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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1034. Patrap
Most who cant fathom or understand the dilemma we face ,,will tend to trend towards dismissing what they cant understand..nor choose to.



We can continue to ruin the Biosphere,,and Fla who want not to see Rigs from their coastline,but they still want them Fossil Fuel SUV's to bring dem pink lil Families to their beaches in them.

So when the next well washes oil up on yer Sugar Beaches.


Don't Whine,...




Remember..the choice is ours to make.

Old men and Oil..are well in control.

Not Gubments nor Countries who assume they are.
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1033. srada
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Yep. Definitely warrants watching.


Good Morning everyone,

I think Dr. Masters put these GW articles up to see how heated it can get..Last night was crazy and I see it still hasnt gotten any better..but to discuss what use to be the tropical aspect of the blog, these homebread storms might be the one to watch instead of the Cape Verde Storms..jmo..
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East coast blob
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1031. breald
There are remote parts of this world that see a change in their environment, more flooding due to raising waters. The people who live in villages in Peru that know the land they live off of and see the changes going on around them. These people are not influenced by American politics. They probably don't even know who Al Gore is, and yet they understand there is a problem. The sad thing is, all this "debate" and lack of action by the USA and the rest of the industrialized countries are causing their environmental problems. So please get of your high horse and try to see things through other people eyes.
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Could we please have one more person who is not Jeff Masters tell someone else who also isn't Jeff Masters to take their opinion somewhere else besides Jeff Master's blog?
Member Since: February 11, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 850
1029. CJ5
Quoting greentortuloni:


Take the word 'scientific'out of the sentence above to make it true.

The guy in China who made millions selling the vuvuzella to South Africa didn't question whether they were annoying, he just met demand. Why can't we do the same with non oil based technologies?


What makes you think we are not doing that? What makes you think scientists and entrepenuers are not waking up everyday looking to make something work? What makes you think corporations are not spending billions to find ways to make billions?

The fact is, they are, every single day.
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AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

TS BUSTED FORECAST ALIBI
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Quoting greentortuloni:
Is it the spending money on alternative energy? Even a small amount (small compared to other subsidies) would help a lot, not to mention act as a stimulus and would develop products we could sell to the rest of the world. So why the concern?


The good Doc, Patrap, and Paul Timmons should thank you for this post. All three are heavily invested into alternative energy. BUY MORE ALTERNATIVE ENERGY THINGIES NOW! :)
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Soo I believe we had (not official by NHC)

Unclassified TD (92L), without quickscat running, it's hard to determine weak tropical systems out there.
Hurricane Alex which hit Mexico as a strong category 2, maybe upgraded to a 3 storm in Post Analysis.
TD2 that should have been classified right before landfall when it gained enough convection and a good LLC instead of the night before when it was nothing but a joke.
Bonnie hit Florida
Unclassified TD that hit Mexico after Bonnie weakened.
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Quoting reedzone:
Something off the Carolinas, reminds me of how Christobal formed in 2008, or another example would be Beryl in 2006, bears watching...


It is these moments where I miss press..
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24484
The issue over which people argue is often an excuse for an argument over something else.
Make your point and move on.


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Expect a quick upgrade to 90L later today or tonight if the convection persists next to the Carolinas.. Also Post Analysis should classify 99L before it made landfall. It's not really arguable that it ramped quickly to a TD before it was tagged inland lol. The NHC needs to pay more attention to these type of systems.
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Quoting StormW:
I'm not much into the GW debate, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.


lol
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Quoting IKE:


Evident? According to who? This?>>>>look on page 3.

All I said was the Maritime Continent is over in the western PAC. I wasn't sure where it was until I google searched it.
According to this:

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting StormW:
I'm not much into the GW debate, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.




LMAO!!! Good one Doc..
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http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/watl/loop-avn.html
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Quoting JFlorida
Obviously you are disrespectful to Dr Masters

Thats an outright lie. I have never made a post that was critical of Dr. Masters.
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Quoting reedzone:
Something off the Carolinas, reminds me of how Christobal formed in 2008, or another example would be Beryl in 2006, bears watching...
Yep. Definitely warrants watching.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Central GOM-- infrared... ?????????
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1009. IKE
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Oh yeah I disagreed with IKE because he was saying that the MJO was going to the maritime continent, and anything is possible, but it's evident that the MJO is moving back towards octant 2 (Where all the heat is focused). And you don't think I'm a kid? Ask Grothar, he knows me.


Evident? According to who? This?>>>>look on page 3.

All I said was the Maritime Continent is over in the western PAC. I wasn't sure where it was until I google searched it.
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1008. CJ5
Quoting Neapolitan:


And for the record, China is spending far more at this moment developing alternate sources of energy; that nation's politicians realize the unsustainability of the current fossil-fuel-only paradigm, and are spending billions to avoid a future crisis. Would that we here in America had such foresight...


