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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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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Quoting Chicklit:
Yeah, and it would have hurt BP to put more safety measures into the deepwater drill that's caused so much grief and misery.

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?
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1182. Michale
Quoting sailingallover:

So all the Global warming scientists best get busy figuring out exactly how to do that instead of more studies to prove global warming and make a name for themselves


Ding!! Ding!! Ding!!

We have a winner!!!

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Obviously Dr. Hanson's communication skills are limited. Please stop blaming Cheney.

The problem is that so-called "conservatives" don't understand the limited nature of fossil fuel energy (except for coal).

The TRUTH of the matter is that independent of AGW the US has a very high energy intensity. We use too much energy. This makes us non-competitive.

America must STOP wasting energy indepedent of AGW.
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Now now. Let's all be calm and remember that in tropical down times we need to discuss off-topic subject matter civilly. Respect begets respect.
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Quoting reedzone:


Hardcore as in, going to church every Sunday, believing what the bible says, heck I'm not perfect and God knows that.. I just said I was Christian and I get attacked by liberals.. nice.
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. ;)
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Quoting reedzone:


Hardcore as in, going to church every Sunday, believing what the bible says, heck I'm not perfect and God knows that.. I just said I was Christian and I get attacked by liberals.. nice.


Don't pay them no attention Reed
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Quoting sailingallover:

Cool!! broken off cold front..ALWAYS potential with those!!


Beryl (2006), Edwouard (2002), and Cristobal (2008) formed off a cold front.
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Quoting TankHead93:
Can we get back to tropical weather now. This is no blog for politics!


Did you actually take the time to read Dr. Masters' blog post?
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1174. angiest
Quoting Michale:


I think you misunderstand my position, Angiest..

While I firmly believe that we should rid ourselves of our dependency on oil, it should obviously be done in a responsible, reasonable and above all else, logical manner...

Until we have access to fantastic alien technology that, to us, is magic, we have to make do with what we have...

Speaking for myself, personally, my home is PERFECTLY situated for solar power.. A perfect East-West positioning with plenty of sun days. I just can't afford the $20-$30K it would take to get me on complete solar power..

I would wager that my situation is typical of hundreds of thousands of Florida homes and tens of millions if not more of homes throughout the country..

Now, let's take my 300 Million dollar example from earlier...

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..

Yea, I know. 10,000 homes is not a whole heck of a lot..

But it's a start... A helluva lot better start that what the 300 million went for.

More hot air from politicians and activists..

Believe me, I am on your side in the AGW debate...



Sorry! I meant that as rhetorical, not directed specifically at you! :)
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1173. Michale
Quoting angiest:


How much oil is present in the computers you are using to say we should stop using oil?


I think you misunderstand my position, Angiest..

While I firmly believe that we should rid ourselves of our dependency on oil, it should obviously be done in a responsible, reasonable and above all else, logical manner...

Until we have access to fantastic alien technology that, to us, is magic, we have to make do with what we have...

Speaking for myself, personally, my home is PERFECTLY situated for solar power.. A perfect East-West positioning with plenty of sun days. I just can't afford the $20-$30K it would take to get me on complete solar power..

I would wager that my situation is typical of hundreds of thousands of Florida homes and tens of millions if not more of homes throughout the country..

Now, let's take my 300 Million dollar example from earlier...

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..

Yea, I know. 10,000 homes is not a whole heck of a lot..

But it's a start... A helluva lot better start that what the 300 million went for.

More hot air from politicians and activists..

Believe me, I am on your side in the AGW debate...

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Quoting sailingallover:

Cool!! broken off cold front..ALWAYS potential with those!!


Correct, might see some sub-tropical or tropical development. Its worth watching imo.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24580
1171. 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.
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Quoting btwntx08:

same here


While you are free to practice your religion you are not free to practice it on me.
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Quoting reedzone:
Jeff Masters needs to post a new blog like right now lol.. Hopefully he will mention the Carolinas disturbance.

Cool!! broken off cold front..ALWAYS potential with those!!
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Read the topic of the day, Hurricane12. Or better yet, find us a blob worth discussing.

Mudslide in Shuanghe,Sichuan,China
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1167. Patrap
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Good morning everyone!

In my opinion oil is very convenient as a raw material in creating plastics, lubricants and other type of sub-products that are created in petro-chemistry but really bad and inefficient as an energy provider.

Regardless humans are causing or not climate change, we need to change our daily live standards by consuming locally, if possible consume home-grown vegetables. Pollution is indeed bad so we don't need to wait until we see (or not) temperatures changing and weather patterns going mad to take actions.

<>img src="" width="600" height="400" alt="" />
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Quoting FLdewey:


What exactly make you a "hardcore" Christian?

This should be good.


Hardcore as in, going to church every Sunday, believing what the bible says, heck I'm not perfect and God knows that.. I just said I was Christian and I get attacked by liberals.. nice.
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Quoting Patrap:
Most who cant fathom or understand the dilemma we face ,,will tend to trend towards dismissing what they cant understand..nor choose to...

So, since we're not as smart as you. You will force it us. That helps clear things up.
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1163. angiest
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.


That's why I don't come to this blog during the winter...
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Quoting Chicklit:

Umm, did you read the Blog?


