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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o wow twhcracker LOL
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1232. Michale
Quoting EnergyMoron:
If that 300 million had been put towards a Rural Solar Energy program instead of making Gore, Branson, hack scientists, lobbyists, lawyers and PR firms richer, it would have equipped 10,000 homes to not only be completely off the power grid, but would have set them up to actually FEED excess power BACK to the grid.

Precisely.

My solar PV is going up today.

Why wait for the government to do things? Yah, folks who are concerned about AGW (like myself) need to just DO SOMETHING about it.


Got a spare $30K?? :D

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Quoting fallinstorms:
there hurricane season is over

so the only topic is GW


Lmao. I knew you where coming
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1229. BFG308
Quoting ssmate:
I think the Vikings will really take it to the Saints in the opener. It will be a great game but the Vikes won't fumble 5 times and that will be that. Plus the game will be in a climate controlled atmosphere(weather related).


We bring the BREES, you bring the WHEEZE

WHO DAT
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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.
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1226. Michale
Quoting Floodman:
Let me ask you again: what if the deniers are wrong?


"If I'm wrong, nothing happens. We go to jail.. Peacefully... Quietly... We'll enjoy it. But if I'm right.. And we can stop this thing... Lenny... YOU will be responsible for saving the lives of millions of registered voters...."
-Peter Venkmen, GHOSTBUSTERS

Sorry, couldn't resist...

If the AGW skeptics are wrong, then, in a a few thousand years, humans will likely become extinct.. Then, after a couple million years, new life forms will likely develop.. And so on and so on..

But if the AGW proponents are wrong and get their way, then economies will collapse and the world will be thrown into complete and utter chaos and anarchy in less than a hundred years..

So, let's see....

Possible extinction of the human species in a few thousand years???

Or

Death, starvation and anarchy for my grandchildren and great grandchildren...

Aww geeee... Lemme think about this one....

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Wow as usual, there is someone here who is a pot calling the kettle....
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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?


They were cutting cost of doing business.
In the long run it cost them and us more.
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Quoting reedzone:


Beryl (2006), Edwouard (2002), and Cristobal (2008) formed off a cold front.

Along with several tropical storms..
Looks like it got some light SE shear right now..
dry air to the north and south
No model support..
Over warm water.
Have to see if it surprises us as the High behind the front moves off the coast.
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1221. ssmate
I think the Vikings will really take it to the Saints in the opener. It will be a great game but the Vikes won't fumble 5 times and that will be that. Plus the game will be in a climate controlled atmosphere(weather related).
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1220. 7544
is the carol blob moving ssw now ?
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1219. 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.


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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.


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?
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Quoting JFLORIDA:


You know ignorance is ignorance - if you dont have anything reasonable to add then why open your mouth?


Ditto to you
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The link to the 350.org site lead to some great discoveries. Thanks.

The climate change topics sure blow up the number of posts on here.
Looks like another hot month in a hot year.
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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.
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1212. angiest
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?


Well apparently BP just concluded an investigation and declared they were not responsible for the accident.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
GW was the topic of discussion today, so deal with it deautchlandfutbol.
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Quoting JFLORIDA:


You know ignorance is ignorance - if you dont have anything reasonable to add then why open your mouth?


Your the one who misstated Reed there Al
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Quoting Hurricanes12:


As much as I agree with you, that won't change unless/until Dr. Master's changes the topic to a tropical weather related subject. At the moment, GW is the "topic" and I guess will continue to be ranted about even though nothing will change/improve.



I agree, but.....NEW BLOG DOC!!!!!!
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Quoting Patrap:
The Church of Anti Logic or AGW Denial..

All Hail Fla..!!
I agree, all hail Florida...the line forms to the left. Thank you Patrick...now go empty your drool cup
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Quoting deautschlandfutbol:
Ok this is quite ridiculous dudes. Gw should have never been in this tropical weather blog. That was a mistake to even bring it up. Let's just stick to the tropics and please shut up about gw. The earth is changing and there isn't anything we could do about it so shut up please. Now back the tropics cuz they are starting to heat up.


