving the underdeveloping countries a pass. This eventually caused a lot of friction, because many of the countries who got passes, China and India for instance, took that opportunity to build hundreds of coal-fired power plants and become the world's leading greenhouse gas polluters.

The US Head Negotiator, Todd Stern, told the Guardian:
“We have a situation where 60-65% of emissions come from developing countries. That’s a good thing. It means that developing countries are developing. But you cannot solve climate change on the back of the 35%.
A watershed moment for the negotiating process occurred in Copenhagen when the world was on the verge of enacting a binding treaty to replace Kyoto, with everyone included and sanctions for scoff-laws. At the last moment Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama swooped in and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, substituting a voluntary pledge system (Independent Nationally Determined Contributions, all non-binding) that only 5 countries were willing to sign, but it was enough to torpedo the treaty. In a recent Presidential campaign debate Ms. Clinton called it one of her great moments of leadership on the climate issue, which rescued the Copenhagen talks.

It is true there were differences of opinion about how close Copenhagen was to actually sealing the deal. “By the time [Obama arrived in Copenhagen] things had already unravelled and then had to be put back together,” according to Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications at the White House. Rhodes said that in Paris Obama's tactics would be different. “The goal here is to give a push with heads of state at the beginning of the process and then allow [Secretary of State John] Kerry and others to finalize the details.”

The old protocol’s first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. Despite the debacle in Copenhagen, most of the European countries hit their targets. Total emissions for all other overdeveloped countries rose by about 10 percent. China's rose about 10 percent per year and it is now the world's largest emitter. Canada was committed to cutting its greenhouse emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012, but in 2009 emissions were 17% higher than in 1990 and the Harper government prioritized tar sand development in Alberta. Canada's emissions are now up 34% from baseline and Australia is in similar territory. In Doha at COP18, 36 UN member states agreed to extend Kyoto for another round, beginning in 2013 and running to 2020 but without the major polluters on board it is a feeble effort.

Kyoto is generally viewed as a limited success. Among the overdeveloped, France, the UK and Germany achieved reductions of 7, 15 and 19 percent. In any event, these reductions pale when compared to the impact of peat fires in Indonesia, deforestation in Brazil or methane releases in Siberia.

At COP16 in 2010, the rest of the world, recognizing that the United States had been allowed to hijack the Copenhagen meeting, put the UN multiparty process back on track with the Cancun Agreements. Fast start finance (a.k.a. dollar diplomacy) brought pledges from the US and Europe to mobilize through international institutions, approaching 30 billion dollars for the period 2010-2012. Funding for adaptation was allocated to the most vulnerable underdeveloping countries, such as small island States and equatorial Africa, but nobody really knows whether or when that money will show up.

At Paris the various governments are “invited” to provide information on their efforts to reduce emissions (calculated, for the underdeveloping, as reductions on theoretical maximum development burn – Business As Usual, or “BAU” – to more modest, “responsible,” but nonetheless increased burns) and to please let everyone know how soon and by what means the promised great wealth transfer will take place.

Nonetheless, by slow increments, the noose is gradually tightening around the neck of fossil fuel companies and their government backers. All governments re-committed in Durban to a comprehensive plan that would come closer over time to delivering the ultimate objective of the Convention: to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would “prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system” and at the same time preserve the rights of the 5 billion world poor to “sustainable development.” Let us set aside for a moment the incompatibility of those two goals as their terms are presently defined.

Durban made two very important adjustments to the Cancun Agreements. First, that COP said that science will trump politics and that if it should be proven, for instance, that 2 degrees is not a sufficient guard rail to prevent human civilization from veering over the cliff into dangerous climate change, the goal can adjusted. A scientific review process was established to monitor the goal and “to ensure that collective action is adequate to prevent the average global temperature rising beyond the agreed limit.”

Secondly, the Durban COP said very firmly that the 2015 COP in Paris would deliver “a new and universal greenhouse gas reduction protocol, legal instrument or other outcome with legal force that would set requirements for the period beyond 2020.” This specification of a “legal instrument” or “legal force” was agreed to by the United States, China and the other key players right there in Durban with the whole world watching.

The likelihood Paris will produce a binding treaty was cast into doubt when the Financial Times interviewed US Secretary of State John Kerry a few weeks ago. Kerry told FT there were "not going to be legally binding reduction targets like Kyoto.”

French President Hollande immediately replied in the press that "if the agreement is not legally binding, there will be no agreement. We must give the Paris agreement, if there is one, a binding character in the sense that the commitments that are made must be kept and respected."

“This is not hot air. This is a real agreement, with real terms,” said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Backpeddling under fire, a spokesperson for the US state department told The New York Times that while the FT article "may have been read to suggest that the US supports a completely nonbinding approach … that is not the case, and is not Secretary Kerry's position".

Holocene (blue) - Anthroocene (red)
COP18 in Doha was, as we said, the start of the Paris prelude. One significant bump was release of The World Bank's "Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided", showing that the world is on track towards a 4 degrees Celsius temperature rise, should the currently inadequate level of ambition remain. Doha responded to that challenge by triggering the Durban process to review the long-term temperature goal. They set up a Structured Expert Dialog – 70 wise men – that was to start in 2013 and conclude by 2015.

COP19 in Warsaw moved us a little closer. The rulebook for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) was agreed, together with measures to bolster forest preservation and a results-based payment system to promote forest protection. Overdeveloped countries met the target capitalization of $100 million for the Adaptation Fund, which can now fund priority projects. Governments established the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage to address losses and damages associated with long-term climate change impacts in countries that are especially vulnerable to such impacts.

COP20 in Lima was more of the same, more agenda-setting for the run-up to Paris and the signing of a formal treaty. It came close to faltering over the issue of “common but differentiated responsibilities,” (the distinction between the expected pledges from overdeveloped and underdeveloping Parties). At COP 17 in Durban in 2011, countries agreed that the post-2020 actions to be negotiated in Paris would be “applicable to all.” Alton Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists observed:
The differentiation issue nearly blocked the final decision in Lima, where the stakes were actually quite small. In Paris next year, the stakes will be quite high: nothing less than the shape of the climate regime for the next several decades. It will not be possible to paper over sharp differences on this issue with artful language that different groupings can interpret in a way favorable to their position, as happened in the last hours of Lima.

The anticipated report of the meeting of the 70 wise men, the Structured Expert Dialog or “SED,” was issued in February 2015 and reviewed by government delegates at the pre-COP meeting in Bonn in June. This is a very important 180-page document and bears spending some time to read.

The document divides the dialog into three parts: Theme 1 – the adequacy of the long-term global goal
 in the light of the ultimate objective; Theme 2 – overall progress made towards achieving the long-term global goal; Theme 3 — consideration of strengthening the long-term global goal.

