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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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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6783. will45
Quoting NRAamy:
Pinhole eye!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



hee hee
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6782. NRAamy
Pinhole eye!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Quoting ElConando:



You speaking about Andrew and Wilma or one of the two?


Actually, both!
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Quoting StormW:
Good evening!
welcome back storm how do you see 90L now, i hope i am not one of the many asking the same question.
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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
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6777. IKE
Quiet for the Time Being

Jul 29, 2010 5:06 PM

It is still quiet in the tropics but things may start to change over the next several days. There is a general region of sinking air aloft over the Atlantic Basin combined with relatively high surface pressures and the result is a lid on development. Pressures will lower across the Caribbean through the weekend and upper level shear will be more favorable for development.

In the meantime, an upper trough of low pressure over the northwest Caribbean is venting a tropical wave along 75 west. The wave shows little sign of development at this time but it may become better organized before moving into central America tomorrow night and Saturday. Another tropical wave approaching the Windward Islands is better organized and upper level conditions are favorable for strengthening in its path. This wave will have to be watched for some strengthening. Latest GFS and EURO models track this feature across the southern Caribbean, which is normally the graveyard for tropical systems. If, however, it gains low level center, it could become a strengthening tropical system as it approaches central America next week. A tropical wave southwest of the Cape Verde Islands and another currently moving of the African coast will also have to watched next week for organization as they may bundle into a developing tropical cyclone by early next week. Both the GFS and EURO models strengthen this bundled feature and hold it together as it nears the Leeward Islands this time next week.

By AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Bob Smerbeck
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6775. unf97
Good afternoon/evening everyone.

The tropics appear to be finally perculating now with the newly designed invest 90L, a very unsettled Caribbean sea, and activity picking up somewhat along a dying frontal boundry in the SW Atlantic.

So, for those of you out there who was complaining about the lull, well, I think busy, busy times are ahead and we will be dizzy tracking the tropical entities across the Atlantic in the days and weeks to come.
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Quoting extreme236:


Their already running dvorak estimates...hmm nice. Decent number.
Awesome! We usually don't get satellite estimates until 2-3 days later than when the invest is tagged.
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Quoting ecflweatherfan:


You got off as one of the fortunate ones then. Amazing you got power back that quick!


You speaking about Andrew and Wilma or one of the two?
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Quoting ElConando:


North of North Miami Beach near an area called Aventura.


You got off as one of the fortunate ones then. Amazing you got power back that quick!
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


No, Alex was our first big player. This will be our second.



ok
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6767. will45
Quoting angiest:


How are you defining big?

a cat5 with a pinhole eye prob.
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Quoting tkeith:
I've never put anyone on ignore Gamma...not even JFV :)


You are a better person than I am.
Every January I take them all off ignore for another chance and by the time the systems start cranking and this blog gets cranking...

it makes it so much easier to navigate when 4 out of 10 posts are not seen! LOL

and if any of the "ignored" say something really funny or stupid, some one will quote it for all to see. LOL
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Quoting Tazmanian:
i think 90L will be are 1st big player this year


No, Alex was our first big player. This will be our second.
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6763. angiest
Quoting Tazmanian:
i think 90L will be are 1st big player this year


How are you defining big?
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i think 90L will be are 1st big player this year
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According to the 18z surface analysis 90L does have an area of low pressure. This should help initialization with the 00z model plots.

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6760. xcool
WHY ROB
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
6758. tkeith
Quoting seflagamma:



and neither were hurricanes. The CONUS did not have a landfalling hurricane in 2009...

I know because I predicted in April that would happen and I was right for once! LOL
With weather probably the only time I will guess it right!
I've never put anyone on ignore Gamma...not even JFV :)
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Quoting ecflweatherfan:


Where are you located?


North of North Miami Beach near an area called Aventura.
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Same number as SAB but obviously shows we have broad center fixes right now.

AL, 90, 201007291800, 10, DVTS, CI, , 840N, 3050W, , 3, 25, 2, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , TAFB, MH, VI, 5, 1010 /////, , , MET9, CSC, T,
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it looks like we may see i say we see 40% at the next two for 90L and 20%
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6752. angiest
Quoting sammywammybamy:


Last Year the Whole Hurricane Season only had 2 U.S Landfalls.

This year We already have 2 (Bonnie and TD 2)
Quoting Hardcoreweather2010:


you Left out Alex and hurt his feelings


Not a US landfall. ;)
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Quoting sammywammybamy:


Last Year the Whole Hurricane Season only had 2 U.S Landfalls.

This year We already have 2 (Bonnie and TD 2)



and neither were hurricanes. The CONUS did not have a landfalling hurricane in 2009...

I know because I predicted in April that would happen and I was right for once! LOL
With weather probably the only time I will guess it right!
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Not surprised.


Their already running dvorak estimates...hmm nice. Decent number.
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Quoting xcool:
29/1745 UTC 7.6N 29.9W T1.0/1.0 90L



not bad for the 1st run
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Sheesh guys, it's an invest. You can't look at long term models and begin predicting landfall and intensity.
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Quoting xcool:
29/1745 UTC 7.6N 29.9W T1.0/1.0 90L


Not surprised.
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Quoting sammywammybamy:


Last Year the Whole Hurricane Season only had 2 U.S Landfalls.

This year We already have 2 (Bonnie and TD 2)


you Left out Alex and hurt his feelings
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Florida won't really know if they have anything to really fear for another 4-5 days at the least.
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Quoting tkeith:
You told us the season was over...and I believed you...now what?

say it aint so fallinstorms...


TK... hummmmmmm....ROFL..

You know, I cannot believe you still do not have that handled on ignore like most of us have! LOL
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Quoting extreme236:


What I said wasn't directed towards you. It's directed towards others who are saying it looks like it's going to Florida with little evidence.


Ah alright. Gotcha.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Did I say it would hit Florida? I'm just saying that's what the ECMWF is showing, your right its very, very, very subjective to change. This thing could go as far south as Caribbean our out to sea. We first need a system, but model support is increasing.


What I said wasn't directed towards you. It's directed towards others who are saying it looks like it's going to Florida with little evidence.
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6741. IKE
Quoting extreme236:
All the speculation of this hitting Florida is very silly right now.


Especially looking at the 12Z ECMWF. Doesn't show anything substantial hitting Florida.
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6740. will45
Quoting extreme236:
All the speculation of this hitting Florida is very silly right now.


i agree completely
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6736. angiest
Quoting ElConando:


I tried looking but I'm stumped where is Florida written on the model?


My little corner of west Houston got very lucky with Ike. We may have lost power for, at most, minutes. In the days immediately following we had one of the few grocery stores that was open.
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Quoting sammywammybamy:
I May Say "Provacative" Things in about 40% of my comments.

But the other 60% is actually well though informative comments.

But you have to agree, im never as bad/roudy as those bloggers.

Now as for the name:

I Made this account about 7 years ago. If there was someway i could change my name, with people still knowing who i am, i would take it.

I Mean comeon how can you take someone with a handlename: sammywammybamy Seriously?


The first blog was April 2005...so you probably had that handle since Summer of 2005.

And you can change your handle, I have a few friends that made up one quickly that first year and then a few years later changed it to a different handle.
You just have to have a different email address and you can change your handle.

Many of us have a second "halloween" handle we keep up all year and pay dues to just use it for a few weeks every October. I have one myself! just a different email address is needed.

Hope this helps.
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6734. xcool
29/1745 UTC 7.6N 29.9W T1.0/1.0 90L
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684

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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.