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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How this for a shocker I remember when there were liberal republicans in the republican party. Please don't confuse today's version with T.Roosevelt, D. Eisenhower, moderates by the way. They would be run out on a rail by Mr. Limbaugh, the Ayatollah of the present day Republicans.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Michale, I asked for any credible meteorologist or climatologist who denies anthropogenic global warming. You still haven't given one. I am sure if such a person existed you would have found him or her by now.


No is saying that we are not in a warming period. That temperatures are not rising slightly. The non-believers question whether the cause is man made. Also, whether it is just political posturing and a money grab.

I would bet that you didn't realized that the earth has been cooling for the last several thousand years. That even with the slight rise in temperatures over the last couple of years the average temps for this century are way below thousand years ago.

Look below, there have been plenty of periods that have been much colder and plenty that have been much warmer without man's intervention.

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Quoting KittyTwister:
Hello all.
I have been lurking for about 2 months, and figured I should say hiya before things ramp up and I have questions to ask. I really appreciate all of the information that is available here, and the knowledge that is shared is amazing. I don't know what half of the maps mean or how to read them yet, but hopefully that will change as the seasons go by. Thanks again for doing what ya'll do.



Welcome.. I cant do the maps either.. still learning.. Its a sure bet you will know what GW and AGW refers to in a few minutes!!!
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"HI, EVERYBODY!"

Wow. Some heated discussion here. I blame Global Warming, but I'm no climatologist.
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Quoting mcluvincane:
I just farted. Will that help cause global warming?


LMAO! :D
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1929. IKE
Quoting IKE:


My all time favorite band.

...........................................


12Z ECMWF...


Eastern ATL view on the 12Z ECMWF... kills a wave coming off Africa. That's it through August 6th.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting Michale:


And THAT says it all... :D

YOUR religion is paramount..

ALL other religions are bogus...

Praise be to the almighty AGW

AMEN..

Jeeeze, it's just too damn easy.... :D


I guess I'm a CRANK.
Member Since: November 4, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6577
1927. CJ5
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


It was from a blog post that someone just made up. You still haven't given a reputable meteorologist or climatologist who denies anthropogenic global warming. Couple hours, and you haven't found one name. Not. Even. One.

You can dance and weave all you want, but the truth is that AGW is solid science and the only ones who deny it are cranks.


Jeez....I don't think there is a requirement to post the actual peer reviewed data. The fact is, and that blog proves, there is plenty of peer reviewed data to blow holes in the AGW theory. You can deny that fact all you want but it is fact. Just because you believe in AGW does not mean you have a strangle hold on the fact. Take the time to review the "peer reviewed" scientific data list in the post.

AGW is NOT scientific fact.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hello all.
I have been lurking for about 2 months, and figured I should say hiya before things ramp up and I have questions to ask. I really appreciate all of the information that is available here, and the knowledge that is shared is amazing. I don't know what half of the maps mean or how to read them yet, but hopefully that will change as the seasons go by. Thanks again for doing what ya'll do.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hello! I am back again.

More confirmation that AGW is not a working theory. Global Warming happens on Mars and Earth concurrently, when the sunspot # changes. The co2 ppm has remained the same on both planets.

http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/story.html?id=edae9952-3c3e-47ba-913f-7359a5c7f723&k=0

To infer that a trace gas, .01% has more impact than the oceans (70%) or the sun, or volcanic activity, is quite silly.
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1921. Michale
Quoting hendric:
What gets me is that deniers always assume scientists are wrong in their favor: What if they are not?


Did any of the climate scientists accurately predict the record cold spells of the last couple years??

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That show Dance Your AZZ Off could be contributing to lots of GreenHouse gases as well. something to ponder on the GW debate.
Member Since: November 4, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6577
Michale, you have every right on this blog to express your views on the science, or lack there of (depending on your view), on AGW. You do not have the right to freely call people names and badger them relentlessly here. Unless you don't mind being put into timeout, I would stick more with facts, and less with calling people fanatics and religious zealots. JMO.
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1917. BFG308
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
If I ignored every person talking about Global Warming I would have like 4 people in my view...

