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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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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Quoting Floodman:
Let me ask you again: what if the deniers are wrong?



Now thats a fair question.
I wish I had an answer.
Now lets convince China and all the other quickly developing countries to get on board with it reducing emissions otherwise we're only
hamstringing ourselve.
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Quoting unf97:
Good morning!


Welcome to the insanity
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Hope the doc mentions the Carolina disturbance, or the ECMWF and CMC developing a tropical cyclone in the Caribbean, anything just please no GW.


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.
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1275. unf97
Good morning!
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1274. hcubed
Quoting JonasNJ:
The only effective way to stop global warming is a gradual reduction of the world population through birth control and family planning. If our grandchildren inherit a world of 3 billion instead of 10, they will be alright.


So you're saying that if everbody stops having grandchildren, the world will be ok?
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MH09, save us from this insanity!
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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.




as opposed to rachel maddox or chris matthews? lmao oops, the pres will be on the view so i am sure that will be your next news source
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Quoting sailingallover:

The basics physics are not disputed..
What is disputed is statement like "Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity""
Granted CO2 is greenhouse gas but is the rate fo our emission going to cause warming at a "Catastrophe"(ic) rate? What about the expansion of the atmosphere as warming occurs giving more surface area to radiate heat and greater depth at a higher altitude.. PV=NRT are those basic facts of physics being taken into account?
It is the knee jerk reaction without an investigation AND viable solution that is being reacted against


Agree..reactions should be science-based and not knee-jerk. But time may be of the essence...
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Quoting twhcracker:
i just accidentally set fire to the breakroom at work. The microwave started on fire and i ran. someone sprayed it with fire extinguisher and the flames spread to three places and then it was put out. now the whole building is full of smoke and fire extinguisher fog whatever it is. the sprinklers came on and the fire dept came. everyone knows i did it. i just wanted you all to know what kind of morning i am having.

Lets see 50lbs of CO2 emitted ...that will be a $5000 fine and 30 days in jail...

Think of it as your 15 minutes of fame.. think it will make the local paper?
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Quoting btwntx08:
this here will scare fallinstorms


Wow. It's even showing activity in the EastPac as well. The steering in the Caribbean will take these storms (if they develop) into the GOM unless steering changes in 10 days.
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Quoting twhcracker:
jimmy carter had solar panels put on the white house and reagen took them down. did i tell you guys i set the kitchen on fire at work by acident? I work in the freakin courthouse for godssakes.



Sure hope you dont have a performance review coming up soon?? Also are you the fire warden for your floor???? Just kidding... sorry you are having such a s**t morning!!
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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.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21113
NRL Monterey now has a website for pouch tracking.
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Quoting fallinstorms:


it will not happen!

mark my words

BP not gonna let a little hurricane hurt us

they will keep them away


I feel certain someone will make you go back to whence you came.
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Quoting twhcracker:
i just accidentally set fire to the breakroom at work. The microwave started on fire and i ran. someone sprayed it with fire extinguisher and the flames spread to three places and then it was put out. now the whole building is full of smoke and fire extinguisher fog whatever it is. the sprinklers came on and the fire dept came. everyone knows i did it. i just wanted you all to know what kind of morning i am having.
That is not GW related so cannot be discussed....LOL
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1258. CJ5
Quoting JFLORIDA:
So I would like to see one article from a respected scientist verified in observation that disputes the base mechanism for AGW.

One.


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

You can start with this one.
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Quoting SeniorPoppy:


Agree 100%!


Ditto, let's stop this now before people start getting banned.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7361
Quoting TampaTom:
OK, you didn't ask, but here's my take...

Either AGW is happening or it isn't.

However, for national security's sake, we had best kick our folks into high gear to develop locally produced non-fossil-fuel technology.

The argument that nothing is cheaper than oil and that it will take 20 years to convert our systems from oil based to something else is just nonsense. Had we started a conversion process back in 1973 - the first Arab oil embargo, we would be there now.

Think for a minute about how much it costs to keep an aircraft carrier task force on station in the Persian Gulf for a year. How about an armored division? A Marine Amphibious Group? An Air Force fighter wing? A Coast Guard task group?

Couldn't we spend that money better here?

And, why are we there? To protect our oil interests. You can tell me they are there to bring peace and democracy to these brutal kingdoms where they subjugate their women and you can lose a hand for shoplifting a loaf of bread, but it's really about the oil.

