Storms of My Grandchildren by Dr. James Hansen

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 11:34 PM GMT on July 26, 2010

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"Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity" is NASA climate change scientist Dr. James Hansen's first book. Dr. Hansen is arguably the most visible and well-respected climate change scientist in the world, and has headed the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City since 1981. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. Dr. Hansen greatly raised awareness of the threat of global warming during his Congressional testimony during the record hot summer of 1988, and issued one of the first-ever climate model predictions of global warming (see an analysis here to see how his 1988 prediction did.) In 2009, Dr. Hansen was awarded the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the American Meteorological Society, for his "outstanding contributions to climate modeling, understanding climate change forcings and sensitivity, and for clear communication of climate science in the public arena."

Storms of My Grandchildren focuses on the key concepts of the science of climate change, told through Hansen's personal experiences as a key player in field's scientific advancements and political dramas over the past 40 years. Dr. Hansen's writing style is very straight-forward and understandable, and he clearly explains the scientific concepts involved in a friendly way that anyone with a high school level science education can understand. I did not find any scientific errors in his book. However, some of his explanations are too long-winded, and the book is probably too long, at 274 pages. Nevertheless, Storms of My Grandchildren is a must-read, due to the importance of the subject matter and who is writing it. Hansen is not a fancy writer. He comes across as a plain Iowan who happened to stumble into the field of climate change and discovered things he had to speak out about. And he does plenty of speaking out in his book.

James Hansen vs. Richard Lindzen
Dr. Hansen's book opens with an interesting chapter on his participation in four meetings of Vice President Dick Cheney's cabinet-level Climate Task Force in 2001. It seems that the Bush Administration was prepared to let Dr. Hansen's views on climate change influence policy. However, Dr. Richard Lindzen, whom Hansen describes as "the dean of of global warming contrarians", was also present at the meetings. Dr.Lindzen was able to confuse the task force members enough so that they never took Dr. Hansen's views seriously. Hansen observes that "U.S. policies regarding carbon dioxide during the Bush-Cheney administration seem to have been based on, or at a minimum, congruent with, Lindzen's perspective." Hansen asserts that Lindzen was able to do this by acting more like a lawyer than a scientist: "He and other contrarians tend to act like lawyers defending a client, presenting only arguments that favor their client. This is in direct contradiction to...the scientific method." Hansen also comments that he asked Lindzen what he thought of the link between smoking and cancer, since Lindzen had been a witness for the tobacco industry decades earlier. Lindzen "began rattling off all the problems with the data relating smoking to health problems, which was closely analogous to his views of climate data."

Alarmism
Global warming contrarians often dismiss scientists such a Dr. Hansen as "alarmists" who concoct fearsome stories about climate change in order to get research funding. Dr. Lindzen made this accusation at Cheney's Climate Task Force in 2001. However, Dr. Hansen notes that "in 1981 I lost funding for research on the climate effects of carbon dioxide because the Energy Department was displeased with a paper, 'Climate Impact of Increasing Carbon Dioxide,' I had published in Science magazine. The paper made a number of predictions for the 21st century, including 'opening of the fabled Northwest Passage', which the Energy Department considered to be alarmist but which have since proven to be accurate." If you read Dr. Hansen's book and listen to his lectures, it is clear that he is not an alarmist out to get more research funding by hyping the dangers of global warming. Hansen says in his book that "my basic nature nature is very placid, even comfortably stolid", and that nature comes through very clearly in Storms of My Grandchildren. Hansen's writings express a quiet determination to plainly set forth the scientific truth on climate change. He has surprisingly few angry words towards the politicians, lobbyists, and scientists intent on distorting the scientific truth.