C'mon people, even though this blogs' entry is about Global warming this is a mainly tropical blog.


Seconded!

EDIT: I counted 6 actually...
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
If I ignored every person talking about Global Warming I would have like 4 people in my view...

C'mon people, even though this blogs' entry is about Global warming this is a mainly tropical blog.


LOL you'd probably be better off only seeing four people here right now.

"Beam me up Scotty. There's no intelligent life down here."
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1915. CJ5
Quoting JFLORIDA:


You should have actually read somre of them because they support warming and man made CO2 as a climate changer while just arguing degree.

As yet no working explanation to counter AGW.


Sorry, you obviously didn't read them. The problem here is it does not matter what one posts or what evidience is thrown your way you are blind.

There is plenty of peer reviewed data that blows holes in AGW. That is a fact.
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1914. Michale
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:

br but the truth is that AGW is solid science and the only ones who deny it are cranks.


And THAT says it all... :D

YOUR religion is paramount..

ALL other religions are bogus...

Praise be to the almighty AGW

AMEN..

Jeeeze, it's just too damn easy.... :D
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
"You can dance and weave all you want, but the truth is that AGW is solid science and the only ones who deny it are cranks."

Come on you can't be that sure?
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1912. IKE
Quoting Diplomacy:
Thanks, Ike. I'm loving your avatar, by the way. Would it reveal my age, if I say that I grew up listening to them? LMAO, :(.


My all time favorite band.

...........................................


12Z ECMWF...
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
If I ignored every person talking about Global Warming I would have like 4 people in my view...

C'mon people, even though this blogs' entry is about Global warming this is a mainly tropical blog.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Michale:


Don't you see the pattern here??

It would be hysterically funny if it wasn't so pathetically sad....

Why not just come out and say it..

Any scientific information simply cannot be credible if it disputes the AGW religion...

That is how you think...

Ergo, I would have a better chance convincing the pope that there is no god, than I would have convincing you that the AGW theory could be wrong..



Why don't you just give him a link for evidence of a credible meteorologist if you're so sure?
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


Your on a roll now!!! LMAO.. I mean, if this GW stuff is gonna roll on, gotta have a little fun with it!!! CMON people!!!!
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Quoting augfan:


See, you are doing it again, saying the level of posts (average) doesn't measure up to your standards and another where you said you were on the blog first and everybody else should shut up and cave in to your opinion.

IMO, not much of a poster here but read slurs when I see them. Suggest you move on until you can cool off.


Yeah, he's been ranting and raving here all darn day
Member Since: June 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1364
StSimonsIslandGuy: We all appreciate your posts on global warming!
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Quoting cirrocumulus:
Keeperoftgate: Is that Al Gore or John Kerry watching that big TV?


I think that's Al Gore and J Florida as roommates.
Member Since: November 4, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6577
Thanks, Ike. I'm loving your avatar, by the way. Would it reveal my age, if I say that I grew up listening to them? LMAO, :(.
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1903. Michale
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


It's a wikipedia article. Anyone could edit that at any time---no credible information that any of these scientists actually deny global warming. Next.


Don't you see the pattern here??

It would be hysterically funny if it wasn't so pathetically sad....

Why not just come out and say it..

Any scientific information simply cannot be credible if it disputes the AGW religion...

That is how you think...

Ergo, I would have a better chance convincing the pope that there is no god, than I would have convincing you that the AGW theory could be wrong..

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1901. BFG308
Wow definitions from websters...nothing personal to anyone but this has to be a new low for the blog
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Keeperoftgate: Is that Al Gore or John Kerry watching that big TV?
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1899. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54827
Several GWcasters today and a shirtless caster.
Member Since: November 4, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6577
1897. augfan
Quoting JFLORIDA:


that will get flagged and summited to admin. This is typical of the level posts here now. I dont know when that behavior became accepted here - but it is not elsewhere on WU.


See, you are doing it again, saying the level of posts (average) doesn't measure up to your standards and another where you said you were on the blog first and everybody else should shut up and cave in to your opinion.

IMO, not much of a poster here but read slurs when I see them. Suggest you move on until you can cool off.
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Quoting hendric:


Go download Clear Climate Code, and re-run the NASA GISS analysis again on your own PC. It will even download the datasets fresh off the FTP servers for you.