As much as I agree with you, that won't change unless/until Dr. Master's changes the topic to a tropical weather related subject. At the moment, GW is the "topic" and I guess will continue to be ranted about even though nothing will change/improve.
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1205. jpsb
Quoting JFLORIDA:


>the link between man made CO2 and global warming is tenuous at best.


Thats incorrect. The excess carbon in the atmosphere is traceable to fossil fuel burring, the mechanism of heat retention is physics after that.
Sorry but the mechanics is not so clear cut. The increase in CO2 is tiny what the AWG theory requires is something call an atmospheric "hot spot". This is a local phenioum (sp) where increased CO2 causes increased evaporation of water, water vapor is a much more powerful green house gas. And then the water vapor causes a measurable temperature increase. As best as I can tell no “hot spots” have yet been found.

We are 12,000 years into an interglacial, interglacials last 12,000 to 20,000 years. In the last billion years or so there has never been a really bad case of runaway warming. I do not consider the massive volcanic eruptions of 225 million years ago runaway warning, that was just an impact event followed by massive eruptions. However there have been numerous cases of runaway cooling. Snowball Earth being the most spectacular. 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.
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Quoting Patrap:


Nice post Dude.
Dude, you are WAY too old to be using the term "Dude"...
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Ok this is quite ridiculous dudes. Gw should have never been in this tropical weather blog. That was a mistake to even bring it up. Let's just stick to the tropics and please shut up about gw. The earth is changing and there isn't anything we could do about it so shut up please. Now back the tropics cuz they are starting to heat up.
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You chose to inflict your particular viewpoint on us


And you don't?
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Quoting jpsb:
We had the foresight back in the 1970, but then environmentalist killed the nuclear power industry in the USA so we are stuck with fossil fuels for most of our energy needs. An apology would be nice.

The earth has been gradually warming for the last 12,000 years, something about an ice age ending. In the recent past (last 2,000 years) the Earth has been warmer then it is today. While I agree pollution is bad and we should try hard not to be polluters, the link between man made CO2 and global warming is tenuous at best.

I am very leery of politicians (Al Gore) that “invent” problems that both enrich and enpower politicians, I suspect AWG is much more about power and money then AGW. However I do enjoy and follow the debate with interest and keep my personal carbon foot print as small as possible, mostly for economic reasons. Lol.

Rain, rain and more rain in SE Texas.



And if you're wrong? It's easy to deny it, ipse dixit, because you don't want to believe, but what if you're wrong? I agree that to be sure we need more study, but with something that is this potentially catastrophic, shouldn't we take steps to obviate the problem should the further research prove that it IS happening?

The other thing to look at, and this will show my paranoia: denial is an industry, backed by industry...who stands to profit from this being proven false? The very industry that created the denial sector in the first place...does anyone remember the millions of dollars that the tobacco industry pumped into "research" and ad campaigns after the surgeon general reported a causal link between cigarette smoking and numerous health issues, including cancer? Those of you who are too young should really do the research...it's fascinating...Big Tobacco knew they were bad, but they spent millions to try and convince the sheep otherwise; it appears to be happening again.

Yes, we need petroleum to survive in our current state: we need the energy, we need the byproducts and those chemicals, etc created from them but tell me: where is the research into alternatives? I'm about to inject another ugly fact into the debate: to be honest, oil may be the last of our worries as petroleum reserves are FINITE...we are getting into the post peak time for petroleum production...one of the largest contributors to man's portion of the warming maybe stop being a factor in our lifetimes...try a planet with 11 billion or so people, 6 billion or so who are dependent on cheap easy energy to survive...the crops will rot in the fields while the people in the cities will starve...ever paint yourself into a corner, literally? It feels just like this...