It starts off addressing whether temperature is an adequate warning gauge for climate change:
Message 1: A long term global goal defined by a temperature limit serves its purpose well… Adding other limits to the long-term global goal, such as sea level rise or ocean acidification, only reinforces the basic finding emerging from the analysis of the temperature limit, namely that we need to take urgent and strong action to reduce GHG emissions.

That is followed by this rather disturbing chart:

On the Y axis or axis of ordinates is temperature change in degrees C. To the left of the vertical axis line is a set of brightly colored bar graphs representing corresponding risks of each degree of warming.

Things to note:
  1.  Two degrees is far from safe. It represents “dangerous interference with climate systems” to quote the Framework Convention.
  2.  At 1.5 degrees there is a high degree of likelihood we will lose unique and threatened systems and experience extreme weather events. (Note, the risk of extreme weather at today's 1-degree elevation is considered moderate). At 2 degrees these move into the deep red and the distribution of impacts becomes high, meaning almost no-one escapes.
On the X axis or axis of abscissas, are the cumulative total emissions of CO2 since 1870. Right now we have taken about 2500 GtCO2 out of the ground, resulting in a net atmospheric concentration of 400 ppm. The chart reports that we could probably go to 4000 GtCO2 and 580 ppm before we exceed the 2 degree limit. This is dangerous nonsense and one is left scratching one's head at how this could have been decided. It guarantees resumption of that food fight between India, Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil and others about how many “parking spaces” in that big parking lot in the sky remain for “sustainable development” (read: still to be constructed coal plants).

Here is a short run-down of the other messages of the Structured Expert Dialog:

On Theme One:
  • Limiting global warming to below 2 °C necessitates a radical transition (deep decarbonization now and going forward), not merely a fine tuning of current trends.
  • Risks will be increasingly unevenly distributed; responses need to be made by each location.
  • The ‘guard rail’ concept, which implies a warming limit that guarantees full protection from dangerous anthropogenic interference, no longer works. What is called for is a consideration of societally acceptable risk.
  • At 4 degrees effects are non-linear; more than double 2 degrees. The catch potential of fisheries would be greatly reduced and crop production would be beyond adaptation in many areas. Sea level rise would far exceed 1 m.

On Theme Two:
  • We know how to measure progress on mitigation but not on adaptation.
  • The world is not on track to achieve the long-term global goal, but successful mitigation policies are known and must be scaled up urgently.
  • Under present economic regimes, spending on ‘brown’ technologies will continue to grow faster than spending on green technologies. 
  • Scaling up means putting a price on carbon and promoting low-carbon technologies, so that their share becomes dominant.

On Theme Three:
  • The ‘guard rail’ concept, in which up to 2 °C of warming is considered safe, is inadequate and would therefore be better seen as an upper limit, a defense line that needs to be stringently defended, while less warming would be preferable. 
  • Limiting global warming to below 2 °C is still feasible and will bring about many co-benefits, but poses substantial technological, economic and institutional challenges.
  • Parties may wish to take a precautionary route by aiming for limiting global warming as far below 2 °C as possible, discarding the notion of a guardrail but thinking more of a defense line or even a buffer zone.
We shall return to these themes in our next post. Tomorrow is the Summit's opening day. Those interested can follow us in real time on Twitter: @peaksurfer.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Cool Buildings

"Never live with a TV, never have keys or locks, never have debt, never own anything costing more than $1000.-- Ianto Evans"

Twenty years ago many of the North American pioneers of strawbale, cob, timber frame, round pole and other forms of “natural building” came together up a remote mountain canyon in New Mexico at a lovely old log mansion called Black Range Lodge. The Lodge and the small hamlet of Kingston, populated with many lovely homes of strawbale and cob, are nestled in the foothills of the 3 million acre Gila Wilderness, a taste of the Old West halfway between Truth or Consequences and Silver City. The hostess was Catherine Wanek, author of The New Strawbale Home and several other great books, whose family owned the Lodge, and who with her partner, Pete Fust, the king of "tractor cob," tried to build interest in these new versions of ancient practices. 

We first met Catherine when she came to videotape our strawbale construction course at The Farm in 1996, with Jon and Mitzi Ruiz who had been sent to help us by Matts Myhrmann and Judy Knox at Out-On-Bale in Tucson. At that Black Range meeting the year before, Catherine had coined the term “natural building” to distinguish these emerging styles and philosophy from “green buildings,” “smart buildings” or other styles just coming into popular use. 

Natural buildings don't require gadgets or energy systems. They can be built with tools your grandparents would have recognized, or sometimes with no tools at all. They can be built without a mortgage. They can endure long past the lifetime of many building products and styles today, and when they are no longer safe or useful to live in, they compost back into the ground leaving no toxic residues.


What are Natural Buildings? 
Marcos Grossman, who sponsors the private Facebook group, Natural Builders (with 16,845 members), defines them this way:

"A natural building involves a range of building systems and materials that place major emphasis on sustainability. Ways of achieving sustainability through natural building focus on durability and the use of minimally processed, plentiful or renewable resources, as well as those that, while recycled or salvaged, produce healthy living environments and maintain indoor air quality. Natural building tends to rely on human labor, more than technology. As Michael G. Smith observes, it depends on 'local ecology, geology and climate; on the character of the particular building site, and on the needs and personalities of the builders and users.'
“The basis of natural building is the need to lessen the environmental impact of buildings and other supporting systems, without sacrificing comfort or health. To be more sustainable, natural building uses primarily abundantly available, renewable, reused or recycled materials. The use of rapidly renewable materials is increasingly a focus. In addition to relying on natural building materials, the emphasis on the architectural design is heightened. The orientation of a building, the utilization of local climate and site conditions, the emphasis on natural ventilation through design, fundamentally lessen operational costs and positively impact the environmental. Building compactly and minimizing the ecological footprint is common, as are on-site handling of energy acquisition, on-site water capture, alternate sewage treatment and water reuse."

California bambusero Kevin Rowell says,

“Natural Builders collaborate with artists, building professionals, and individuals in a range of fields, from the creation of ecological spaces, to the development of new materials, to the understanding and improvement of vernacular building techniques.”

Last month some of the world's most accomplished natural builders returned to Black Range Lodge for a 20th anniversary celebration and colloquium. Their names are too many to recite here, but many are pictured or mentioned in posts by Ziggy Liloia and Eva Edelson. There are photos of ourselves and Ziggy on Eva's site, making corn tortillas on the Rocket-Fired Griddle Oven designed and built by Flemming Abrahamson of Fornyet Energi and Max Edleson of Firespeaking.