And of course AGW accounts for the sun. People much better than you spent their whole lives trying to understand how this planet works. And now because their answers disagree with you, you belittle them. Learn a little humility.

All this jibber-jabber will be resolved in 10 years. Hopefully for my son, it won't be too late to start mitigation.

My opinion is that the warming is actually being understated. Scientists like Hansen are held to a high standard, whether you like it or not, and because of that, they are limited to what they can prove, usually with 95% confidence. Hansen took the gloves off somewhat in this book, but even there he talks about what he can prove with some certainty. My concern is that last 5%.

What if the scientists are all wrong, and the future is much, much worse than they currently predict? What gets me is that deniers always assume scientists are wrong in their favor: What if they are not?


They didnt actually want it you know! lol.

What other discipline does that?? - engineering - physics - chemistry - biology ??? - NONE.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:



Now that's some funny S**T right there!!!!!!! LMAO
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1893. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54827
Today I'm a "little-red-exclamation-point-presser-caster".
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1891. Michale
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Michale, I asked for any credible meteorologist or climatologist who denies anthropogenic global warming. You still haven't given one. I am sure if such a person existed you would have found him or her by now.


Another poster gave you 76% of meteorologists that dispute AGW theory..

All of the sudden, meteorologists weren't acceptable anymore..

Funny how that worked out, eh?? :D
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Storm, are you attempting to change the subject of the conversation? LOL.
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1889. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54827
1888. hendric
Quoting jpsb:
There is no current warming, except in the cooked books of the AGW alarmists and they WILL NOT RELEASE their raw data. However the solar cycles effects on Earth Climate fit the real data very nicely for thousands of years. So until something better comes along I'll go with it (Solar Cycles).

I find it incredible that AGW ignores the effects of a giant thermal nuclear engine 1 million times larger then the Earth a mere 7 light minutes away. Incredible.

Oh and remember you asked for a competing theory, I gave you one.


Go download Clear Climate Code, and re-run the NASA GISS analysis again on your own PC. It will even download the datasets fresh off the FTP servers for you.

And of course AGW accounts for the sun. People much better than you spent their whole lives trying to understand how this planet works. And now because their answers disagree with you, you belittle them. Learn a little humility.

All this jibber-jabber will be resolved in 10 years. Hopefully for my son, it won't be too late to start mitigation.

My opinion is that the warming is actually being understated. Scientists like Hansen are held to a high standard, whether you like it or not, and because of that, they are limited to what they can prove, usually with 95% confidence. Hansen took the gloves off somewhat in this book, but even there he talks about what he can prove with some certainty. My concern is that last 5%.

What if the scientists are all wrong, and the future is much, much worse than they currently predict? What gets me is that deniers always assume scientists are wrong in their favor: What if they are not?
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
That's the GGEM; an extension of the CMC.
that big high will keep that storm moving west for a long time.
Member Since: July 4, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 965
1886. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54827
1885. Michale
Quoting JFLORIDA:


Look thats just science -

Science (from Latin: scientia, meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise of gathering knowledge about nature and organizing and condensing that knowledge into testable laws and theories.[1] As knowledge has increased, some methods have proved more reliable than others, and today the scientific method is the standard for science. It includes the use of careful observation, experimentation, measurement, mathematics, and replication — to be considered a science, a body of knowledge must stand up to repeated testing by independent observers


Im sorry your beliefs dont count, untested and un modeled views dont either.


You can dodge and dance all you want..

But until such time as you can admit that you COULD be wrong, all you have is dogmatic and religious fanaticism...

Like it or not, the science is in dispute..

This is fact...

Until you can admit that, your simply one of a billion fanatics, operating on nothing but faith..

I don't mean that as an insult. Many religious fanatics go about their daily lives and are happy and productive members of society..

Just don't try and convince me that your "religion" is the ONLY religion..

I know better...
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Guessing and un-modeled theory doesn't have anything to do with it. Mysterious cycles and exotic causes - Its not science.

Im sorry it just works out that way. This is a science based site.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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