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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1334. hcubed
Quoting Michale:


No offense, more tongue in cheek then anything else.

But just how can people stop having "grandchildren"?? :D



Well, as the saying goes:

"Having children is Hereditary. If your parents didn't have any children, the odds are you won't either..."
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It's crazy in here this morning..I've checked in twice...and checked right out...oh, well, nothing going on in the tropics, so have fun, yall!
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Quoting DestinJeff:


Tag, you're it.


I just like the Homer avatar. At least you get to change it periodically, depending on the 'tropical' mood you are in? lol.
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But reality is we are warming our atmosphere every time we produce a joule of energy by burning something or nuclear fission..the

No.

There is that darn first law, U = q + w. We can either create heat or work from energy.

Which is not the problem with GHG, BTW....

Of course politics in this country (both sides) appears to be a statement of the third law
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1329. Michale
Quoting Jax82:
Will someone please tell it to rain here in N. FL? The highs here in Jax the next 5 days: 97,96,97,98,98. Must be the year of the extremes. Record long cold snap last winter, record highs in the summer.



I second that. Down here in St Augustine, we haven't had a decent storm in a while...

Bring on the rain!!!
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Quoting fallinstorms:
even when u poop that's adding more harm to the earth



well then.... No more of that for me!!!!!!!!!!
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Please get us a new blog Doc cuz people can't grasp things on here...

If the Earth is so rapidly warming to epic levels then explain to me why we once had no polar ice caps and why the ocean was once covering most of the US....

The Earth warms and cools in cycles... Grab hold of chair and enjoy the ride.

I am tired of hearing people say they want to ship us all off to another planet cuz that is a Nazi attitude just like Doug said.

Come on folks we all have different views but lets talk about what we do best THE WEATHER!!!!!
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Quoting JFLORIDA:


an 1983 paper referenced by an article in the Canada free press???


Don't play the man, JFLORIDA. Play the Ball :)
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1325. Jax82
Will someone please tell it to rain here in N. FL? The highs here in Jax the next 5 days: 97,96,97,98,98. Must be the year of the extremes. Record long cold snap last winter, record highs in the summer.

The blog has a lot of personalities today. You can tell a lot of poeple have a lot of different opinions on the global warming topic. Unfortunately we dont seem to change things/the way we live unless something catastrophic happens and thats the only sad thing about this debate.

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Quoting DestinJeff:


Please point to some positive correlation between Personal Blog Entries and Credibility in the comments section here.

We get it. You are the Grand Freakin' Pooba of the Wunderblogs. How about laying off the condescention for a few while enjoying a nice Fresca?


"How bout a Fresca?"
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 18 Comments: 2307
1322. Patrap
Its the intellectual lazy that concern me the most.

When you give up your thinkage for a party Line of Insanity.

Then insanity rules..


were seeing that inversely today as they come out the woodwork like Munchkins after the House landed.
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G' Morning everyone. I hope it's troll-free this morning.
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Quoting sailingallover:

Yes this raises valid questions...
and I tried to get the data they use in the models before..they won't give it you...
It is easy to start scientifically with a data set an manipulate it in a scientifically valid way to show results you want to prove...

But reality is we are warming our atmosphere every time we produce a joule of energy by burning something or nuclear fission..the question is at what rate and what are the effects going to be??


I started a big ass bonfire in my yard this last weekend... did I do any damage????
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Quoting NttyGrtty:
Patrick, please. You are one of, if not THE, worst violator on here. Save our opines? You copy and paste and huff and puff while acting like this is your blog. I've seen your blog...not as interesting as this one. If you don't like what other's are doing on this free url, feel free to opine yourself over to your blog and make all the rules you want. We know the term, and as always, one man's hero is another man's troll...

"the only thing worse than ignorance is arrogance"

Albert Einstein

Amen brother!
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Quoting 757weather:

the troughs supposed to dissapate by tonight per NWS
Probably will. Do you have the link?
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
1315. BFG308
Ahh cmon guys don't bring religion into this...

Actually don't even bring politics into this.