The breadth of creative building styles was amazing. Hands-on workshops, powerpoint presentations, films and discussion groups showed us the latest in strawbale, cob, adobe, earthbag, cordwood, timber frame, greywater systems, rainwater harvesting, pallet truss and wallboard construction, papercrete moldings, treehouses, bendy-board, round pole, stone, bamboo, ovens, tamped earthen floors, mixed and troweled earth and lime plasters, tadalac waterproof finish coats, painted aliz, Japanese, Nepalese, Ecuadoran, Taiwanese techniques, old English tudor restorations, living roofs and integrated food systems. Even many of the songs sung around the campfire were informative as well as hilarious.

A sampling of our notes:

“Above all, less.” — Ianto Evans

Ianto's rules about houses: Never live with a TV, never have keys or locks, never have debt, never own anything costing more than $1000.

“The finer the edge, the clearer the transmission of your body and your craft.” — Robert LaPorte on sharpening tools.

Before applying clay to wattle, cob or plaster, Japanese master craftsmen ferment the clay with chopped straw for one month to one year. It makes for better drying without cracking, good adhesion, and ability to absorb shock.

Lime is active when it is wet. Keep everything dry and tools clean and you won't get hurt. Someone just coming to a site to volunteer should start by going around and cleaning everything they can find. Keep the site and the tools clean at each stage of the process.

SunRay Kelley on his famous Yoga Studio door: “I don't think there is any door in the world that compares to it. It is the door we all come into the world through.”

“Wind swirls, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes — the last buildings standing are the round ones. Every time you build with parallel lines you are just setting up dominoes.” – SunRay Kelley

“Proprietary Refractory Mix” — How Keiko Denzer describes cob on construction permit applications.

Our small contribution to the colloquium consisted of a couple of “soapbox” sessions on using biochar in natural buildings to sequester carbon, clean indoor air, and provide other useful functions. Part of our process is helping others to understand the key difference between labile and recalcitrant carbon.

Labile carbon

 Soil organic matter is made up of different pools which vary in their turnover time or rate of decomposition. The labile pool, which turns over relatively rapidly (< 5 years), results from the cycling of fresh residues such as plant material (leaf litter, dead roots and branches) and living organisms (earthworms, beetles, animal scat, bacteria and fungi). This is normal organic decomposition. The byproducts are gases such as carbon dioxide and methane – which waft up into the atmosphere adding to the greenhouse effect for a few years before raining back down on land and sea – and organic soil carbon, which cycles to feed microbiota, plants and animals such as ourselves

More resistant labile residues are physically or chemically protected and are slower to turn over (5-40 years). Protected humus, peat, and decay-resistant woody biomass falls into this category. Much of this labile carbon pool is necessary to provide free carbon for the formation of new growth. So, for instance, if the stalks of corn are consistently removed or burned in the field after harvesting the grain, after some time the soil in the field will be too low in carbon to produce tall corn, even with chemical fertilizer. The traditional method would be to graze cattle, who are woody-biomass ruminants by nature (not grain or grass feeders) on the corn stover, and the manures they deposit would contain all of that carbon, processed into a form that will be most easily used by the soil microbes and available to next season's plants.
The labile carbon pool has been to shown to be influenced by the retention of stubble residues, with a decline in nitrogen supply of up to 4 kg/ha/day on removal of these residues. Green manure crops and phase pastures are an ideal way of providing soil with a ‘pulse’ of labile carbon that can have benefits over several years, but in most Australian farming systems crop roots, stubble and animal by-products are the usual carbon sources. In tropical soils, increasing amounts of labile carbon have been associated with higher grain yields.
– Fran Hoyle (Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia), Daniel Murphy (The University of Western Australia) and Jessica Sheppard (Avon Catchment Council),

Recalcitrant carbon

There is a form of carbon that makes up the stable soil organic matter pool which can take hundreds to millions of years to turn over. Recalcitrant carbon in the form of man-made biochar can be found dating back 8000 years in the Central Amazon and was a key component of the Terra Preta soils that enabled the rise of great civilizations in the Americas before European contact. The oldest known forms of recalcitrant carbon trace back long before the ascent of man, to the earliest forests on Earth, 500 million years ago. For a form of carbon to remain that long undigested by microbes, it must really be recalcitrant!

Infilling straw foundation with pumice
- could as easily be biochar
This form of carbon is key to understanding the importance of biochar and its potential to reverse catastrophic climate change and get us back within a safe operating boundary on the carbon cycle. We can transform a fraction of the labile carbon, made available to us in abundance by photosynthesis, into recalcitrant carbon. We can even do that while co-generating electricity, cooking, or otherwise tapping the heat of the pyrolytic process. Using these permaculture techniques, we can intercept the flow of carbon from earth to sky (and thence, in part, to ocean as rain) and instead hold that carbon in the topsoil for thousands of years, where it works to help plants grow by storing water, nutrients and beneficial biological allies, rather than as building blocks for cellular development of the plants.

To change the direction we are headed, we need to take concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere (and other trace gases that also trap heat) back to pre-industrial levels. We are now one degree warmer and the atmosphere contains 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Paleoclimatology tells us that 440 parts per million should translate to 7 to 10 degrees of warming, so we know that is baked into the cake at this point, we just haven't allowed time for equilibrium to be achieved. We'll speak more to this in forthcoming posts from the Paris climate talks. How do we get from 400 or 440 ppm back to 350 or 260 ppm? Recalcitrant carbon.

Changing agriculture may or may not be enough to reverse climate change. That is a big claim, and while we respect many of those who make it, we question whether labile carbon sequestration is enough to do the trick. We think recalcitrant carbon is more than enough, but why limit our pallet to agricultural operations? Biochar applied to living roofs makes them more drought and flood resistant; applied to plasters allows them to absorb pollen and pollutants while moderating humidity of indoor spaces; applied to stains provides color while preserving woods and reducing mold and mildew in closets; and applied anywhere locks up carbon for the life of the building and then beyond, for thousands of years.

In a recent post to our Facebook page, Michael Tobis commented:
I haven't hear the words "labile" and "recalcitrant" in this context before, but that seems about right. Restoring preindustrial soil works out to be woefully inadequate to getting CO2 back under control. 

If we could contrive to have ten or twenty times the natural soil that would be another matter. I would love to have an idea whether this is possible. But I am finding it hard to engage soil experts in the question of whether and how that would be possible. …
A lot of people think agriculture is the key carbon problem. It all comes down to food in the end of course, but as someone who is now happily meat and dairy free except on rare occasions, I am not worried about the food supply as such. People are starving due to concentration of wealth, which leads to excess production of luxury goods at the expense of basic foods for all. It is not due to a physical incapacity to produce enough food. 