And, how much more expensive can you get than the cost of the irreplaceable life of a young American soldier, sailor, Marine, airman or Coastie?

{If it really was about bringing peace and democracy, wouldn't we be involved in the Congo - the site of the deadliest war since World War II?}

Also, where did the funding to conduct the 9/11 terror attacks and other operations against the west come from? Chinese manufacturers? Microsoft? Nope... Saudi princes and other rich oil sheiks who don't like the west. If we can create a home-grown fuel source, we can significantly reduce the possibility of a terrorist attack by cutting off its funding.

And, it's going to have to not be carbon-based, because the majority oil reserves are over there. If we don't wean ourselves, when we eventually run out we'll be back where we started.

Bloody expensive real estate to continue to pay for.

Every state has multiple colleges in it. There are multi-billion dollar corporations out there who have the brainpower and means to make this a reality.

It just takes the guts to say we can do better and make it happen.

Not liberal. Not conservative. Just pragmatic.


Yes... just keep on thinking that way. I work for a major energy firm and I can tell you all of them KNOW we have a problem with supply/demand coming up.

Doesn't even require AGW acceptance (although once again I accept the science)

Also, ADAPTATION is a legitimate position (which is politically incorrect, granted, in the current administration) that argues do nothing but does not deny the science. I do not support the position but at least respect the integrity of those scientists who propose the position
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1253. jpsb
Quoting sailingallover:

Do you think they left them out on purpose?
Or was it an engineering mistake?
Did they plan to create a huge problem that costs them billions of dollars and hurts all the British pensioners who are their stock holders?
BP did not follow best engineering practices, everytime the choice was best practice vrs "save a buck", BP choose "save a buck". Shame on BP management.
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Omg I can't wait for a new blog then most of the trolls will be in this one and we can talk tropics again. All the gw talk blah blah blah its called the earth is getting older and the sun is getting hotter. So u r saying that gw is in the bible I don't think so.its called the end of times not global warming. Our weather is gonna get worse and the earthquakes will get bigger nothing to do with gw.
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Quoting DaytonaBeachWatcher:
Actually, the CMC, GFS and the NOGAPS all develop those three systems in 120 hrs.


So this means there is consistency?
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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.


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
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Quoting sailingallover:

The anger comes from the fact that instead of admitting that companies and everyone IS looking for ways to use less oil the Greenies keep screwing things up and going about it in a negative backwards fashion..
Just who did it help to shutdown all the BP stations in London?? Everyone already know about the mess in the Gulf and BP Solar has been making panels for years....
I'm in the Solar business in ST Thomas..
Why don't the activist work then use the money to buy panels or grow coconuts for bio diesel???
Cap and trade is a way to put the final nail in the coffin for what little is left of US industry. Obviously the sun puts out enough energy that we don't need to use oil IF we had the technology to harness it and use it. Current solar technology is totally inadequate to do that..oh yes you can read about all these great nano paint on thin film advances but you can't ever seem to find the commercial product. So why are these activist going to school to get material engineering degrees with their time or better volunteering in BP Solar labs to actually make something POSITIVE happen instead of continually doing negative things????
You cannot legislate your way out of industrial heating and it's to late to going back to living in caves...


Some people are shutting down BP stations.. true though that's greenpeace though which has always used specific events to generate publicity for general causes.

But I still don't understand the anger though. I don't think there is anything more to be angry about for their actions than the rhetoric I hear on the other side. The rhetoric is not any worse than that of the abortion debates, the anti-war demonstrations or many others. I disagree with many things that go on in the world but believing in global warming when it isn't true seems a victimless crime compared to all the other polarizing issues... so who cares?

I, by the way, am mostly conservative. Mostly i hate politics in general these days. I am not going to argue with you about cap and trade because I don't follow it and doubt it is a solution. I remember bartending and the general feeling was that any system you can invent to keep me from stealing drinks, is just a better way for me to hide that I am stealing drinks. I think cap and trade is the same probably.