China is spending more on alternatives, but China is also the largest producer of greenhouse gases. They are also building a coal fired power stations at the rate of 2 per week. Be sure and tell the whole story when you spout thing off.

The US gov and more importantly the private sector is constantly researching and developing alternatives. That is a fact. The problem is we cannot get away from fossil fuels until alternatives have been found. There is money to be made in alternatives and where there is money there is innovations and results.
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Quoting btwntx08:
omg someone is a bad mood this morning wow thats rude to me



Im not!!! Im just watching that big blob explosion in the central GOM and trying to figure out if it might affect my "climate" here on the upper gulf coast!!! ha!
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Something off the Carolinas, reminds me of how Christobal formed in 2008, or another example would be Beryl in 2006, bears watching...
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"You're really quite emotional, aren't you"?


Lee Marvin
"The Dirty Dozen".
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Wow, a lot or arguing on here this morning. A sure sign that the Atlantic is quiet. We need something to track, and fast!
hot dry air all over the atlantic and we have clash of the weather and politics egos playing on the blog cinema LMAO!
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1000. myway
Quoting JFLORIDA:


Actually thats kinda the point of international treaty. Isnt it.


Since when do people follow a treaty?
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Check out the exlosion of the "blob" in the central GOM... That just happened over a period of about an hour according to the time lapse on the infrared..could this be anything?
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Quoting JFLORIDA:
I actually dont come here to read any weather posts but the experts and dr Masters, I certainly wouldn't trust anyone else here on climate - especially if they couldn't reference their opinions.

If they cant understand basic spectroscopy - absorption and emission within an atmospheric context - I doesnt bode well for any complex understanding of the science.



You come here to further an agenda. At least you're up front about it.
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Quoting Michale:


Why should we continue to make Al Gore, Richard Branson, hack scientists, lobbyists and lawyers richer??

Why???


Because the opposite is to allow two of the world's most well-funded and deeply-entrenched industries--Big Oil and Big Coal--to continue to control the political dialog while simultaneously despoiling the planet. Because doing nothing while the icecaps melt and the oceans rise is foolishness of the highest order. Because waiting for runaway GW before making a move to stop it is perhaps the single most illogical thing most folks have ever heard. Because our reliance on fossil fuels is the number one threat to our national security, so listening to Big Oil tell us how we need to stick with them and their product is simply ludicrous...

But mostly it's because I want my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be proud of me.
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Quoting TampaSpin:


The problem i have is when you disagree with every post that is an opinion or not clear just like you just did to IKE.....LEVI never does anything like that. That is my problem.....And your not a KID either so stop posting things, when you use your imagiary KID status as a reason for your post!
.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Let's face it ..the republicans do not want to accept Global Warming and the Democrats do..it is all politics


Quoting DestinJeff:
I think this blog has set a new record for most intense pointless arguing back and forth about Global Warming.

This is such a polarizing issue, where each side is determined to win the argument, that there is no sense in even attempting to have a civil discussion on the matter.

Why is it that every issue now has that same polarizing effect. There is no middle ground any longer.
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Saving the planet...

Link
Member Since: February 11, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 850
Quoting JFLORIDA:


Im tired of your political garbage here. Post links to facts or dont bother. You are incorrect on many levels as well as current international treaty efforts and verification means.

Being ignorant is not an excuse for special treatment. Getting a free pass to post irrelevant non fact is chatty nice but really doesn't help anyone.



Put me on ignore. You won't hurt my feelings.
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I think the NHC is keeping an eye on it as well CybrTed.
ONLY A FEW SCATTERED SHOWERS OVER THE WESTERN ATLC NORTH OF 28N WEST OF 65W ASSOCIATED WITH A COLD FRONT NORTH OF THE AREA OF DISCUSSION MAY ENTER THE REGION OVER THE NEXT 6 TO 12 HOURS.
I think they meant may enter the discussion over the next 6 to 12 hours.
WVLoopEasternUS
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Quoting CJ5:
The politics of GW is what keeps us from formulating an accurate scientific conclusion on the subject.

>


Take the word 'scientific'out of the sentence above to make it true.

What I don't understand is why everyone on the right cares about GW if they don't believe in it? I don't argue anymore about whether Batman can beat Superman in tennis (I stopped believing in tennis years ago).

Is it the spending money on alternative energy? Even a small amount (small compared to other subsidies) would help a lot, not to mention act as a stimulus and would develop products we could sell to the rest of the world. So why the concern?

The guy in China who made millions selling the vuvuzella to South Africa didn't question whether they were annoying, he just met demand. Why can't we do the same with non oil based technologies?
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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.