But the carbon problem is about new (OK, well, ancient but long-buried) fossil carbon suddenly injected into the biosphere. If there's a solution to rolling the problem back (rather than just slowing the ratcheting up) it has two parts 1) pulling the extra carbon out of the air (or ocean) and 2) putting it somewhere. No matter how good we get at part 1, it's no help without part 2.
We agree with what was said by Michael, and we would add this: human civilization is already in massive “overshoot” of CO2 emissions to the tune of some 1380 GtCO2 added to the atmosphere after we passed the critical point at around 330 ppm where we guaranteed eventual warming of 2 degrees.  This carbon debt is currently increasing at a rate of about 40 GtCO2 per year pushing us further into climate debt and higher up the thermometer. The UN targets for Paris propose an emissions allowance of a further 950 GtCO2 by the end of the century (about 1 trillion tons), which could push temperatures to 5 degrees by then, and much higher later when equilibrium is reached. It would be game over for mammals such as ourselves on this planet.

We need to reduce concentrations, not merely slow emissions. We have to go to zero and then beyond. By 2050 at the earliest and 2070 at the latest, concentrations need to have come back to 330 parts per million. We have only a few decades to get that much into the ground.

The suite of carbon farming tools can, taken to scale, account for 50 GtC/yr removal annually. Biochar (which could be coming from ethically managed biomass energy systems) is 10 to 20 percent of that and it is recalcitrant; integrated grasslands, agroforestry and land management practices make up the rest, and although made of labile, they are capable of pushing the cycle longer than 5 years — out to several decades, which is what we need right now. A universal overnight change of agriculture and energy systems alone could remove 1400 GtC from the atmosphere in 28 years, although it will not scale that quickly, but 50 years is certainly within the realm of possibility. One way to make it go faster, and last longer, is to find more applications for biochar.
Biochar is the latest tool in the natural builders' toolbox. Returning after a week at the Colloquium, we got this message from someone who had also attended:
Tonight I snuggled with my boys and said prayers as usual. Tonight my 4th grader Alex said, "If I was running for President I would make sure that everybody supported the biochar solution. And that everybody also supported natural building solutions." Yeah! Maybe you should focus on speaking to the younger generations! Their time is NOW!


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Blowback Paris: Exxonomics 102

"‘If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks, they’d seize oil fields to fund their ambitions.' - George W. Bush, 2006"

This past week a number of our respected readers took us to task for our post, Exxonomics 101, not because we were wrong (although we were visited by our usual gaggle of climate deniers) but because we had made so many bald statements about US foreign policy without referencing sources.

We wrote:
"That whole shooting match in Syria, driving millions of refugees into Europe, is about whether Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Russia and Iran and a proponent of a gas pipeline from Iran across Kurdistan to the sea, will be deposed by ISIS terrorists trained by CIA in the Colonel Kurtz style of spectacular horror and funded by the Pentagon so that the US could instead build a pipeline to European markets through Syria from Iraq. The Russian Air Force, with a new generation of fighters that can fly circles around anything built by Lockheed Martin, is looking like it will decide that one. It is pulverizing ISIS."

We find our critics' point about undocumented sources valid, so this week we'll dive deeper into the morass which is petropolitics in hopes of speeding the day it will become paleopolitics. This will be about three times longer than our usual post. We could have broken it into three parts – a four semester course in Exxonomics – but we could just visualize our regular readers slipping out for a smoke in the parking lot.

On Friday evening Paris was attacked by a coordinated, well-armed guerrilla group that caused at least 129 deaths and 352 injuries, 99 critical, while losing 8 jihadis. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. As we shall show in this post, direct responsibility for the attack traces back to President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Parenthetically, Sen. Bernie Sanders on September 18 voted against the United States financing, training and arming ISIS by proxy astroturf Syrian "freedom fighters.") The Paris attacks are being called France's worst terrorist attack, but only a day earlier, ISIL attacks on Beirut left 41 dead and 181 injured and in the week before IS is believed to have downed a Russian passenger jet over Egypt with 224 people on board. 

The President of France was quick to link the attacks to its own military action in Syria, calling for stronger efforts at "regime change" to oust Assad. In the Syrian conflict, France is anti-Assad. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is pro-Assad. Russia is an ally of Assad. The ISIS targeting has nothing to do with President Bashir Al-Assad. It has to do with confusion.

The Origins of ISIS

In our humble opinion, it should be abundantly clear that the Beltway NeoCons, who were unable to gain much traction for their most wacky ideas with Carter, Bush-I or Bill Clinton, burned rubber with Bush-II, a.k.a. Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice. Yahoooo! Just wait until they meet Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

Pushed to the fore during that golden era of unaccountability was the proposition that for Right Wing Christianity to prevail over Fundamentalist Islam in the Battle of Armageddon to come, it will be necessary to fragment the Middle East and to get those Oil Sheiks and Gas Kings who are busy spending petrodollars on military hardware to fight each other.

Ronald Reagan meets with future Al Qaeda leaders in the White House
Zbigniew Brzezinski:
Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul.

Last week touched some nerves when we described the US’s 9/11 moment as a new Pearl Harbor,  despite the loss of fewer civilian casualties that day than when GHW Bush galloped through Panama City chasing after one of our assets gone off reservation. Then followed the “smoking gun” Kabuki at the UN Security Council, untold billions in small bills being offloaded from numerous C-130J Super Hercules for delivery to non-state-actors, the downing of Paul Wellstone’s plane, and we’ll anthrax your mailbox if you oppose us on this.

We know, even fellow travelers like James Howard Kunstler just closed their laptops and walked away. If you are allergic to conspiracies, well, sorry. Conspire means to breathe together. If you are willing to stick around, then take a deep breath.

We opined long ago that the YouTube'd kidnapping and beheading of Daniel Pearl was at the behest of the CIA because he was a loudmouth. The orange jumpsuit was a pretty good “tell” that this was not just a ragtag band of rag-head discontents putting a knife to his throat. Now we propose to prove that.