Absolutely! However, I think this talk about GW is/will have no ending and you can obviously see it's getting no where with all this arguing and ranting.
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1161. Patrap
The Church of Anti Logic or AGW Denial..

All Hail Fla..!!
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Quoting Hurricanes12:
Last time I checked, I clicked: Tropical & Hurricane, and then I clicked to get to the blog. Where is all this GW talk coming from! Go rant about it somewhere else!

Umm, did you read the Blog?
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1158. 7544
hi is the carolania blob moving ssw ?

also cmc shows 2 canes in the atl at 144 hr

stay tuned
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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 it is a new blog ..about the politics of global warming.... so the board reflects that...
I don't like it anymore than you do..
But the Tropics are dry...literally..
We have a wave coming tomorrow with almost no vorticity or moisture currently although it's supposed to pick up once it interacts with the TUTT...
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1156. Patrap
Quoting Patrap:


Classy.


Nice post Dude.
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Last time I checked, I clicked: Tropical & Hurricane, and then I clicked to get to the blog. Go rant about GW somewhere else!
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1154. Patrap
Quoting LoneStarWeather:

Seems to me that you cackle more than most...your "data" coming straight from the GW bible...sound bite regurgitation with a cajun flava.


Classy.
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Quoting Patrap:
The warming has stopped..and the Co2 and Coal emissions from Fossil Fuel Burning is over..

Well..diddly doo dah.

Wheres da data on that?

I guess the post alone solved it ,eh?

LOL..pffftthhh.

There is never any data to support somes view, yet they cackle like chickens to slaughter seems.

Inhofe and Boehner would be proud of yas.

Tanning booth anyone?

Seems to me that you cackle more than most...your "data" coming straight from the GW bible...sound bite regurgitation with a cajun flava.
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Jeff Masters needs to post a new blog like right now lol.. Hopefully he will mention the Carolinas disturbance.
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1149. myway
Hey JFlorida...curious what do you do with the clay you make?
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Yeah, and it would have hurt BP to put more safety measures into the deepwater drill that's caused so much grief and misery.
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1146. IKE
July in the Atlantic.....

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Quoting TankHead93:
Can we get back to tropical weather now. This is no blog for politics!


Agreed. Where is Taz when you need him!
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Quoting JFLORIDA:


You have no monopoly on belief. Christianity is the following of the life testament of Jesus Christ, specifically.

It is not an exclusive club. You chose to inflict your particular viewpoint on us.

Then just don't listen to it...
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So StormW, do you think we might have a double whammy in the wings; climate change and peak oil?

Good posts, Patrap.
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Guessing you lean to the Fascist or Communist thinking then.



Naa, I just just believe in a Free Country that was founded by the laws of our first Fathers. Ok, moving on now lol..
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Can we get back to tropical weather now. This is no blog for politics!
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1138. Patrap
Quoting CJ5:


It works both ways. Can you point to undisputed scientific data for YOUR case? I have not seen a scientific study of data that was undisputed yet.





THE data is easily accessible.

Try the Google, its all the rage I hear.
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Quoting FLdewey:
We need to find a way to get a car to run on baby seal fur.


Or the spotted owl
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Quoting angiest:


A know you are being facetious (thanks Storm with the Word of the Day) but that is precisely the problem. Obviously in the long term we cannot continue to use fossil fuels because, in human time scales, they are non-renewable. That is not really something that reasonable people argue with (there are still people who think the earth is flat but they are not reasonable). But it is what we have available *now*. With the exception of nuclear fission, there aren't really any other sources of energy that are both plentiful and that can be used to provide the type of power that modern civilization requires.

What to do? Stop using fossil fuels immediately? Certainly not, people will start consuming even more wood for fuel than they currently do. Yeah, that will work. Use wind? Great, except it is currently not feasible for the amounts of energy we need, and of course people don't want wind farms near them, and those huge windmills have a tendency to be bad for words. Use water? Great, environmentalists won't let us dam rivers because it is bad for something else. Geothermal has promise, but since most of the world isn't like Iceland it has not proven to be practical thus far. Of the different types of geothermal available, tapping hydrothermal systems is the easiest but they are not plentiful. Hot dry rocks has better geographic spread but current technology appears to make it close to prohibitively expensive.

In the short term, nuclear fission is probably the best option, and when treated with the proper care it is clean, but you have to store the waste somewhere eventually and no one wants nuclear waste in their backyards. In the short to medium term geothermal may become a viable energy source for much of human population. But the simple fact of the matter is we are not yet ready to end our dependence on fossil fuels.

How much oil is present in the computers you are using to say we should stop using oil?

DITTO on all this except one thing...
If we use fission fusion or any energy source we create it won't stop the earth from becoming warmer unless we somehow counter act what we produce with whats coming in from the sun...

The ONLY long term solution is 100% solar derived renewable energy or we have to be able to control some part of the sun energy reaching earth...
So all the Global warming scientists best get busy figuring out exactly how to do that instead of more studies to prove global warming and make a name for themselves
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Hey chicklit, I can see my house in that sat pic of the blob :)
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1134. pub123
History shows that our current atmosphere has a substantial CO2 deficiency compared with historical levels.

Once scientists better understand the ocean and solar cycle's climate impacts, the sooner AGW alarmism shall pass.
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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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