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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1883. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting BreadandCircuses:
Michale, we are religious fanatics and this is our house of worship!



Didnt Tipper just take his house???
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Quoting sarahjola:
they can use the aggressive and contentious tactic, known as reconciliation, to pass a far-reaching health care bill in the Senate without having to face the GOP. Both parties have used reconciliation rules in the past. But Republicans have practically dared Democrats to do so on health care, citing polls showing significant opposition to the legislation.In the Senate, Democrats control 59 seats, and reconciliation rules require only a simple majority. But several Democratic senators have expressed discomfort or outright opposition to using the rules to thwart filibusters on health care. that is what I'm talking about. signing law when the majority americans are against it. read the bills please. cap and trade is trash and ignorant. the talking points sound good, but the bill don't match the talking points. just read it. just read health care bill. both are a disgrace. read the bills. everyone admitted in congress that they didn't read the bill. the attitude to pass a bill and go through it once its law is ignorant. like signing a contract before you read it.





Actually public opinion polls show those in favor or those who oppose it to be at near even levels.
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Quoting DestinJeff:
Hey, anybody seen this?


Ya, its scientific fact, they ll thorugh that out and make a AGW theory one.
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they can use the aggressive and contentious tactic, known as reconciliation, to pass a far-reaching health care bill in the Senate without having to face the GOP. Both parties have used reconciliation rules in the past. But Republicans have practically dared Democrats to do so on health care, citing polls showing significant opposition to the legislation.In the Senate, Democrats control 59 seats, and reconciliation rules require only a simple majority. But several Democratic senators have expressed discomfort or outright opposition to using the rules to thwart filibusters on health care. that is what I'm talking about. signing law when the majority americans are against it. read the bills please. cap and trade is trash and ignorant. the talking points sound good, but the bill don't match the talking points. just read it. just read health care bill. both are a disgrace. read the bills. everyone admitted in congress that they didn't read the bill. the attitude to pass a bill and go through it once its law is ignorant. like signing a contract before you read it.



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Quoting JFLORIDA:


by Steve McIntyre - discredited - he never admitted to being wrong - just moved on to more incorrect stuff.


You mean he changed the subject? Go figure.
Keep up the good work JFlorida!
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1869. Michale
Quoting JFLORIDA:


The first one on the list is a study that poicked a few proxies that didnt show warming and SURPRISE thge result didnt show warming.

Its been discredited. Thats the first one - real temperature reconstructions use many MANY proxies for temperature data.

What makes you think I haven't actually read up on the issue. Everyone isn't like you.


My guess is because you refuse to accept that there may be valid scientific data that disputes the AGW theory..

Ergo, since you won't accept any data that is valid, there really isn't any reason to provide you with any, is there.

Until you can admit that you COULD be wrong, you won't accept anything that would show that..

That is a classic example of religious/dogmatic fanaticism...

Refusal to accept ANYTHING that disputes a person's narrow view of reality..

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Couldn't help but notice the conversation about the sun in a period of solar dimming. It actually is, here's a graph, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Solar-cycle-data.png
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1862. CJ5
Quoting JFLORIDA:


Show a hole in it. A SINGLE VERIFIED ONE.


I posted one, you didn't like. How about you post the 'ole hockey stick" graph. This is certainly a pushed scientific fact that was debunked a long time ago but it doesn't stop the AGW pushers from still using it.
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Double Post
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Can this be correct Wunderground is showing the current temperature as 96 in my neighborhood.
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1859. IKE
12Z NOGAPS
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Same as the CMC; near hurricane in the Atlantic.


Thanks!
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Quoting Ossqss:


The ultimate religious generalization on over 800 papers. Obvious indoctrination at work. No more from me on this subject. Not worth the keystrokes :)

Just be careful what you ask for. It might not be what you expect, since we have no clue as to what the alternate use of realtime energy will do to us vs the stored energy we use today.

Paper linked in the article and is free.

MIT analysis suggests generating electricity from large-scale wind farms could influence climate %u2014 and not necessarily in the desired way.


So typical! Every time someone tries to nail down a neocon on a particular issue they change the subject! Every time.

