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 StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


How do we know the Peruvian government doesn't issue states of emergency all the time? Our federal and state governments do all the time.


Exactly, politics dominate the extent of what an "emergency" is.
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Quoting MechEngMet:
243 Bappit: Were you looking for , PT Barnum; "There's a sucker born every minute".

No, not that one. He was referring more to the [cynical] success of people in the info/entertainment business.

I'm thinking more of the unwitting stupidity of successful people. Or is that unwitting success of stupid people?
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267: Bravo. Well said. +1000
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


Spending public money to buy books is part of my job. I spend taxpayer money on all sorts of books. Get federal grants too.


Unbiased $ or is there an oversight comity that regulates?
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Quoting angiest:


At various times during the current ice age, the coast of Texas extended very much further than it does today. However, several tens of millions of years ago (~70), much of Texas, and indeed the west central US, lay under a shallow sea. Earth at that time was very much warmer than it is now, perhaps by some 10 degrees and there were no polar ice caps at all (as seen from stratigraphy). Put it another way, we inhabit one of the coldest times in the last half billion years of earth's history, polar ice caps are a rarity.

How arrogant to think that we live in a roughly optimal climate. How equally arrogant to think that we can or should attempt to control what the earth does naturally. Man's attempts to control nature have always had unintended and perhaps disastrous consequences. Go read up on the Old River in Louisiana some time, and how we unwittingly are speeding up the return of the Mississippi River to a more westerly delta.

I have a degree in geophysics with a minor in geology, so unlike probably most people taking part in this debate, I actually have a little education in climate history. We live in a decidedly frigid period of earth's history. Maybe, just maybe, trying to keep temperatures where they are is not a good thing?

Is this really, really deep, subtle sarcasm?
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Quoting hahaguy:


I'd say so. He had some great songs.


Not to mention an awesome musician, he played ALL the instruments on his 1st solo album.
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243 Bappit: Were you looking for , PT Barnum; "There's a sucker born every minute".
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


How original we talking here? :o

Well ... like the song "Isaac or Fuzz" maybe?
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Well how many freeze to death in Peru's upper elevations in a normal year?


Well obviously a whole lot less than that if the Peruvian Government declared a state of emergency.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26661
268. Halyn
Quoting StormW:


Emerson Lake and Palmer
Jethro Tull
Cream
Foghat
Tommy Dorsey,Glen Miller, Andrew Sisters, Ink Spots, Sarah Vaughn ..... Pete Fountain, Elvis, all the surfer groups .. :))
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Quoting StormGoddess:
Thank you for this blog Dr. Masters. Everyone really does need to be aware of what is going on with our planet. Native villages in Alaska have fallen off into the ocean. In addition, it can easily be seen that much more water was evident only several thousand years ago actually, in that almost the entirety of Texas (absolutely covered with fossils) at one time was a shallow sea. To ignore what is happening would be a terrible mistake, no matter what the causes of the warming, whether man-made, natural, or a combination thereof. It needs to be addressed and if there is anything the world can do together to help then that is a good thing.


At various times during the current ice age, the coast of Texas extended very much further than it does today. However, several tens of millions of years ago (~70), much of Texas, and indeed the west central US, lay under a shallow sea. Earth at that time was very much warmer than it is now, perhaps by some 10 degrees and there were no polar ice caps at all (as seen from stratigraphy). Put it another way, we inhabit one of the coldest times in the last half billion years of earth's history, polar ice caps are a rarity.

How arrogant to think that we live in a roughly optimal climate. How equally arrogant to think that we can or should attempt to control what the earth does naturally. Man's attempts to control nature have always had unintended and perhaps disastrous consequences. Go read up on the Old River in Louisiana some time, and how we unwittingly are speeding up the return of the Mississippi River to a more westerly delta.

I have a degree in geophysics with a minor in geology, so unlike probably most people taking part in this debate, I actually have a little education in climate history. We live in a decidedly frigid period of earth's history. Maybe, just maybe, trying to keep temperatures where they are is not a good thing?
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Quoting blsealevel:

got it, it's a Riehl’s thing,
thanks stormw

Actually, Riehl was a bit confused.
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Quoting bappit:

No.


How original we talking here? :o
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233 SSIG: So you wouldn't spend your own money on it, but spending public money from the library (on two copies) is fine by you?
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262. beell
Possibly a sharp upper trough or N/S shear axis developing west of the Yucatan. Running from the the southern end of the BOC, NE towards the weakening ULL SE of the mouth of the Mississippi River. May even try to close off into another ULL. If it is weak enough, it may do more good than harm as far as provinding some N/S upper outflow opportunities.

Don't see "it" getting much past 20N (a guess) in any case-which shortens the time available for anything to get going.

SSD WV Loop
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Quoting bappit:

Winter mischief.

wintercaster
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Yeah I'm just on "stage 1" at this point, I still have A LOT to go, lol. Here is one of Weather456's blog posts from 2008, it explains what an inverted "V" signature is very clearly.