The science of climate change
The bulk of Storms of My Grandchildren is devoted to explanations of the science of climate change. Hansen's greatest concern is disintegration of the gerat ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica causing sea level rise: "Once the ice sheets begin to rapidly disintegrate, sea level would be continuously changing for centuries. Coastal cities would become impractical to maintain." Hansen is concerned that evidence from past climate periods show that the massive ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica can melt quickly, with large changes within a century. For example, sea level at the end of the most recent Ice Age, 13,000 - 14,000 years ago, rose at a rate of 3 - 5 meters (10 - 17 feet) per century for several centuries. Hansen is convinced that just a 1.7 -2°C warming, which would likely result if we stabilize CO2 at 450 ppm, would be a "disaster scenario" that would trigger rapid disintegration of the ice sheets and disastrous rises in sea level. Hansen advocates stabilizing CO2 at 350 ppm (we are currently at 390 ppm, with a rate of increase of 2 ppm per year.)

Another of Hansen's main concerns is the extinction of species. He notes that studies of more than 1,000 species of plants, animals, and insects have found an average migration rate towards the poles due to climate warming in the last half of the 20th century to be four miles per decade. "That is not fast enough. During the past thirty years the lines marking the regions in which a given average temperature prevails (isotherms) have been moving poleward at a rate of about thirty-five miles per decade. If greenhouse gases continue to increase at business-as-usual rates, then the rate of isotherm movement will double in this century to at least seventy miles per decade."

Hansen's other main concern is the release of large amounts of methane gas stored in sea-floor sediments in the form of methane hydrates. If ocean temperatures warm according to predictions, the higher temperatures at the sea floor may be enough to destabilize the methane hydrate sediments and release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 - 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Solutions to the climate change problem
Dr. Hansen is a controversial figure, since he has stepped outside his field of expertise and become an activist in promoting solutions to the climate change problem. He devotes a chapter called "An Honest, Effective Path" in the book to this. His main theme is that we need to tax fossil fuels using a "fee-and-dividend" approach. All of the tax money collected would be distributed uniformly to the public. This carbon tax would gradually rise, giving people time to adjust their lifestyle, choice of vehicle, home insulation, etc. Those who do better at reducing their fossil fuel use will receive more in the dividend than they will pay in the added costs of the products they buy. The approach is straightforward and does not require a large bureaucracy, but currently has little political support. Hansen is vehemently opposed to the approach that has the most political support, "Cap-and-trade": "Cap-and-trade is what governments and the people in alligator shoes (the lobbyists for special interests) are trying to foist on you. Whoops. As an objective scientist I should delete such personal opinions, to at least flag them. But I am sixty-eight years old, and I am fed up with the way things work in Washington." Hansen also promotes an overlooked type of nuclear power, "fast" reactors with liquid metal coolant that produce far less nuclear waste and are much more efficient than conventional nuclear reactors.

Quotes from the book
"Humanity treads today on a slippery slope. As we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the air, we move onto a steeper, even more slippery incline. We seem oblivious to the danger--unaware how close we may be to a situation in which a catastrophic slip becomes practically unavoidable, a slip where we suddenly lose all control and are pulled into a torrential stream that hurls us over a precipice to our demise."

"In order for a democracy to function well, the public needs to be honestly informed. But the undue influence of special interests and government greenwash pose formidable barriers to a well-informed public. Without a well-informed public, humanity itself and all species on the planet are threatened."

"Of course by 2005 I was well aware that the NASA Office of Public Affairs had become an office of propaganda. In 2004, I learned that NASA press releases related to global warming were sent to the White House, where they were edited to appear less serious or discarded entirely."

"If we let special interests rule, my grandchildren and yours will pay the price."

"The role of money in our capitals is the biggest problem for democracy and for the planet."

"The problem with asking people to pledge to reduce their fossil fuel use is that even if lots of people do, one effect is reduced demand for fossil fuel and thus a lower price--making it easier for someone else to burn...it is necessary for people to reduce their emissions, but it is not sufficient if the government does not adopt policies that cause much of the fossil fuels to be left in the ground permanently."