People don't want to beleive bad news and they don't want to hear it but that doesn't make it any less true

Let me ask you again: what if the deniers are wrong?
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1199. CJ5
Quoting Patrap:





THE data is easily accessible.

Try the Google, its all the rage I hear.


Well, when I "google" I don't find indisputable evdience. I was hoping you could clue me in since you seem to have it or know where it is.
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1197. GetReal
For those that complain of politics here at the WU, I pose the following question:


Who exactly is responsible for injecting politics onto the WU, and was there ever any doubt???

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Quoting PensacolaDoug:



That doesn't sound like democracy to me. Sounds more like a nazi option.


Oh, there it s: the 'N' word. Always the analogy of last resort to those who find themselves on shaky, illogical footing. Don't worry, though; I won't go there. Consider the bait untaken... :-)
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If that 300 million had been put towards a Rural Solar Energy program instead of making Gore, Branson, hack scientists, lobbyists, lawyers and PR firms richer, it would have equipped 10,000 homes to not only be completely off the power grid, but would have set them up to actually FEED excess power BACK to the grid.

Precisely.

My solar PV is going up today.

Why wait for the government to do things? Yah, folks who are concerned about AGW (like myself) need to just DO SOMETHING about it.
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Quoting TankHead93:
What do you think about the area of convection near 60W? And yes this is my way of getting everyone, not just you back on track. ;)


It's heading into 20-30 knots of wind shear, no development expected in the near term. My eye is on the Carolina disturbance.
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Quoting JFLORIDA:


Yea and you keep saying liberals are not christens or not as good Christan as you.

Thats not Christianity to me. Thats something else you are involved in.


I don't think he said any of that Mr Gore
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My post had nothing to do with religion or political thinking, but to a form of government:

Main Entry: dem·o·crat·ic
Pronunciation: \ˌde-mə-ˈkra-tik\
Function: adjective
Date: 1602
1 : of, relating to, or favoring democracy
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1189. CJ5
Quoting Patrap:


Party Lines are that..Lines.

Avoid them at all costs.

Well least the one that Leads to a Oilman as President or that Families.

Ya know the one..he was seen Kissing the Saudi's in the Rose Garden,,yeah the Same Saudi who's countrymen did in the Towers 9 years back.

What was that Guys name?

Fla and chads had something to do with it..if I recall.

pfffthhh


So let me get this striaght...GWB is the reason for global warming?? I am confused on with the point you are tryig to make.

Would you care to actually explain how your post above has any relevance on the subject or is it just about party lines? Oh, but it cannot be about party lines because avoiding them seems to be your point...right?
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Quoting Neapolitan:
I wish there were a way to jam all you oil-loving, anti-science deniers/contrarians onto a fleet of spaceships and send you to another earth-like planet so you could continue your ultimately catastrophic atmosphere modification experiments in a place that wouldn't affect me or those I care about (and those to come); it's not fair that we all have to suffer for the benefit of the relative few gorging themselves on petro-dollars. Unfortunately, that ain't gonna happen...so the next best thing is for me (and others of a sound and reasonable mind) to continue to rant and rave against the anti-science status quo until such time as needed change occurs. If that change never happens, well, at least we'll die with the truth in our mouths. So be it...



That doesn't sound like democracy to me. Sounds more like a nazi option.
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1186. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Patrap:
Quoting Orcasystems:
We are in DESPERATE need of a new Blog, this GW stuff is driving me nuts... and trust me...its a very short drive.


Well smuckers..most of us know that already.
hmmm pats gettin out that ugly stick orca its almost time
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1185. Michale
Quoting angiest:


Sorry! I meant that as rhetorical, not directed specifically at you! :)


My bust... :D

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Quoting reedzone:


Beryl (2006), Edwouard (2002), and Cristobal (2008) formed off a cold front.



Sooooo. Is that blob in the central GOM anything????? wait... It looks like ti just broke up... bummer..
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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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