I hope you make over 250k per year...
Otherwise, voting for a Republican is like a chicken voting for Col. Sanders.
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Quoting ElConando:


What does it show? I have em on ignore.
Same as the CMC; near hurricane in the Atlantic.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
That's the GGEM; an extension of the CMC.


What does it show? I have em on ignore.
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1848. Michale
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.


Just like a religious fanatic... Even the facts that dispute the religion are somehow, automagically transmorphed into PROVING the religion...

There is no use arguing with a fanatic. Anything put forth is simply more proof to support the delusion.
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1847. ncstorm
Well..there was two posts about tropical weather back to back and then what do you know, GW..I will be back later..I hope by then all the GW posters are outside with a 30 foot magnifying glass proving their theories..is it too hot or isnt it? only one way to find out
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Quoting jasoniscoolman2010x:
That's the GGEM; an extension of the CMC.
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1843. Ossqss
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.


The ultimate religious generalization on over 800 papers. Obvious indoctrination at work. No more from me on this subject. Not worth the keystrokes :)

Just be careful what you ask for. It might not be what you expect, since we have no clue as to what the alternate use of realtime energy will do to us vs the stored energy we use today.

Paper linked in the article and is free.

MIT analysis suggests generating electricity from large-scale wind farms could influence climate and not necessarily in the desired way.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting stormlvr:
Just remember--Mother nature always balances! Thats why you see a normal line on all the temperature graphs provided as proof by both sides of the argument and climatological norms rule the world of weather forecasting. Perhaps everyone should read Dr Hansen's book with an open mind. I find it interesting that one of his biggest concerns is the rapid melting of the ice sheets and rapid sea level rise. Why? Because it has happened before of course.


An open mind on the issue is something I hope everyone could agree on.

I'm not sure the tone you mean by saying it has happened in the past (rapid ice sheet breakup/sea level changes) but there sure wasn't an exponentially growing population of humans around during those time.
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1841. CJ5
Quoting Patrap:
I liked Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid..

And hes right.


The Republican Senate leadership has fought against every clean energy and climate measure simply because their political opponents were for it. This was the most shameful partisanship I have seen in my lifetime. We all know who really loses when GOP leaders block progress: American citizens. The economic recession and climate change don't care which party you are in -- they will make life harder for everyone until we put the right solutions in place..


Please, while you are trying to porject your party line why don't you do some research about republicans and the environment.

Here let me get you started: EPA, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Yosemite, Endagered Species Act, Pesticides Control Act, Yellowstone, National Wildlife Refuge System, National Forest Systems, Wilderness Act, Wild Rivers Act....shall I go on??

There are always two sides of the coin, you of course, like to pretend there is only one...sad.
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1840. jpsb
Quoting JFLORIDA:

Thats already been disproven as a cause for current warming - we are even in a period of net solar dimming and the temp went up.
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.
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Quoting sarahjola:
so it is not law? i think you need to check your facts. it was not passed in congress.here read how the health care bill was really a reconciliation bill Obama to sign health-care bill into law Tuesday
washington post. they voted on reconciliation. read the bills please:)god bless!



Yes the bill was passed. I watched the vote take place in the house what are you talking about? After the vote the house proceeded to vote on the reconciliation package.
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Quoting JFLORIDA:


What - that is someone else - I will take valid arguments from peer reviewed science - so its easy - just find me some of those.

This page has links to to many to review..
http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html
But this one looks valid in a vaild non industry supported journal
http://www.worldscinet.com/ijmpb/23/2303/S021797920904984X.html


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Quoting ElConando:


Looks like a Florida thre- nope, I'm not gonna do it.
LOL!
Quoting caneswatch:


Gotcha, I will. If it's stronger, another one to watch for us, I guess.
Yep.
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Quoting Jeff9641:
All of this GW talk is for the birds already. It's summer and yes it's hot. As for Chili they are having one of there coldest winters in history. When January comes people around here will wish that GW is in effect as they are enduring -20 temps.


The SE may have an above average winter this season due to La Nina. While the upper northwest as well as Western Canada and Alaska could have one of the coldest in decades. This according to model runs. Levi talked about it yesterday.
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Quoting extreme236:


CV storms are storms that develop near the CV islands. (I've heard a 750 mi radius)
620 miles.
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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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