"I have argued that it is time to 'draw a line in the sand' and demand no new coal plants."

"The present situation is analogous to that faced by Lincoln with slavery and Churchill with Nazism--the time for compromises and appeasement is over."

"Humans are beginning to hammer the climate system with a forcing more than an order of magnitude more powerful than the forcings that nature employed."

"Once ice sheet disintegration begins in earnest, our grandchildren will live the rest of their lives in a chaotic transition period."

"After the ice is gone, would Earth proceed to the Venus syndrome, a runaway greenhouse effect that would destroy all life on the planet, perhaps permanently? While that is difficult to say based on present information, I've come to conclude that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty."

"One suggestion I have for now: Support Bill McKibben and his organization 350.org. It is the most effective and responsible leadership in the public struggle for climate justice."

Commentary
James Hansen understands the Earth's climate as well as any person alive, and his concern about where our climate is headed makes Storms of My Grandchildren a must-read for everyone who cares about the world their grandchildren will inherit. Storms of My Grandchildren retails for $16.50 at Amazon.com. Dr. Hansen's web site is http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/.

Jeff Masters

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Can anyone list the 10 least active Pacific Typhoon seasons?
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23656
Can someone whisper me and tell me how to upload my avatar, i go to upload photos but i upload it and all it does is send me right back to the upload page. help me please or pm me
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2381. STXpat
blockquote
Chicago,Toronto,Montreal,Detroit;ah...
Shreveport?








detroit
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2380. CJ5
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Still waiting for a peer reviewed paper by a meteorologist or climatologist which denies that anthropogenic global warming. It's been 5 hours and 700 comments now.

We've had a lot of deniers putting forth dogma, but none have given any evidence.



You have been given hundreds, you just chose to ignore them. Sorry.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2377. CJ5
Port Elizabeth...right off the top of my head but I could probably name of many, many more if need be. In fact, there are probably more ports above sea level than not.

What are you saying? LOL
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2375. gator23
Quoting CJ5:


Migration

right but the infrastructure and strategic location would be lost. You have two options build dykes and maybe save the city 50/50 odds of success or give up and and guarantee you will lose the city 0% chance of success.
Member Since: August 26, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2162
Quoting CJ5:


1) Yes

2) Climate change and other events cause migration. Let sea levels rise 10 feet and watch Miami clear out quick.


Is that a joke? Mass migrations have gone well? Yeah, tell that to the Romans; mass migrations of Germanic tribes brought about by Mongolian incursion (in turn possibly brought about by climate change due to volcanic activity) led to the collapse of the most powerful empire in the ancient world and brought about a Dark Age. Such cases are the rule, not the exception.
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Looks like the bubble is about to burst. models hinting at the season picking up in the next two weeks.
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2371. Patrap
Stop Global Whining

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Quoting LowerCal:


Because their comments have been rated lower ("I dislike this comment.") by other readers. Go to the top of all the comments and after Filter: select the level of comments you are willing to spend your time on.


thanks alot. it works now.
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2368. Patrap
Stop Global Whining
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2367. CJ5
Quoting gator23:

yes, but if GW is real what is the other option.


Migration
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2366. gator23
Quoting TxMarc71:


Like who??

the imaginary troll on his shoulder.
Member Since: August 26, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2162
Quoting fallinstorms:
even, experts know this season is nothing


Like who??
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2364. gator23
Quoting CJ5:


I think his shows that one city built below sea level is quite enough.

yes, but if GW is real what is the other option.
Member Since: August 26, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2162
2363. Patrap
Show me a Port above sea Level and Ill sell ya a Bank in Bangkok.



LOL
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Quoting hurricane556:
why are some people posts closed and I have to press show even if I don't ignore them. how do I get rid of that?


Because their comments have been rated lower ("I dislike this comment.") by other readers. Go to the top of all the comments and after Filter: select the level of comments you are willing to spend your time on.
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2360. CJ5
Quoting gator23:

they have been talking about a dyke system for Miami for a little while in regards to GW debates. There is no way they will let Miami sink, its too important.


