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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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.
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off to eat supper. i think now is a good time to run.
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I don't wish death nor destruction on anyone. I've been in a hurricane, Isabel, think I liked not having power for a week in sweltering 99 degree heat? How about the smell of a dead animal rotting in the heat for a week? Think I enjoyed seeing my local banks roof ripped off? Your sadly mistaken. Call me a wishcaster if you want, I probably am. I tell people to report/ ignore those because they rally the blog and ignore the facts posted by people like StormW, Levi, people who unlike me have a clue what they're talking about. Now, if you don't like me Ike, simple answer to this: Ignore me. Don't make a big deal out of it.
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Quoting MechEngMet:
TCajun: You've got mail.


replied. no worries.
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Beck is getting outragously good ratings these days.


even though beck is a little intense and comical, i like the guy. i know i'm going to get rotten tomatoes thrown at me for admitting my like for Beck. LOL!
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Well I'm off to work on my website...
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
176 Pcola Doug: There must be a reason for that. Hmmm... I wonder what that reason might possibly be?
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Beck is getting outragously good ratings these days.
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878 days 4hours 8mins
remain of the mayan long count
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54864
173. IKE
Quoting CybrTeddy:


I haven't done anything to you.


Think what you want Cybr. You have your opinions on the season and if others don't play along , you don't like it...to the point of reporting them.

You call for death and destruction with systems in 2010, but make no mention of hoping that doesn't happen. I'm sure you don't want it to happen, but you act ticked off because Bonnie was so weak.

I'll root against any system hitting any part of Florida. I can't afford higher homeowners insurance rates, plus the death and destruction involved.

You'll get your major canes and there may be some that impact the USA or other areas, but I dam sure ain't on here rootin for it.

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Feb. 28th, 1986 is my birth date. I shouldn't have to dignify that.
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Quoting FLdewey:
Glenn Beck would be posting... but he can't find the keyboard.


Keith Obermen stole it....
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Quoting StormW:


Looks like Rob and I are on the same page.


Yep
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
160 T Cajun: That's because it is impossible to hold a rational discussion with Ir-rational people (believers). Any religion (like AGW) is based in feelings, emotions, and beliefs. No amount of facts or reason will ever change the mind of a seriously committed believer.
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Quoting IKE:


You just can't let me be, can you? How old are you?


ike, you changed your avatar. people were talking bout' you and i was thinking, i haven't seen the little white dog.
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Thanks Dr. Masters.
I'm glad that you took advantage of a time when you know you have higher traffic on your site....a thankful lull in the season, to present your argument for an issue that you feel strongly about. And it's a compelling presentation. For those that have some time to take in even more GW stuff...read this whole blog, and the links within, I recommend it.
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Quoting KerryInNOLA:


Good evening everybody! This discussion about how busy the season will be is very important. Of equal or more importance to those of us living on the Gulf Coast is will it be a bad year IN THE GULF or will most storms stay harmless in the Atlantic or God forbid, hit the East Coast, as they seemed to do in the 1990's decade. The last decade seems to have been particularly bad on the Gulf Coast.What factors are responsibly for this and will it continue, especially this year?




check out stormw's latest blog. he sheds some light on this. very informative.
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
The 30 day SOI index continues to skyrocket, tonight up to +18.9.



Any comments on this as La Nina continues to grow.
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TCajun: You've got mail.
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Quoting IKE:


You just can't let me be, can you? How old are you?


I haven't done anything to you. Ignore me if you must. Sorry if I insulted you.
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Quoting Ossqss:
Did ya ever see the gaps in where the GISS data comes from?

The black region is exactly that. BTW, the area to the lower right is Africa in the first pic.

That is just a small sample of what is manufactured into the models. That data gap is extrapolated to fit the desire and fill the holes.