Here are a few more threads:
Although the FBI now admits that the 2001 anthrax attacks were carried out by one or more U.S. government scientists,  a senior FBI official says that the FBI was actually told to blame the Anthrax attacks on Al Qaeda by White House officials (remember what the anthrax letters looked like). Government officials also confirm that the white House tried to link the anthrax to Iraq as a justification for regime change in that country.
Similarly, the U.S. falsely blamed Iraq for playing a role in the 9/11 attacks – as shown by a memo from the defense secretary – as one of the main justifications for launching the Iraq war. Even after the 9/11 Commission admitted that there was no connection, Dick Cheney said that the evidence is “overwhelming” that al Qaeda had a relationship with Saddam Hussein’s regime, that Cheney “probably” had information unavailable to the Commission, and that the media was not ‘doing their homework’ in reporting such ties. Top U.S. government officials now admit that the Iraq war was really launched for oil … not 9/11 or weapons of mass destruction (despite previous “lone wolf” claims, many U.S. government officials now say that 9/11 was state-sponsored terror; but Iraq was not the state which backed the hijackers).
In a thorough but very long post by Washington's Blog on September 11, 2015, Antiwar’s Justin Raimondo observes:
Iraq’s fate was sealed from the moment we invaded: it has no future as a unitary state. As I pointed out again and again in the early days of the conflict, Iraq is fated to split apart into at least three separate states: the Shi’ite areas around Baghdad and to the south, the Sunni regions to the northwest, and the Kurdish enclave which was itching for independence since well before the US invasion. This was the War Party’s real if unexpressed goal from the very beginning: the atomization of Iraq, and indeed the entire Middle East. Their goal, in short, was chaos – and that is precisely what we are seeing today.
Europe is reeling from the waves of refugees pouring across every border as people from all walks of life flee from the randomized violence wrought by this atomization, set against a background of unsustainable population growth, resource depletion and rapid climate change. In Syria, with a population of little more than Florida, some 250,000 civilians have been killed by the violence brought about by the Western attempt at regime change. And yet there seems to be a disconnect between cause and effect, as a disproportionate amount of money is spent to atomize more while band-aids like border detention centers are erected to further victimize the victims.
"You will find that regime change-- whether it was in the early '50s in Iran, whether it was toppling Salvador Allende in Chile or whether it was overthrowing the government Guatemala way back when-- these invasions, these-- these toppling of governments, regime changes have unintended consequences." -- Sen. Bernie Sanders

It seems evident to us, if not to most, that President Obama and Hillary Clinton were initiated to the strategy of inflicted chaos some time ago, perhaps during the 2008 transition when Brzezinski was on the Obama foreign policy team, or maybe earlier, when Obama studied under Zbiggy at Columbia. Since 2010 they have extended the plan to other parts of the Empire. Hence Victoria Nuland’s mischief in Kiev -- the Balkanization of the Balkins if you will. Puerto Rico wants to become the 51st State but they may have to stand in line behind Estonia.

One of our critics said we were not known as an expert on foreign affairs, but, hey, news flash! We don’t claim to be expert on anything. We are merely opinionated, like Donald Trump or Quentin Tarrentino. Still, it might be worth tracing the evidentiary breadcrumbs we have been following.

The ‘Skittles’ Theory

Brian Whitaker, writing for The Guardian in September, 2003, said the game plan among Washington's hawks has long been to reshape the Middle East along US-Israeli lines.
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt predicted devastating consequences for the Middle East if Iraq is attacked. “We fear a state of disorder and chaos may prevail in the region,” he said.

They are probably still splitting their sides with laughter in the Pentagon. But Mr Mubarak and the [Pentagon] hawks do agree on one thing: war with Iraq could spell disaster for several regimes in the Middle East. Mr. Mubarak believes that would be bad. The hawks, though, believe it would be good.

For the hawks, disorder and chaos sweeping through the region would not be an unfortunate side-effect of war with Iraq, but a sign that everything is going according to plan.


The “skittles theory” of the Middle East – that one ball aimed at Iraq can knock down several regimes – has been around for some time on the wilder fringes of politics but has come to the fore in the United States on the back of the “war against terrorism”.

Its roots can be traced, at least in part, to a paper published in 1996 by an Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. Entitled “A clean break: a new strategy for securing the realm”, it was intended as a political blueprint for the incoming government of Binyamin Netanyahu. As the title indicates, it advised the right-wing Mr Netanyahu to make a complete break with the past by adopting a strategy “based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism ….”


The paper set out a plan by which Israel would “shape its strategic environment”, beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad.

With Saddam out of the way and Iraq thus brought under Jordanian Hashemite influence, Jordan and Turkey would form an axis along with Israel to weaken and “roll back” Syria. Jordan, it suggested, could also sort out Lebanon by “weaning” the Shia Muslim population away from Syria and Iran, and re-establishing their former ties with the Shia in the new Hashemite kingdom of Iraq. “Israel will not only contain its foes; it will transcend them”, the paper concluded.


The leader of the “prominent opinion makers” who wrote it was Richard Perle – now [2003] chairman of the Defence Policy Board at the Pentagon. Also among the eight-person team was Douglas Feith, a neo-conservative lawyer, who now holds one of the top four posts at the Pentagon as under-secretary of policy.


Two other opinion-makers in the team were David Wurmser and his wife, Meyrav (see US think tanks give lessons in foreign policy, August 19). Mrs Wurmser was co-founder of Memri, a Washington-based charity that distributes articles translated from Arabic newspapers portraying Arabs in a bad light. After working with Mr Perle at the American Enterprise Institute, David Wurmser is now at the State Department, as a special assistant to John Bolton, the under-secretary for arms control and international security.

A fifth member of the team was James Colbert, of the Washington-based Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (Jinsa) – a bastion of neo-conservative hawkery whose advisory board was previously graced by Dick Cheney (now US vice-president), John Bolton and Douglas Feith.
The rise of the Islamic State
"At times it can resemble Andy Kaufman in the wrestling ring, taunting Memphis hayseeds that he's from Hollywood, where people use their brains." — Bill Maher on the ISIS threat.
On October 14, 2015, Sophie Shevardnadze interviewed FBI whistleblower Sibel Edwards for the back story on US covert support for ISIS. President Obama had just come out to say the rise of Islamic State was never properly addressed by the U.S. intelligence community. Dangling from the President's puppet strings, Vice-President Biden then stepped to the Press Room podium to scapegoat NATO and its Arab allies, saying it was they who funded jihadists, not the US. (Laughter). This is still the official position. Lets look at the evidence.

This video from LiveLeak shows an Apache attack helicopter following a huge ISIS convoy of white pickup trucks crossing from Iraq to Syria but instead of attacking is more or less “escorting” it across the border. The key "tell" is not the Apache but the Toyotas. While crossing the desert for 3 days in a very long convoy line, they did not elicit a military response from NATO or the US in spite of 24/7 satellite surveillance.

That still does not pin it on the US. ISIS could be supported by our NATO allies, whom Biden says are the real bad actors here. The Apache might just be supporting evil NATO.

But then, U.S. counter-terror officials launched an investigation into how ISIS got so many of those identical Toyota pickup trucks for their convoys.

The Spectator reported:
The [Toyota] Hilux is light, fast, manoeuvrable and all but indestructible (‘bomb-proof’ might not, in this instance, be a happy usage).  The weapons experts Jane’s claimed for the Hilux a similar significance to the longbows of Agincourt or the Huey choppers of Nam. A US Army Ranger said the Toyota sure ‘kicks the hell out of a Humvee’ (referring to the clumsy and over-sized High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle made by AM General).

The fact is the Toyotas were supplied by the US government to the Al Nusra Front as ‘non-lethal aid’ then ‘acquired’ by ISIS.