I think history shows that one city built below sea level is quite enough.
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Quoting Michale:


I agree with you..

However, in the field of climatology, a logical and rational person would have to take the peer review process with a huge grain of salt.

Considering the blatant manipulation and attempted manipulation of the Pro AGW scientists of the peer review process, how can ANYONE put their trust in the process??

Or do you not have a problem with manipulation of the peer review process, as long as it brings about the desired results???


Are you ever going to produce evidence that peer-review in climatology is unreliable? If so, I can't wait to see it.

If not, just say so and I won't waste your time or mine by asking again.

Thanks.
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2356. ACEhigh
Karen, it is all a sham perpetrated by the same nefarious cabal that faked the moon landing, killed jfk, created Major League Eating, and unleashed the scourge of reality TV upon the masses. Be afraid...
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If I remeber correctly the last time the current set of names was used was in 2004. Colin replaces Charley, Fiona replaces Frances, Julia replaces Jeanne, and Igor replaces Ivan. Charley didn't become a tropical storm until August 10th, and Bonnie became a Tropical storm on August 9th in 2004.
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2354. Patrap
Quoting IKE:


It's run over with GW talk, which is the topic of the blog.

Most of the tropics talkers are over on Miamihurricane09's blog, but at least I can say what I want to now without fear of the wishcasters hammering me.


Keep da hardhat handy Ike.

I upgraded to a er, Fire "Chief's Helmet".

I Like da white Shiny Ones..and mine has a radio too.
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2353. gator23
Quoting CJ5:


1) Yes

2) Climate change and other events cause migration. Let sea levels rise 10 feet and watch Miami clear out quick.

they have been talking about a dyke system for Miami for a little while in regards to GW debates. There is no way they will let Miami sink, its too important.
Member Since: August 26, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2162
Quoting SavannahStorm:


It's not like all of Miami would up and leave in the same day. I think a lot of people envision sea level rise as some sort of impending tsunami, but it is a slow, creeping process that will take decades.


Have you seen how much it costs to move a mere house down the block? If Miami's citizens leave, Miami itself will stay behind.
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Quoting Michale:


I agree with you..

However, in the field of climatology, a logical and rational person would have to take the peer review process with a huge grain of salt.

Considering the blatant manipulation and attempted manipulation of the Pro AGW scientists of the peer review process, how can ANYONE put their trust in the process??

Or do you not have a problem with manipulation of the peer review process, as long as it brings about the desired results???


Three separate external reviews have concluded that the "scandal" was much ado about nothing. There was no "manipulation of the peer-review process". Or are all of the review boards "in on it", too?

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Quoting KennyNebraska:


I'll bite on this one! This is from the article that was just cited for KarenREI.

The level of the sea throughout the globe is a reflection primarily of changes in the volume of ice sheets and thus of changes of global temperature. When the planet cools, ice sheets grow on continents and the sea level falls. Conversely, when the Earth warms, ice melts and the sea level rises. In Field Notes from a Catastrophe, Elizabeth Kolbert reports on the work of researchers trying to understand the acceleration of melting, and in his new book and film An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore graphically illustrates possible effects of a rising sea level on Florida and other locations.

Would a credible scientist actually cite Al Gore's movie to help prove his statements? Answer = NO!


Do you think Gore dreamed all of that "stuff" and then decided to present it as factual?

LOL.. those were not his opinions..

It does not matter if one agrees or disagrees with what Gore stated.. he cited every one of his Scientific sources that he used to present the facts.

So he wasnt quoting Gore.. just a fact that Gore presented from a cited source...
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Quoting KennyNebraska:


I'll bite on this one! This is from the article that was just cited for KarenREI.