This is a "sciency" blog. Isn't it?
__________________________________

EDIT: Nope. Not today. Look at how many comments are below average rating? It's time for a lunch break...and a blog-comment-reading break!
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Quoting CJ5:


http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/18343

You can start with this one.

Yes this raises valid questions...
and I tried to get the data they use in the models before..they won't give it you...
It is easy to start scientifically with a data set an manipulate it in a scientifically valid way to show results you want to prove...

But reality is we are warming our atmosphere every time we produce a joule of energy by burning something or nuclear fission..the question is at what rate and what are the effects going to be??
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Quoting Patrap:
When was the last time anyone here did a single Blog entry?

Those who post here on a Daily or seasonal basis that iz?

Not many..less than 1 % by my figures.

I can use a slide rule.


You have feelings on this matter?


Do a entry on it.

Show us why and how you decided your insight is better than the data presented by climatologist on the matter.

A consensus was reached long ago.


..but we get the political junkies and hacks opines like a Glenn Beck RUSH Party line regurgitated for the World to see via Dr. Masters entry.

And trust me..your making Fools outa yourselves daily.

Globally.


So if ya passionate about what you believe.

Do a Blog entry.

I've done 250 in 4.5 years.

It aint rocket science.

But its how we do things here.

We have a name for Main Blog Hipsters who front here instead of their er,,respected,er,
featured Entries.

But its a lil secret.

So do a entry, save your opines.




Mornin Pat, You know what you make so much sense. Know if they would only take your advice.
Have a good day.
Sheri
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Surface observations across the location of the disturbance show that pressures remain very high (above 1015mb) however winds in the vicinity are gusting to over 20-25 knots.

Buoy 41013 shows the increase of winds, however pressure is at 30.08 inches (1018.6mb).

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
1307. Michale
Quoting hcubed:


So you're saying that if everbody stops having grandchildren, the world will be ok?


No offense, more tongue in cheek then anything else.

But just how can people stop having "grandchildren"?? :D

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Quoting Chicklit:


...who sympathizes with you this morning may depend upon your view of global warming; if i were you right now, wouldn't mention it.
Lol true
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Looking at satellite imagery it seems to me that the disturbance off of Carolina's is still attached to the trough. If it can manage to detach itself it should be watched for tropical development. I suspect it won't be mentioned in the next TWO if it's still attached.


the troughs supposed to dissapate by tonight per NWS
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1294. MahFL
Quoting JFLORIDA:


Really what does that have to do with this discussion? How does it advance the science, or resolve solutions??

Honestly. This is the reason I flag posts.

BTW Christianity and the major churches of ALL RELIGIONS have come out in favor of responsible moves on climate and thoughtful stewardship of the planet and have made public statements to the effect.


I think I missed al-Qaida's take on global warming......lol.
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Quoting CJ5:


http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/18343

You can start with this one.


Look at what Ball illustrates from Jaworowski, NZCPR Research, 20 September 2008 p.20:

The historical correlation between CO2 and temperature is very clear in this chart. So Ball's piece doesn't dispute the mechanism at all.
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Quoting fallinstorms:
the tracks will be alot like 2007-2008

guess, texas gonna get hit again!



texas is being punished for their dark practices
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"His main theme is that we need to tax fossil fuels"....

It's called a carbon tax, in other words.

XOM is in favor of such a thing rather than cap and trade (BP and RDS favor cap and trade).

Look, more nuclear, conservation, and a carbon tax (or cap and trade) are favored by anywhere from 60% to 100% of the energy majors (depending upon the precise issue).

Dr. Hanson is MAINSTREAM on ENERGY folks.... independent of AGW.
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Quoting fallinstorms:
dainelle will be dolly part 2

THIS IS 2008 all over again!


"It's deja vu all over again!"
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Looking at 925mb vorticity you can tell that the disturbance is still attached to the trough.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting fallinstorms:
the tracks will be alot like 2007-2008

guess, texas gonna get hit again!





and again... and again!!1
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1284. unf97
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


He has some days off until Friday at the latest,he said in the other blog. So I fear we will not see a tropics blog until then.


I was surprised not to see Dr. Carver with an update last night. He generally fills in for Dr. Masters while he is off on vacation most times if I am correct.
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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.