This is how it was outlined by PRI (Public Radio International):
Recently, when the US State Department resumed sending non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels, the delivery list included 43 Toyota trucks. Hiluxes were on the Free Syrian Army’s wish list. Oubai Shahbander, a Washington-based advisor to the Syrian National Coalition, is a fan of the truck.

“Specific equipment like the Toyota Hiluxes are what we refer to as force enablers for the moderate opposition forces on the ground,” he adds. Shahbander says the US-supplied pickups will be delivering troops and supplies into battle. Some of the fleet will even become battlefield weapons.
That’s exactly what happened, along with shoulder-fired Manpad ground-to-air missiles, TOW antitank missiles and other fancy smart weapons. As the Wall Street Journal reports:
The U.S. and its regional allies agreed to increase shipments of weapons and other supplies to help moderate Syrian rebels hold their ground and challenge the intervention of Russia and Iran on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, U.S. officials and their counterparts in the region said.
It now appears that while Russian fighter jets can evade or outrun Manpad missiles, ISIS may have used a Manpad to shoot down a Russian civilian airliner last week, killing more innocent civilians than died in Paris.

Al Nusra Front is literally Al Qaeda. The director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan – Lt. General William Odom said:
By any measure the US has long used terrorism. In ‘78-79 the Senate was trying to pass a law against international terrorism – in every version they produced, the lawyers said the US would be in violation.
Here is a part of last month's exchange between Sophie Shevardnadze and Sibel Edwards:
SS: Now, the former CIA chief and the ex-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. is looking at at least a 30-year war against ISIS, which is not at all what the White House is telling the public. Is he exaggerating? What’s your estimate?
SE: I would say it’s a very short period; I’m really surprised, because we just talked about the brand change. The war against Al-Qaeda was declared as a “forever war” and it has been expanding. I mean, when the war against Al-Qaeda started, it was supposed to be in Afghanistan, and we started chasing Al-Qaeda in Yemen, and Pakistan with all the drone attacks, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and the fact that this was going to be a forever war… and now that the brand has changed to ISIS, I’m very surprised that the former FBI director is stamping it with a short-time period. I believe 30 year period is very short, unless that have already in plan other sects or other factions that they are going to declare the “world’s great and most dangerous terrorists”, I would say it’s a very short period of time. We currently are more interested in an ongoing, never-ending, perpetual war, so I would, if you compare it with what we have been characterizing - or our government and the media – Al-Qaeda, I’m surprised that he has put such a short time-stamp on ISIS. Considering the attraction, or the attractiveness, of the brand, because it has the world “Islam” built into it, and let’s just forget Al-Qaeda. I mean, Al-Qaeda was the just the noun, the name – and this case you’re looking at the far-reaching implications. Now you declare that current greatest threatening organization that has the word “Islam” built into it – and I think it’s much more attractive to be used. So, I would say, yeah, it should be forever. I’m surprised it’s 30 years.


SS: All right, here’s another possible and interesting turn of events – FBI chief James Comey warned terrorists are working on an effort to attack the U.S. very-very soon. Is the U.S. ready to respond?

SE: We have to look at different things and see why this statement was made. Is it based on some sort of facts and real solid intelligence gathered, or is it the fact that… for example, we have had for the TSA, for the flights, the threat level has been really low, and when that goes for a long time, people get antsy, they say “This is really annoying to have all these screens out there and going through them, we haven’t had any terrorist threats really, the level has not been blinking red or even orange, it’s been yellow, let’s go through the rainbow colors” – so, it’s time to re-energize the Americans with the fear of terrorism. We need to have more expenditure for things to put in place, because we can go ahead and increase the threat level within the airports. Let me give you an example. If you look at the stock market and stock prices for all the military-industrial complex-related companies and firms, you will see how they have just gone up tremendously since the brand switch from Al-Qaeda to ISIS, and this is, again, the brand-change I’m referring to, this is when you say “yes, now we can go ahead and produce and sell more to the government and it will spend billions more”. So, the same thing is true for the internal security, fear-mongering factors on the ground in the U.S. It’s time to re-energize that fear, and that is exactly what they are doing. What’s going to follow this is there’s going to be more measures put in place, whether it’s in the airports, or whether it’s the hiring within the FBI, or increasing the number of informants. Those are the things that are going to follow this announcement: “we have to have more expenditure, because of the public consent, because the fear level is going to go up, and therefore those expenditures are going to be justified” – and it is that simple as that.
A quick history refresher on Syria:
  • The U.S. carried out a coup in Syria in 1949. The reason? In late 1945, the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO) announced plans to construct the Trans-Arabian Pipe Line (TAPLINE) from Saudi Arabia to the Mediterranean. With U.S. help, ARAMCO secured rights-of-way from Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The part crossing Syria stalled in the Syrian parliament.
  •  In 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once more agreed to use Arab extremists – including the Muslim Brotherhood –  to effect regime change in Syria. A joint CIA-MI6 operation was launched to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for an invasion by Syria’s pro-western neighbors, and then to “eliminate” the top figures.
  • The U.S. has been arming the Syrian opposition since 2006, years before the present uprising started.
  • It was the “rebels” – not the Syrian government – who carried out the chemical weapons massacre in Syria.
  • The CIA plotted to poison the Iraqi leader in 1960.
  • In 1963, the U.S. backed the coup which succeeded in killing the head of Iraq.
  • Until he was toppled by a popular uprising, the US supported the tyrannical rule of the Shah of Iran and supplied his military with the latest in weapons and aircraft.
  • Syria controls one of the largest conventional hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
  • Syria controls of one of the main oil arteries of the Middle East, the pipeline which connects pro-western Iraq’s oilfields to Turkey.
  • Syria possessed 2.5 billion barrels of crude oil as of January 2013, which makes it the largest proved reserve of crude oil in the eastern Mediterranean according to the Oil & Gas Journal estimate.
  • Syria also has oil shale resources with estimated reserves that range as high as 50 billion tons, according to a Syrian government source in 2010.
  • Syria is the key link in the flow of any oil or gas from Iraq or Iran to the Mediterranean and thence to Europe.
  • Because of the sordid role of the US in his country's history, Bashir Al-Assad tilts towards Russia and Iran, and away from the US and Iraq.
The New York Times writes:
President Obama’s determination to train Syrian rebels to serve as ground troops against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria leaves the United States dependent on a diverse group riven by infighting, with no shared leadership and with hard-line Islamists as its most effective fighters.

After more than three years of civil war, there are hundreds of militias fighting President Bashar al-Assad — and one another. Among them, even the more secular forces have turned to Islamists for support and weapons over the years, and the remaining moderate rebels often fight alongside extremists like the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.


The fluidity of battlefield alliances in Syria means that even mainline rebels often end up fighting alongside the Nusra Front, whose suicide bombers are relied on by other groups to soften up government targets.

