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 StormW:


I just wanted to know what melted the last Ice Age.


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With few TCs, we could possibly see a very slow ending season. Where a disturbance would take advantage of the left over heat when UL conditions allowed on into parts of December.
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Quoting vince1:

Nothing like propaganda (.gov)


i know, he's always fussing about other people's articles, but .gov is not the most believable source either - no matter whose administration
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Quoting SevereHurricane:
Hey Levi, not only next winter looks cold but also next year in general.

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2010/07/could_2011_be_the_year_without.html

Also, I'm surprised none of the Alarmists are talking about the recent record cold across South America.


What an amazing concentration of ignorance. Let's tick down the list.

* Yes, we're in a solar minimum. It's also been a *record hot year* for most of the year so far.
* The United States is not the world.
* North America is not the world
* Despite their implication, Canada has been having record *warm* winters.
* The January 2010 US continentnal average temperature was 0.3 degrees *warmer* than average. I don't have time to dig up every month for each year mentioned, but take that as an example.
* Anecdotes are not global temperature anomalies, which are *way* above average, and at record levels. Once again, regional != global.
* High-latitude volcanoes are very poor at changing the planet's temperature. There have been examples where it did, but they took extraordinary eruptions.
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Quoting StormW:


Basically, yes...would make for an interesting season next year for one. Would be interesting to see what would happen during the winter too, with any excess heat budget in the ocean.


Thanks storm!
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Quoting vince1:

Nothing like propaganda (.gov)


a non partisan site would be nice
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Quoting StormW:


The potential is there, but it would have to make it into the Caribbean within the next 3-4 days, and pick up a lot of moisture.


k. thanks!
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Quoting StormW:


Let me take a quick look.


Storm idk if you have time to answer this, but wouldn't no or very few tropical cyclones be a bad thing? Since there would be no heat transfer from the equator regions to the poles?
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KarenRei, that is correct!
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Quoting StormW:


Just watching a couple waves, similar to pre Bonnie, but nothing imminent in the next week.



Good...but boring.
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Quoting Levi32:


Anyone gonna answer that? I'd love to know that...

ummmmm.........a really big herd of mammoths ate something bad which gave them gas?
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Quoting StormW:


Just watching a couple waves, similar to pre Bonnie, but nothing imminent in the next week.


what's your take on 36 5 if you are still here. any potential?
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Quoting StormW:
What ended the first Ice Age?


Al Gore.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24757
Quoting StormW:
What ended the first Ice Age?
Ummmm......Joan of Arc?
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Goodnight. 'Till tomorrow.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
The Recovery Act intends to achieve those goals by:

* Providing $288 billion in tax cuts and benefits for millions of working families and businesses


you do understand, that it also raised taxes for people right? and that 288 billion is not alot since it is for people and businesses?
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Quoting StormW:


Something about Global warming and Climate change.



Well I "guess" that could go along with the tropics...

Is there anything going on that is interesting that could develop in the next week or two that could be of significance?
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Quoting Levi32:


Um no? The trend has been all up in the Antarctic since the beginning of satellite measurements. Do we ever hear about that? No. The new rant is ice volume because they can't throw the extent graphs in our faces anymore. Doesn't work....satellite data speaks for itself. Globally, considering the entire globe, (because yes, it's Global Warming right?) sea ice is at normal levels against the 30-year mean.



Yeah, that would be an excellent argument... except for the fact that climate models *PREDICT* an increase in sea ice in the Antarctic. The arctic is expected to decline, while the Antarctic is expected to increase, then level, and only in the long term decline. The Northern and Southern hemispheres are incredibly different environments for many reasons -- not the least of which is that one has a giant land mass and the other doesn't.

To be more specific, the models call for increasing precipitation in Antarctica, more moderated temperature changes due to the circumpolar current, and increasing ice outflow from Antarctic glaciers (which correspondingly increases sea ice).
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Quoting KarenRei:


Um, hello? Post 588?


The climate models that can go out 1-2 years into the future are predicting a dramatic cool-down worldwide, which should result in a great uptick in global sea ice, which those of us watching knew was coming because of the decadal oceanic cycles beginning to reverse. Ice-free arctic by 2013 doesn't look likely if the models verify, and these are the same models whose cousins are predicting the never-ending warm-up with pretty much no blips in it where we go back below normal. We're not even close to going down below 2007 when the death spiral was being preached. And I will point out again, globally, we're already at normal....what's the worry? If anything we'll go slightly above-normal globally in sea-ice if both poles experience well-below normal temperatures, along with the equator.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


We were 96. With a dewpoint of 78. Gosh our seabreezes sure keep us cool! Not. It was yucky today. And no storms around either.


We had one quick sprinkle and a couple of rumbles of thunder in the distance- just enough to tease and raise the dewpoint even higher when the sun came back out...

Some nasty storms to the NW now, though.

