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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Quoting Inactivity:


Just wait and see!
and by the way post 6805 made the comment !!!!!!!!!!!!
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these are my forecast track plots *CHC is my tracking and forecasting center Cayman Hurricane Center

FORECAST PLOTS BY CHC
STORM # 90L
DATE/TIME 20107291800

T LAT LONG WIND(KT)
0 8.5N 30.0W 20
24 8.8N 33.3W 20
48 9.5N 35.7W 25
72 9.9N 42.5W 30
96 10.3N 47.7W 35
120 10.8N 55.3W 35
144 11.7N 58.9W 40
174 12.9N 60.5W 40(LONGRANGE)
192 13.4N 62.5W 45(LONGRANGE)
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6832. IKE
HPC puts the wave entering the eastern Caribbean over Guatemala/Honduras as a low in 6 days.....




Shows 90L east of the Bahamas, north of PR in day 7....





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6831. Drakoen
It's also nice to have graphics from cimss that update every hour
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Quoting Inactivity:


Just wait and see!
i did not make that comment who is that ???
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Man, it sure is easy to find my house today! Just go to the HGX radar and find the only thunderstorm. That's me right in the middle. XD

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6828. xcool
90L NEED TO MOVE FROM DRYAIR SAL...
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Quoting angiest:


Cape Verde Islands are not part of the US. Therefore, someone else would have to issue the watch/warning, though I bet they would ask NHC's advise in the matter.
not necessarily because countries in south america do not belong to the US or some of the Islands in the carribean, neither bermuda, or the bahamas, so i dont understand what you mean ???
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Quoting sammywammybamy:
1.C

2.B

Can i have my Cookie Now!


Just wait and see!
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Quoting hydrus:
Could that 1008 mb low off S.E. FL be the new invest?
Yep.
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6824. will45
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Teh?!


Yup
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6823. hydrus
Quoting 305st0rm:


288 hrs out.
Could that 1008 mb low off S.E. FL be the new invest?
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6822. Skyepony (Mod)
My backyard..

96.3°F
Colder 0.9 °F than last hour.

Heat Danger

Feels like: 118°F

24-hr difference
10.6°F Warmer 10.6°F than yesterday at this time.
Today Yesterday
High: 98.2°F
3:29pm 98.2°F
3:29pm
Low: 74.5°F
6:46am 74.5°F
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Quoting Drakoen:
Nice to have a floater up. You can see the inflow coming in on the equatorward end of the system meanwhile, convection is limited on the poleward end due to dry air. Broad circulation is evident.
90L is coming along nicely does it look like it may be orange at 8Pm, and by the way how have you been ??
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Quoting hydrus:
The predictions for this season look ominous. I am concerned, and I am sure there are other people that feel the same way.


Agreed, I know that I have some concerns. But I know I am taking the wait and see approach, and watching with a vigilant eye to see what may pose a threat. Hopefully it will be a non-event type season.
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6818. angiest
Quoting Seflhurricane:
intresting question i have has the NHC ever issued tropical storm warnings for the cape verde islands i know we have had storms form just as they came off the african coast ???


Cape Verde Islands are not part of the US. Therefore, someone else would have to issue the watch/warning, though I bet they would ask NHC's advise in the matter.
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6817. Drakoen
Nice to have a floater up. You can see the inflow coming in on the equatorward end of the system meanwhile, convection is limited on the poleward end due to dry air. Broad circulation is evident.
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Quoting aspectre:
6632 CATMAN5 "...is anyone following the heatwave in Moscow and Siberia? Understand they experienced first 100 degree ever in 130 years of records. Little precip. and wheat crop is whilting in the ground.
850mb temps are near 24C! Some relief expected soon but flares up again in early Aug. to about the 10th.! Anyone with personal knowledge of this? Thanks.
"

Related, from (this)blog1557post5481 FFtrombi "Finland has just broken their all time temperature record, with a reading of at least (could still go higher, a few hours left) 36.3C (97.3F). The old record was 35.9C from 1914!!!
May not seem like much to folks further south, but the reading is at a weather station approx. 200miles from the artic circle.
"
Gonna be interesting times for the reindeer and the Sami as the bogs, ponds, and lakes drain after the subsurface permafrost melts.
NO !!
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6632 CATMAN5 "...is anyone following the heatwave in Moscow and Siberia? Understand they experienced first 100 degree ever in 130 years of records. Little precip. and wheat crop is whilting in the ground.
850mb temps are near 24C! Some relief expected soon but flares up again in early Aug. to about the 10th.! Anyone with personal knowledge of this? Thanks.
"