But speaking of St Thomas as an example ( I used to live in St Maartin so I know the islands some.) Are the traffic jams still horrible? Why are there no electric bikes? All the islands are crying out to be test beds for new technologies: a small captive audience which relatively low infra-structure reworking costs. You know the costs to do this, electric bike infrastructure would pay for itself with the first season of tourists: a few chargers in each hotel, some centralized renting, scattered public chargers around the island, ideally powered by solar panels. The islands with consistent trade winds would be even more ideal. Where is the wind power in Aruba or Bonaire? It's not that difficult but my guess is the politics of the island won't allow it. Why? It's not the greenies protesting on St Thomas (is it? I hope not).
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Quoting EnergyMoron:
Major Oil Company views on AGW

1) RDS, BP, TOT all view AGW as being a credible theory that needs to be dealt with
2) XOM has stopped funding the Heartland deniers and now takes a neutral position. Does favor conservation
3) CVX favors resource conservation and is very large in geothermal energy production (a quiet renewable)

I don't know why Rush Limbaugh et alia think the know more than ENERGY PROVIDERS.


Because the boys don't make money on consensus; they make money on division...the louder the argument, the better Rush and the club like it
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Actually, the CMC, GFS and the NOGAPS all develop those three systems in 120 hrs.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Hope the doc mentions the Carolina disturbance, or the ECMWF and CMC developing a tropical cyclone in the Caribbean, anything just please no GW.


Agree 100%!
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Quoting Progster:


There aren't any, as you know. The connections between varying levels of Co2, Methane, etc. and varying global temperatures are simple physics and as indisputable as gravity.

What is not yet clear is the risk of non-linear atmospheric behavior, i.e. runaway AGW due to fossil fuel emissions. The models out there suggest is is a risk, with greater or lesser probabilities. So to do nothing is like playing Russian roulette with a revolver you don't know much about. Are there 10 or 50 chambers or are there, say, three?

The basics physics are not disputed..
What is disputed is statement like "Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity""
Granted CO2 is greenhouse gas but is the rate fo our emission going to cause warming at a "Catastrophe"(ic) rate? What about the expansion of the atmosphere as warming occurs giving more surface area to radiate heat and greater depth at a higher altitude.. PV=NRT are those basic facts of physics being taken into account?
It is the knee jerk reaction without an investigation AND viable solution that is being reacted against
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1244. GetReal
Quoting JFLORIDA:


Who disputed current science because it didn't fit their political beliefs.

Who was that GR?

You sure have never been able to argue climate from a technical standpoint but have injected politics at EVERY turn.

Yea its obvious who posts the unreferenced politics.




How is one to intelligently argue against made up date (extrapolated) that is accepted as correct??? It is up to the individual to make up his own mind, after seeing for themselves how the limited data was collected...
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1243. Michale
jpsb,

Maybe we should worry more about cooling then warming, at least until the Sun gets hot enough to fry the Earth in about a billion years or so.

Worrying about cooling is so 1970s... :D

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jimmy carter had solar panels put on the white house and reagen took them down. did i tell you guys i set the kitchen on fire at work by acident? I work in the freakin courthouse for godssakes.
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Quoting fallinstorms:
NO STORMS WILL FORM

we have a hire chance of the owner of BP becoming sexy

lol
Here you go again trying to start trouble, lol...
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Gotta love when the tropics are quiet. Thanks Jeff for starting the GW banter. lol

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Hope the doc mentions the Carolina disturbance, or the ECMWF and CMC developing a tropical cyclone in the Caribbean, anything just please no GW.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23887
1237. CJ5
Quoting JFLORIDA:
Direct observations find that CO2 is rising sharply due to human activity. Satellite and surface measurements find less energy is escaping to space at CO2 absorption wavelengths. Ocean and surface temperature measurements find the planet continues to accumulate heat. This gives a line of empirical evidence that human CO2 emissions are causing global warming.


Of course, the disputed evidience

Link

and

Link
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Quoting fallinstorms:
NO STORMS WILL FORM

we have a hire chance of the owner of BP becoming sexy

lol


You are just what this blog needed.
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Quoting twhcracker:
i just accidentally set fire to the breakroom at work. The microwave started on fire and i ran. someone sprayed it with fire extinguisher and the flames spread to three places and then it was put out. now the whole building is full of smoke and fire extinguisher fog whatever it is. the sprinklers came on and the fire dept came. everyone knows i did it. i just wanted you all to know what kind of morning i am having.


...who sympathizes with you this morning may depend upon your view of global warming; if i were you right now, wouldn't mention it.
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.