“Even the groups that the U.S. has trained tend to show up in the same trenches as the Nusra Front eventually, because they need them and they are fighting the same battles,” Mr. Lund said.


Current and former American officials acknowledge the government’s lack of deep knowledge about the rebels. “We need to do everything we can to figure out who the non-ISIS opposition is,” said Ryan C. Crocker, a former United States ambassador to Iraq and Syria. “Frankly, we don’t have a clue.”
Washington’s Blog wrote in September:
And yet, as the Wall Street Journal,  PBS, CNN, New York Times, Medium, Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Seymour Hersh and others note, the U.S. and its allies have poured huge amounts of weapons and support to the Syrian Islamic “rebels”. This is in spite of the CIA warning President Obama that arming rebels rarely works.

Washington wants regime change in Syria, so it’s making up a myth of the “moderate Syrian rebel” who hates Assad and ISIS. But they “don’t have a clue” as to whether such a mythical unicorn actually exists (spoiler alert: it doesn’t).
Its about Russia

Before the Russian Air Force entered the picture, ISIS had more than tripled the size of its territory in Syria and greatly expanded its territory in Iraq. Q: What does the Russian Air Force call all those stockpiles of expensive new arms and billions of dollar bills that ISIS has sitting on air-dropped, shrink-wrapped pallets all over Syria? A: Target practice. 

Despite US unwillingness to cooperate with Russia in destruction of ISIS and the White House complaining that President Vladimir Putin was targeting its anti-Assad forces, Russia has been cooperating with the US-sponsored, Anti-Assad Free Syrian Army (FSA). Putin said on Friday that FSA had shared their intelligence on ISIS positions and convoys, which were then targeted by Russian airstrikes.

On November 9, 2015, RT-TV interviewed Oxford University's Sharmine Narwani about the conflict between the Russian anti-ISIS offensive and the US military objectives in Syria.
RT: What are the reasons, do you think the [US-Arab] coalition is breaking apart? How can the coalition increase the efficiency of its actions?
US air attack on Kobani, Syria 10/8/14. © Umit Bektas/Reuters
 SN: I see the coalition breaking apart or being redundant for two reasons. One is the lack of common objectives among the 11 actors participating in the coalition, but the other is more in lines with military strategy in fighting any war or conflict, anywhere. We’ve heard this over and over again in the Syrian conflict – you need a coordination of air force and ground power. The US-led coalition does not have this. Part of the reason it doesn’t have this is because it entered Syrian air space and violated international law in doing so against the wishes of the Syrian government. So it cannot coordinate with the Syrian government who leads the ground activities, whether it is the Syrian army or various Syrian militias that are pro-government; or Hezbollah – a non-state actor from Lebanon; or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their advisory capacity. The Russians of course do enjoy that relationship, so their airstrikes are not only both valid and legal, but also useful – a coordinated effort to target ISIL and other terrorist organizations.
RT: Do you think the US doesn’t have real intentions to fight ISIS, and that is the main reason of instability of its coalition?

SN: Absolutely. The US-led coalition has failed in attaining goals to defeat ISIS, not just because it cannot lead a coordinated military effort in air, land and sea in Syria, or because it lacks legality, or because the member states of the coalition have diverging interests. But I think the US interest as well has to be called into question. I mean: does the US want to defeat ISIS? I would argue very strongly based on what we’ve seen in the last year that the US is not interested in defeating ISIS. The US is interested in perhaps controlling ISIS’ movements, so that it helps to create a geopolitical balance on the ground that will provide the US government and its allies with leverage at the negotiating table. So they don’t want ISIS to take over all of Syria [because] that poses threats to allies in the region. They don’t want ISIS and other terrorist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, and others, and the various coalitions they have formed to lose ground, because at the end of the day the only pressure there are going to be able to apply on the Syrian government and its allies is what is happening on the ground. And they need something; they need advantage on the ground that they can take with them to the negotiating table in Vienna. 

Its About Israel

General Wesley Clark – former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO – said:
It came back to me … a 1991 meeting I had with Paul Wolfowitz.

In 1991, he was the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy – the number 3 position at the Pentagon. And I had gone to see him when I was a 1-Star General commanding the National Training Center.


And I said, “Mr. Secretary, you must be pretty happy with the performance of the troops in Desert Storm.” And he said: “Yeah, but not really, because the truth is we should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein, and we didn’t … But one thing we did learn [from the Persian Gulf War] is that we can use our military in the region – in the Middle East – and the Soviets won’t stop us. And we’ve got about 5 or 10 years to clean up those old Soviet client regimes – Syria, Iran, Iraq – before the next great superpower comes on to challenge us.”

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense – and former 12-year Republican Senator – Chuck Hagel said of the Iraq war in 2007:
People say we’re not fighting for oil. Of course we are. They talk about America’s national interest. What the hell do you think they’re talking about? We’re not there for figs.
General John Abizaid – the former commander of CENTCOM with responsibility for Iraq – said:
Of course it’s about oil, it’s very much about oil, and we can’t really deny that.
President George W. Bush said in 2005 that keeping Iraqi oil away from the bad guys was a key motive for the Iraq war:
‘If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks, they’d seize oil fields to fund their ambitions.”
The Cheney Energy Task Force Report, Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century — a full five months before September 11 — describes how the West is facing the biggest energy crisis in its history because of Peak Oil. It named Saddam Hussain as a threat to American interests because of his control of Iraqi oilfields and recommended the use of ‘military intervention’ as a means to fix the US energy crisis.

One of the most telling passages in the document reads:
Iraq remains a destabilizing influence to … the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export program to manipulate oil markets.
Haaretz reported soon after the Iraq war started in 2003:
The United States has asked Israel to check the possibility of pumping oil from Iraq to the oil refineries in Haifa. The request came in a telegram last week from a senior Pentagon official to a top Foreign Ministry official in Jerusalem.

The Prime Minister’s Office, which views the pipeline to Haifa as a “bonus” the U.S. could give to Israel in return for its unequivocal support for the American-led campaign in Iraq, had asked the Americans for the official telegram.

The new pipeline would take oil from the Kirkuk area, where some 40 percent of Iraqi oil is produced, and transport it via Mosul, and then across Jordan to Israel. The U.S. telegram included a request for a cost estimate for repairing the Mosul-Haifa pipeline that was in use prior to 1948.  During the War of Independence [what Jews call the 1948 war to form the state of Israel], the Iraqis stopped the flow of oil to Haifa and the pipeline fell into disrepair over the years.


National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky said yesterday that the port of Haifa is an attractive destination for Iraqi oil and that he plans to discuss this matter with the U.S. secretary of energy during his planned visit to Washington next month.


