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."

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 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 It is the most effective and responsible leadership in the public struggle for climate justice."

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 Dr. Hansen's web site is

Jeff Masters

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1583. angiest
So, MiamiHurricanes09, still chewing on my hypothesis? :)
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1582. unf97
Post 1565.

Thanks for clarifying that for me.
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1581. Michale
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:

Well you just attack my comment--if there is a credible scientific paper debunking anthropogenic global warming, why haven't you posted a link to it?

Of course, I attack your comment.. I firmly believe that it is infinitely better to attack the message, not the messenger..

As for my not posting a link to it???

The sheer volume of links I could post simply boggles the mind..

You might as well ask me to post links to support the hypothesis that water is wet, the sky is blue and ice is cold...

I can probably do it, but I would have to take a moment to acclimate myself to the sheer folly of the task... :D
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:

Why it's me who is responsible. Take a look at this comment about global warming and hurricanes---and the date. I was the first!

I thank you for your notice of me, GetReal. :)

Jeff Master's 25th blog, comment #3, July 11, 2005

Well there you have it...way to go man :P
Everyone can use you as a scapegoat now :D
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Quoting StormW:

Only if they considered themselves a ferret

Well, couldn't we get around that by holding an impromptu vote?
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1578. Levi32
Quoting StormW:
Hey Levi!

Hey Storm!
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1577. Ossqss
Eminent Physicists Skeptical of AGW Alarm

"Seven Eminent Physicists; Freeman Dyson, Ivar Giaever (Nobel Prize), Robert Laughlin (Nobel Prize), Edward Teller, Frederick Seitz, Robert Jastrow and William Nierenberg, all skeptical of "man-made" global warming (AGW) alarm."

Can you shoot down these credentials?

Now with video's :)
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
1576. hcubed
Well, some scientists still fall under the "respectable" label:

SUNDIAL, West Virginia, June 23, 2009 (ENS) - West Virginia State Police today arrested at least 29 demonstrators, including government climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, actress Daryl Hannah, and 94 year-old former West Virginia Congressman Ken Hechler, for trespassing on the property of a mountaintop removal coal mining company to protest the destructive practice.

Dr Hansen doesn't have a problem with working for NASA and advocating civil disobedience.
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Hey, if I called someone in here a weasel and it was obviously true, would that still be considered a personal attack?
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Hi Jeff,
Steve McIntyre has a article at that shows the Hansen wasn't really all that close in his predictions. As far as global ice sheets melting, it hasn't since 1979. See Anthony Watts' Sea ice page at
Link You'd expect to see at least some sign in the 1/3 century that we've had observations.

The main problem I have with Hansen is that he has ceased to be a scientist, and has become a zealot.

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1570. unf97
OK, so this latest oil spill is not related to Deepwater? It is in another area, is that correct?
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1568. Michale
Quoting PensacolaDoug:

Then you woke up!

Story of my life.. :D

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Quoting unf97:

Oh, no. Yeah, you are right. This is not the news anyone wanted to hear for sure!
its in bayou Dennis and its not supposed to be that bad. it being more inland it should be easier to fix or close. any thoughts on that spin in the gulf right below Louisiana?
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1564. Michale
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:

Certainly no one has posted any credible scientific denial of anthropogenic global warming.

I am aghast at the complete and utter bias displayed by this statement..

Let me guess.. Any paper that denies AGW simply CAN'T be "credible", right??

Talk about your self-fulfilling prophecies, eh??

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1563. Levi32
Good morning all.

Tropical Tidbit for Tuesday, July 27th, with Video
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Quoting greentortuloni:

SO how does it work then? I see solar panels going up all over the place both the water ehating and the electric kind. I see private windmills and so on. The government subsidy may help but surely it isn't enough to make them pay off. So how does your business work? (I'm genuinely curious, not trying to argue.)

Some wealthy people are doing it on there own but right now the Rebates and tax incentives are what is making it pay off in a reasonable rate of time.
Here in the VI's we have a 50% rebate on the first 2KW of the system then the Fed 30% gives a net refund of about 65% of the system.
Plus we have 5.5 for a insolation factor giving us 5.5 Watt hours per day per watt installed
Plus we pay $.33 per KWH for electricity.
Drops out payback to 3-5 years..