Link
R>Look under "Characteristics of Frank's Inverted "V" Model".

Thanks I thought it was Riehl’s Model are both the same? i'll take a look and do an comparison thanks agian
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
I enjoy Phil Collins personally, does that count as original?


I'd say so. He had some great songs.
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Quoting Levi32:


Exactly, or the story about 409 people dying in Peru so far this winter due to the extreme cold never-before seen by the people living there.

Winter mischief.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
A typical year. I don't know what you mean by an 'earth cycle'


recorded history is a blink of an eye, 1800's, lol, a joke, earth cycles include when the pole switch.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Glenn Beck just suffered its worst ratings week of the year

The truth will win out.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
I enjoy Phil Collins personally, does that count as original?

No.
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Met Service of Jamaica website

July 26, 2010 at 4:00 p.m.

LOCAL WEATHER FORECAST

SIGNIFICANT FEATURE…High Pressure Ridge across the northern Caribbean.

Comment
High Pressure Ridge is expected to build across the region.

24-HOURS FORECAST
Tonight… Fair.

Tomorrow… Mainly sunny morning. Isolated showers and thunderstorm over hilly inland areas.

3-DAYS FORECAST (starting tomorrow)
Wed… Mostly sunny mornings. Isolated showers and thunderstorms mainly over hilly inland areas elsewhere.

Thu/Fri…Mainly fair mornings. During the afternoon expect showers and thunderstorms especially over central and western parishes.

Regionally…A Trough will enter the central Caribbean on Thursday.

grb
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Well how many freeze to death in Peru's upper elevations in a normal year?


in a currently typical year, or an earth cycle?
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Quoting RuBRNded:

over a thousand years ago


and for those of u that didnt know, potatoes, corn and tomatoes all origin from South America and were supplied to Europe during the concurring.
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Quoting thelmores:


Pretty obvious to me that Dr. Hansen is a very intelligent man...... the two statements above are what clue me in personally...... and I agree 100%! If France can run their Country by getting 80% of their electricity from Nuclear Power....... so can we! Add to that, there should be tremendous funding by ALL Countries in the effort to perfect Nuclear Fusion. Nuclear Fusion could eliminate the majority of fossil fuel use, while eliminating virtually all Nuclear waste problems.

No matter what side of the debate you are on..... we should all agree we should do what is reasonable to clean up our Air and Water! I do agree with Dr. Hansen that Nuclear Plants should be built in lieu of Coal plants! But since I was in the Nuclear Navy, I have a very soft spot in my heart for Nuclear Power, and know that it can replace our dependence on Foreign fossil fuels, and it can be done safely!

But we need leadership, and instead, all we have are talking heads!

I do not agree with ALL of Dr. Hansen's work, but I do respect him, and believe he is an honorable man....... we need many more in this Country like him!



Our CO2 problems are solved.

http://www.physorg.com/news199005915.html
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Quoting StormW:




In the model here, you can see how it looks like an inverted "V"

got it, it's a Riehl’s thing,
thanks stormw
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Found a great video here that shows all the storms in 2008 (author has 2009 as well if your interested) from invest to named system, it really helps you understand what processes invests go through to become named.

Link
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Quoting shoreacres:
My Lord. I don't know what's worse - the book, the reviews, or the ensuing discussion.

Easy, the ensuing drivel.
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Quoting RuBRNded:


peru is where freeze dried potatos started, fact

over a thousand years ago
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Quoting MechEngMet:
176 Pcola Doug: There must be a reason for that. Hmmm... I wonder what that reason might possibly be?

No one went broke underestimating the stupidity of people ... or something like that. Who said that?
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Quoting blsealevel:

Took a look at your web site our you intending to add graph's w/explanations?
anyway the real queastion i have for you may seem amuturish but what is a V signature?
sorry for the spelling not my strong point LOL
Yeah I'm just on "stage 1" at this point, I still have A LOT to go, lol. Here is one of Weather456's blog posts from 2008, it explains what an inverted "V" signature is very clearly.

Link

Look under "Characteristics of Frank's Inverted "V" Model".
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Quoting Levi32:


Exactly, or the story about 409 people dying in Peru so far this winter due to the extreme cold never-before seen by the people living there.


peru is where freeze dried potatos started, fact
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Atlantic pretty dry this evening

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Quoting Surfcropper:


Like eating eating beans and taking a bath?


As fun as that sounds......
No, that is not what I meant.
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Quoting HouGalv08:
Good evening to all. Must define "original music" in a more complete description.



Unsigned artists.
Independent releases.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Glenn Beck just suffered its worst ratings week of the year
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Glenn Beck just suffered its worst ratings week of the year
Is it possible that more people have come to realize what an idiot he is?
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Quoting FLdewey:


AAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaahahahhahaha!!!!

JOTD!


Bubble bath??

lol
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About

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