The level of the sea throughout the globe is a reflection primarily of changes in the volume of ice sheets and thus of changes of global temperature. When the planet cools, ice sheets grow on continents and the sea level falls. Conversely, when the Earth warms, ice melts and the sea level rises. In Field Notes from a Catastrophe, Elizabeth Kolbert reports on the work of researchers trying to understand the acceleration of melting, and in his new book and film An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore graphically illustrates possible effects of a rising sea level on Florida and other locations.

Would a credible scientist actually cite Al Gore's movie to help prove his statements? Answer = NO!


In a peer-reviewed paper? No. Referring to mass-market media in a mass-market publication? Of course. Which do you think the average layperson is more likely to check out -- a movie they can get on NetFlix or a peer-reviewed paper published in Nature? This is, after all, an article for laypersons.
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2346. IKE
Quoting Jeff9641:


Ike what is happening to the blog!


It's run over with GW talk, which is the topic of the blog.

Most of the tropics talkers are over on Miamihurricane09's blog, but at least I can say what I want to now without fear of the wishcasters hammering me.
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2345. CJ5
Quoting KarenRei:


1) Yeah, mass migrations of humans have gone oh-so well throughout history, haven't they?

2) Good luck hauling the entirity of, say, Miami, anywhere with you.


1) Yes

2) Climate change and other events cause migration. Let sea levels rise 10 feet and watch Miami clear out quick.
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Quoting KarenRei:


1) Yeah, mass migrations of humans have gone oh-so well throughout history, haven't they?

2) Good luck hauling the entirity of, say, Miami, anywhere with you.


It's not like all of Miami would up and leave in the same day. I think a lot of people envision sea level rise as some sort of impending tsunami, but it is a slow, creeping process that will take decades.
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I'm thinkin' Dr. M. is crankin' a global warmin' blog and this is the trail of breadcrumbs.
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2342. breald
Quoting FLdewey:


First of all if you frequent this blog at all, which you obviously don't, you'd know nobody takes me seriously. Second the JFV insult is several steps below a "yo mama" joke. Try harder. ;-)


If you are not him why do you have a photo of him? Creepy.
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2340. ACEhigh
Michale, your manipulation fabrication lost its legs months ago...do try to keep up. CRU and east anglica were exonerated of any wrongdoing- the whole story was nothing but propaganda promoted by puppet pundits.
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2339. Michale
Quoting Birthmark:


A good scientist is objective about their *work*. They are under no obligation to view the results of that work dispassionately.


"Passion about science is to be commended. Passion IN science should be avoided at all costs."
-Commander Spock, MY ENEMY MY ALLY

An activist scientist is a useless scientist.

It's really THAT simple...

Now, I really have to go..

Thanx for the chat, ya'all...
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Quoting CJ5:


Fear mongering? Climate migration is a fact of man and has been happening for thousands of years. If the climate where to change drastically, there would be mass migration.


1) Yeah, mass migrations of humans have gone oh-so well throughout history, haven't they?

2) Good luck hauling the entirity of, say, Miami, anywhere with you.
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Quoting KennyNebraska:


I'll bite on this one! This is from the article I just cited for KarenREI.

The level of the sea throughout the globe is a reflection primarily of changes in the volume of ice sheets and thus of changes of global temperature. When the planet cools, ice sheets grow on continents and the sea level falls. Conversely, when the Earth warms, ice melts and the sea level rises. In Field Notes from a Catastrophe, Elizabeth Kolbert reports on the work of researchers trying to understand the acceleration of melting, and in his new book and film An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore graphically illustrates possible effects of a rising sea level on Florida and other locations.

Would a credible scientist actually cite Al Gore's movie to help prove his statements? Answer = NO!


The correct answer is: "He can quote whom he wants."

As for sea-level rise and its effects in FL, do you have any evidence that Gore was wrong? If not, then citing Gore shouldn't bother anyone...unless the have the Gore Fixation thing going on.
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Oh Hansen... ... Sorry!
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.