Related, from (this)blog1557post5481 FFtrombi "Finland has just broken their all time temperature record, with a reading of at least (could still go higher, a few hours left) 36.3C (97.3F). The old record was 35.9C from 1914!!!
May not seem like much to folks further south, but the reading is at a weather station approx. 200miles from the artic circle.
"
Gonna be interesting times for the reindeer and the Sami as the bogs, ponds, and lakes drain after the subsurface permafrost melts out from under them.
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288 hrs out.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
There is decent vorticity at 850mb and an area of low pressure at the surface. Also, 90L is positioned (as per ATCF files) near 8.5N, 8N is usually the benchmark for the Coriolis to be felt.
just noticed that
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no one see my post i seee
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Quoting will45:
6789. IKE

if teh guy lasts that long

Teh?!
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Quoting stoormfury:
90L will take some time to organise, it is in the itcz and has to break away from this hold if it were to orgaise into something, being so close to the equtor it cannot take advantage of the coriolis force. there is really no vorticity at the 850mb level. what we can see from sat pics is a mid level spin. the disturbance should track south of west for the next 12 hrs and then move west for the next few days.90L is ng steered by a srong ridge to it's north and will be entering an area of low sheer which will enasble it develop slowly. the system is about 5 days from any land area which gives sufficient time for the system to be monitored
There is decent vorticity at 850mb and an area of low pressure at the surface. Also, 90L is positioned (as per ATCF files) near 8.5N, 8N is usually the benchmark for the Coriolis to be felt.
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intresting question i have has the NHC ever issued tropical storm warnings for the cape verde islands i know we have had storms form just as they came off the african coast ???
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90L

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Quoting Inactivity:
Poll time!

We are going to take 2 polls today!

Poll 1.When will 90L develop,if at all?

A.It won't develop.

B.24 hours.

C.48 hours.

D.72 hours.

E.96+hours.

Poll 2.When will it become an orange circle?

A.today

B.tomarrow

C.48+ hours

D.Never.


Sometime between C and E for the first and A for the second one.
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6801. angiest
Shouldn't we be seeing a second invest pop up soon? Based on the TWO...
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Quoting txag91met:
Get ready---Cape Verde season is starting.

I would start making minor preparations for the hurricane season now...especially in Florida.


For those who haven't done so it would be best to do so with the luxury of time on your side. I'm not talking about much, just batteries and a few gallons of water or water bottles.
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Poll time!

We are going to take 2 polls today!

Poll 1.When will 90L develop,if at all?

A.It won't develop.

B.24 hours.

C.48 hours.

D.72 hours.

E.96+hours.

Poll 2.When will it become an orange circle?

A.today

B.tomarrow

C.48+ hours

D.Never.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting ElConando:


Is it significant?

I know that they take into account into their advisories, sat estimates when these systems are in the eastern and central Atl.
I really have no clue why it takes so long for satellite estimates to be released. Maybe StormW can answer you.
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6793. xcool




/early start cv///
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
6792. will45
6789. IKE

if teh guy lasts that long
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Quoting NRAamy:
Pinhole eye!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Hi Amy! Havn't seen you in a while...
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Awesome! We usually don't get satellite estimates until 2-3 days later than when the invest is tagged.


Is it significant?

I know that they take into account into their advisories, sat estimates when these systems are in the eastern and central Atl.
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6789. IKE
Quoting Congress:


same the samething at 3am, then will talk.


Maybe you will, but I'll be asleep at 3am.
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Quoting NRAamy:
Pinhole eye!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


{{{amy}}}}

good to see you!
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Get ready---Cape Verde season is starting.

I would start making minor preparations for the hurricane season now...especially in Florida.
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6784. hydrus
Quoting ecflweatherfan:


Yeah, same with the twins. Frances took the power out, and it finally got restored only to get knocked out again for a couple weeks with Jeanne. Then I lost power for "only" 5 days from Wilma. 2004 and 2005 were not friendly years to us in FL... lets hope it will not happen this year!
The predictions for this season look ominous. I am concerned, and I am sure there are other people that feel the same way.
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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.