In response to rumors about the possible Kirkuk-Mosul-Haifa pipeline, Turkey has warned Israel that it would regard this development as a serious blow to Turkish-Israeli relations.
Some of the seeds for the current conflict were sewn between 1932 and 1948. As Wikipedia explains:
Mosul-Haifa Pipeline 1935
The Mosul–Haifa oil pipeline (also known as Mediterranean pipeline) was a crude oil pipeline from the oil fields in Kirkuk, located in north Iraq, through Jordan to Haifa (now on the territory of Israel). The pipeline was operational in 1935–1948. Its length was about 942 kilometres (585 mi), with a diameter of 12 inches (300 mm) (reducing to 10 and 8 inches (250 and 200 mm) in parts), and it took about 10 days for crude oil to travel the full length of the line. The oil arriving in Haifa was distilled in the Haifa refineries, stored in tanks, and then put in tankers for shipment to Europe.

The pipeline was built by the Iraq Petroleum Company between 1932 and 1935, during which period most of the area through which the pipeline passed was under a British mandate approved by the League of Nations. The pipeline was one of two pipelines carrying oil from the Kirkuk oilfield to the Mediterranean coast. The main pipeline split at Haditha with a second line carrying oil to Tripoli, Lebanon, which was then under a French mandate. This line was built primarily to satisfy the demands of the French partner in IPC, Compagnie Française des Pétroles, for a separate line to be built across French mandated territory.

The pipeline and the Haifa refineries were considered strategically important by the British Government, and indeed provided much of the fuel needs of the British and American forces in the Mediterranean during the Second World War.

The pipeline was a target of attacks by Arab gangs during the Great Arab Revolt, and as a result one of the main objectives of a joint British-Jewish Special Night Squads commanded by Captain Orde Wingate was to protect the pipeline against such attacks. Later on, the pipeline was the target of attacks by the Irgun.

In 1948, with the outbreak of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the official operation of the pipeline ended when the Iraqi Government refused to pump any more oil through it.
Meanwhile, The Times of Israel reported in 2014:
A Free Syrian Army commander, arrested last month by the Islamist militia Al-Nusra Front, told his captors he collaborated with Israel in return for medical and military support, in a video released this week.

In a video uploaded to YouTube Monday … Sharif As-Safouri, the commander of the Free Syrian Army’s Al-Haramein Battalion, admitted to having entered Israel five times to meet with Israeli officers who later provided him with Soviet anti-tank weapons and light arms. Safouri was abducted by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front in the Quneitra area, near the Israeli border, on July 22.
International Business Times reported in 2003:
Halliburton [which Dick Cheney was President of] is one of the firms thought by analysts to be in line to make a killing in any clean-up operation after another US-led war on Iraq.

All five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the UK, France, China, Russia and the US — have international oil companies that would benefit from huge windfalls in the event of regime change in Baghdad. The best chance for US firms to make billions would come if Bush installed a pro-US Iraqi opposition member as the head of a new government.

Representatives of foreign oil firms have already met with leaders of the Iraqi opposition. Ahmed Chalabi, the London-based leader of the Iraqi National Congress, said: ‘American companies will have a big shot at Iraqi oil.’
Thomas Harrington, professor of Iberian Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, writes:
To read the cold-blooded imperial reasoning in both of these documents—which speak, in the first case, quite openly of the need to destabilize the region so as to reshape Israel’s “strategic environment” and, in the second of the need to dramatically increase the number of US “forward bases” in the region ….
To do so now, after the US’s systematic destruction of Iraq and Libya—two notably oil-rich countries whose delicate ethnic and religious balances were well known to anyone in or out of government with more than passing interest in history— and after carefully calibrated efforts to generate and maintain murderous and civilization-destroying stalemates in Syria and Egypt (something that is easily substantiated despite our media’s deafening silence on the subject), is downright blood-curdling.

And yet, it seems that for even very well-informed analysts, it is beyond the pale to raise the possibility that foreign policy elites in the US and Israel, like all virtually all the ambitious hegemons before them on the world stage, might have quite coldly and consciously fomented open-ended chaos in order to achieve their overlapping strategic objectives in this part of the world.
Antiwar’s Justin Raimondo observed:
“[T]he actual purpose [of the Iraq War] was to blow the country to smithereens: to atomize it, and crush it, so that it would never rise again.
“When we invaded and occupied Iraq, we didn’t just militarily defeat Iraq’s armed forces – we dismantled their army, and their police force, along with all the other institutions that held the country together. The educational system was destroyed, and not reconstituted. The infrastructure was pulverized, and never restored. Even the physical hallmarks of a civilized society – roads, bridges, electrical plants, water facilities, museums, schools – were bombed out of existence or else left to fall into disrepair. Along with that, the spiritual and psychological infrastructure that enables a society to function – the bonds of trust, allegiance, and custom – was dissolved, leaving Iraqis to fend for themselves in a war of all against all.

“… What we are witnessing in post-Saddam Iraq is the erasure of an entire country. We can say, with confidence: We came, we saw, we atomized.”
Mass deaths from terrorist attacks are now doubling every 2 years
Washington's Blog asks:
Why? This is the question that inevitably arises in the wake of such an analysis: why deliberately destroy an entire country whose people were civilized while our European ancestors were living in trees?

The people who planned, agitated for, and executed this war are the very same people who have advanced Israeli interests – at America’s expense – at every opportunity. In “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” a 1996 document prepared by a gaggle of neocons – Perle, Douglas Feith, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was urged to “break out” of Israel’s alleged stagnation and undertake a campaign of “regime change” across the Middle East, targeting Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and eventually Iran. With the exception of Iran – and that one’s still cooking on the back burner – this is precisely what has occurred. In 2003, in the immediate wake of our Pyrrhic “victory” in Iraq, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared to a visiting delegation of American members of Congress that these “rogue states” – Iran, Libya, and Syria – would have to be next on the War Party’s target list.
The Washington Post reported in 2010:
The United States has long been an exporter of terrorism, according to a secret CIA analysis released Wednesday by the Web site WikiLeaks.  That is the conclusion of the three-page classified paper produced in February, 2010 by the CIA's Red Cell, a think tank set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by then-CIA Director George J. Tenet to provide "out-of-the-box" analyses on "a full range of analytic issues."
We have Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange to thank for that disclosure. The President, when he is not reading to his daughters, is currently thanking Private Manning for her patriotism by torturing her (solitary confinement without reading material) over possessing expired toothpaste and the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair in her Ft. Leavenworth prison cell.

Forceful Persuasion: Coercive Diplomacy as an Alternative to War by Alexander L. George of Stanford University describes how the U.S. and its allies were the main supporters of terrorism throughout the world.

Terrorism is defined as:
 The use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
It seems to us, in our humble, non-expert opinion, that the War on Terror should not continue for generations more, but be brought to a swift end with an FBI raid and trial of the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, and on the private residence of Hillary Clinton, whose face is pictured at the top of this post.




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