Just sayin...ya don't hear folks talking about the huge increase in Ice in the Antarctic do ya? or the huge snowfall in S. America recently, or the frigid temps they have been seeing in Australia///

Remember the words CAP AND TRADE folks! Out>>>





yeah but when you try to tell them about the snowfall and temps in Australia, they say that those cold temps are due to GW too. it's a very difficult argument. people really aren't willing to change their stance on much these days, no matter you tell them or what proof you give them
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Interesting tidbit from crown weather.Link
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
Quoting IKE:


You just can't let me be, can you? How old are you?
He was just messing around. I doubt he meant it in a offensive way.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
155. beell
Quoting shoreacres:
My Lord. I don't know what's worse - the book, the reviews, or the ensuing discussion.

It's time to go back and watch the ROVs.


LOL, The wheels came 'a loose, shore! Boom! Just like that!
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154. IKE
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Was probably Ike.


You just can't let me be, can you? How old are you?
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Was probably Ike.
Hmmm...makes ya' wonder...
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Did ya ever see the gaps in where the GISS data comes from?

The black region is exactly that. BTW, the area to the lower right is Africa in the first pic.

That is just a small sample of what is manufactured into the models. That data gap is extrapolated to fit the desire and fill the holes.

Just sayin...ya don't hear folks talking about the huge increase in Ice in the Antarctic do ya? or the huge snowfall in S. America recently, or the frigid temps they have been seeing in Australia///

Remember the words CAP AND TRADE folks! Out>>>



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Evening KoTG
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Quoting MechEngMet:
133 Cajun: You are a very wise man. ...and I agree.

I am not advocating this either, but consider the flawed logic of the argument.

If anyone truly believes that killing themselves would help save the earth, then... well... Why has the PHD professing this 'solution' not killed himself? Does he not truly believe?

Perhaps Darwin might have a point.

Does anyone else recall a different fanatical group carrying out a similar 'solution'?


that what i was thinking. it's cultish and preying on the weak that can't think for themselves. david koresshish.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Oh man! Fire alarm just went off in the building and had to rush to the lobby with my mom. Turns out some guy burnt his popcorn (probably lurks on the blog). Oh well. LOL.


Was probably Ike.
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Quoting beell:
i miss the old blog, already.
yeppers gonna be a three ring circus next few days waitin on the ringmaster to show up
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54864
My Lord. I don't know what's worse - the book, the reviews, or the ensuing discussion.

It's time to go back and watch the ROVs.
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145. xcool
36W NICE ROLL
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At least Hansen's fee-and-dividend proposal for carbon taxation has an incentive along with the tax. Still, I wouldn't trust the govt in its current form to manage such a system. Look how social security and medicare tax stream have been abused by govt. Also, in a global economy, all countries would have to play by the same rules, otherwise you'd have to restrict global trade against those who wouldn't (i.e. China, Russia, most the middle east, etc) Sounds like a hard sell in the most fragile economy since the 1930s.
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is what's going on around 36 5 anything?

http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/catl/flash-rb.html
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133 Cajun: You are a very wise man. ...and I agree.

I am not advocating this either, but consider the flawed logic of the argument.

If anyone truly believes that killing themselves would help save the earth, then... well... Why has the PHD professing this 'solution' not killed himself? Does he not truly believe?

Perhaps Darwin might have a point.

Does anyone else recall a different fanatical group carrying out a similar 'solution'?
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Oops! Sorry bout' the double post.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Oh man! Fire alarm just went off in the building and had to rush to the lobby with my mom. Turns out some guy burnt his popcorn (probably lurks on the blog). Oh well. LOL.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
138. beell
i miss the old blog, already.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Oh man! Fire alarm just went off in the building and had to rush to the lobby with my mom. Turns out some guy burnt his popcorn (probably lurks on the blog). Oh well. LOL.

ROFLMAO!!!!!!!
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Here, start with reading about last seasons snow fall in a peer reviewed paper. It was not AGW induced as you all were told. Just sayin :)


http://www.leif.org/EOS/2010GL043830.pdf
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The 30 day SOI index continues to skyrocket, tonight up to +18.9.

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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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