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656. ch2os
Wow, I had to check to make sure I was in the right place. Yep I was. I'll check back tomorrow to see if we are back to weather discussions. Nite all.
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Quoting SevereHurricane:
Hey Levi, not only next winter looks cold but also next year in general.

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2010/07/could_2011_be_the_year_without.html

Also, I'm surprised none of the Alarmists are talking about the recent record cold across South America.


You mean the cold snap that has killed hundreds of people? dude, you know what causes record cold right?
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What is all of the tension on the blog? Ya'll are going to get something to monitor tropic wise soon enough.
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Hey Levi, not only next winter looks cold but also next year in general.

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2010/07/could_2011_be_the_year_without.html

Also, I'm surprised none of the Alarmists are talking about the recent record cold across South America.
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


ill raise ya ;)

. Record high temperature set at Norfolk VA...
... Record high minimum temperature set at Norfolk VA...

A record high temperature of 105 degrees was established at Norfolk.
This breaks the previous record of 96 last set in 1987.

This 105 degree reading also matches the all-time record originally
set on August 7 1918... and tied Saturday July 24th.

Also... a record high minimum of 79 was established at Norfolk. This
breaks the old record of 77 set in 2001.



Yeesh...
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Quoting Levi32:
So nobody can dare to make a real comeback to post #517 and nobody can answer StormW's question and yet still support everything else that's being said. Common sense wins again? Well, it's supposed to right?

Goodnight all.


Um, hello? Post 588?
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


How much should a coastal resident or someone living inland on a plain have to pay to move for sea level rise that was caused by global warming by emissions from other people?


no i didn't start it. you did.
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645. Halyn
Quoting WaterWitch11:


hey everyone,
photo is from richardson bay, ca near sausalito
Dang .. I miss California .. Beautiful shot !!
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


Wait. Say one thing I said that isn't true.


Obama tax cuts... really?
still haven't seen a shred of evidence.
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Quoting SavannahStorm:
Statement as of 05:08 PM EDT on July 26, 2010

... Record high temperature set at Savannah GA...

A record high temperature of 102 degrees was set at the Savannah
International Airport in Savannah GA today. This breaks the old
record of 101 set in 1940.


Heat indexes in the area were in the 115-125F range today.


ill raise ya ;)

. Record high temperature set at Norfolk VA...
... Record high minimum temperature set at Norfolk VA...

A record high temperature of 105 degrees was established at Norfolk.
This breaks the previous record of 96 last set in 1987.

This 105 degree reading also matches the all-time record originally
set on August 7 1918... and tied Saturday July 24th.

Also... a record high minimum of 79 was established at Norfolk. This
breaks the old record of 77 set in 2001.

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Quoting EtexJC:


A team of researchers says it has largely put to rest a long debate on the underlying mechanism that has caused periodic ice ages on Earth for the past 2.5 million years – they are ultimately linked to slight shifts in solar radiation caused by predictable changes in Earth’s rotation and axis.

In a publication to be released Friday in the journal Science, researchers from Oregon State University and other institutions conclude that the known wobbles in Earth’s rotation caused global ice levels to reach their peak about 26,000 years ago, stabilize for 7,000 years and then begin melting 19,000 years ago, eventually bringing to an end the last ice age.

The melting was first caused by more solar radiation, not changes in carbon dioxide levels or ocean temperatures, as some scientists have suggested in recent years.

“Solar radiation was the trigger that started the ice melting, that’s now pretty certain,” said Peter Clark, a professor of geosciences at OSU. “There were also changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and ocean circulation, but those happened later and amplified a process that had already begun.”


LOL. Let's back up.

What you're referring to are called "Milankovitch Cycles". Milankovitch cycles have *long* been nearly universally accepted as the cause of our planet's periodic glaciations. Equally accepted is the fact that they're far too weak to represent the extent of the planet's observed temperature change; there must be a significant amplification factor that kicks in. That is to say, the change in the planet's orbit over tens of thousands of years is *forcing*, while there exists a *feedback* response. The feedback is near-universally accepted to be CO2 (which in turn has a water vapor feedback). In the scale of our lifespans, CO2 is a forcing; it changes very slowly. But on the scale of tens of thousands of years, it changes "rapidly"; it is a feedback in that context.

This isn't something new. Milankovitch cycles and the magnitude of their forcing and requirement for feedback were first postulated during *World War I*.
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


its because he can't find one, its ok i figured he wouldn't be able to.


i shouldn't have even responded to him about the taxes. all i really want to know about is 35 6 and what stormW's question was.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


It's a hypothetical forecast that may or may not pan out. What is to respond to?



HAHAHAHA, GW is a hypothetical forecast that may or not pan out, yet you are all on board that 100 year model!!!! dude... for real? at least have consistency
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Statement as of 05:08 PM EDT on July 26, 2010

... Record high temperature set at Savannah GA...

A record high temperature of 102 degrees was set at the Savannah
International Airport in Savannah GA today. This breaks the old
record of 101 set in 1940.


Heat indexes in the area were in the 115-125F range today.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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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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