Even with this only relatively wealthy are buying them.. The initial coast is simply still too high. And people are willing to scream about what might happen in 10 years but not put their money where there mouth is...

Overall solar is a good investment if you don't mind a 25year payback period....electric rates only go up..
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Quoting DestinJeff:

nursing an injury in its throwing arm?

Majors needed more time to adapt to it's complexity.



Saw a doc that listed about 70 different software changes that needed to be made.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 10905
Quoting CybrTeddy:

I generally dislike Fox News's constant yelling, lame and poor taste jokes and sad attempt at satire at major events and I'm a right winger. This blog, if you listen to the right people, is a very informative source of information when it comes to the way tropical cyclones work.. so much that when the weather anchors on Fox News totally screw up the tropics we can feel satisfactory inside.

I love the tropics talk here, it is great but the GW talk gets very noisy and useless. And while Fox News is an easy target for a lot of things, all the majors are lacking in real news about the tropics and GW.
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Quoting FLdewey:

Did you forget to post that it's not related to the Horizon spill?

I did not forget, but yes, that is what they are saying. It is unrelated.
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Quoting pilotguy1:

Lots of yelling and static on Fox?? You must have 90% of the people on here blocked. This is worse than Fox when it comes to nonsense.

Well.. I just kind of blank out 90%.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23618
1553. unf97
Quoting DaytonaBeachWatcher:
I know no one wants to hear this but New Oil Leak in the gulf. Evidently a boat hit the pipe and broke it.

Oh, no. Yeah, you are right. This is not the news anyone wanted to hear for sure!
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Quoting Patrap:

..u are a id-it.

LOL.and prove my point easily.

When or where can you quote me on that angle.
Thin fish?

And where is your last entry here?


typical pat, name calling. So grown up of you
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do you see any storms forming in the next week? you think it will pretty quiet?
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Quoting CybrTeddy:

Not so, look at 240 hours.

That one is much more interesting. Mine was for 24 hours out. :)
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Quoting Michale:

I heard 'sex' then what??? :D

Then you woke up!
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Quoting robj144:

Hurricanes remove excess heat from the tropics, but don't transfer it to temperate locations. When was the last time a hurricane went north, and warmed say New England when it went north? So as long as tropics are warm enough there will be hurricanes independent of the temperature gradient. After all hurricanes are merely heat engines.

In it's simplest form, weather regulates the temperature and pressures across the globe; the atmosphere as a whole is working towards one homogenous state and weather is a means to that end.

As for a hurricane that warmed (distributed energy) New England, try Ike, the LI Express, any storm that made it from the tropics into the higher lttitudes
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Quoting StormGoddess:
Good afternoon everybody! Ummm....ok! Looks like we are desperate in here, so here's a model! Yay! But, um, not much going on out there at the moment. (Running away and hiding). Photobucket

Not so, look at 240 hours.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23618
I know no one wants to hear this but New Oil Leak in the gulf. Evidently a boat hit the pipe and broke it.
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Quoting StormW:
What might ya tell from this?

It will be a dry winter in Texas. Almost always happens when we have a "La Nina".
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Quoting DestinJeff:
We are so wrapped up in the GW stuff that we forgot to recognize Parallel GFS for being called up from the minors ...

Still has one more day in AAA


Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 10905
Good afternoon everybody! Ummm....ok! Looks like we are desperate in here, so here's a model! Yay! But, um, not much going on out there at the moment. (Running away and hiding). Photobucket
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1538. Michale
Quoting stormobserver:
I think it is very interesting--and telling--how the denier side doesn't have any scientific backing.

Is that what you think??


You believe that there is no scientific evidence that disputes the AGW theory??

Again.. Seriously???
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Quoting ChillinInTheKeys:

If it weren't for BP, this might be news.

Well my goodness!
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1536. Michale
Quoting PensacolaDoug:

Fear-mongering, like sex, sales.

I heard 'sex' then what??? :D

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1535. tkeith
Quoting DestinJeff:
We are so wrapped up in the GW stuff that we forgot to recognize Parallel GFS for being called up from the minors ...

atta boy Parallel...
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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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