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:
A hazy shade of summer: a potent mix of heat, haze, alcohol and corruption


EXCELLENT article, thanks for sharing.
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6633. xcool


kaboom
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
6632. CATMAN5
This is off the topic but is anyone following the heatwave in Moscow and Siberia? Understand they experienced first 100 degree ever in 130 years of records. Little precip. and wheat crop is whilting in the ground.
850mb temps are near 24C! Some relief expected soon but flares up again in early Aug. to about the 10th.! Anyone with personal knowledge of this? Thanks.
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Quoting StormChaser81:


That be 110 octane(drag race fuel) in the Caribbean.
god forbid a tropical storm in the carribean with that fuel it will explode rapidly like hurricane wilma
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Quoting Jax82:
Plenty of gas out there.


That be 110 octane(drag race fuel) in the Caribbean.
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Quoting ecflweatherfan:


Yeah, they can be fun but at the same time not so fun. I have lived here for 21 years, went through Erin in 1995, Charley, Frances, and Jeanne in 2004, Wilma in 2005. Was here when Andrew passed to the south in 1992. But the best thing is to watch and wait, because it may never even come close to us either... still so far out yet.


of course. wilma was really the only terrible one ive been through. the ones in 2004 were not terrible but they werent great. wilma was ridiculous though. that eye was incredible.
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6625. tkeith
Docs Blog at peak of season?
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Drak if you are out there whats your forecast with 90L
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aspectre "Hokay, who called 90L? Cuz the NavyNRL ain't got an Atlantic Invest, and neither does the NHC."
6379 Levi32 "Navy has it....so does ATCF."
6381 CybrTeddy "ATCF did, and models are showing 90L too, and its on WU."

Thanks. Didn't realise that either FleetNumericalMeteorology&OceanographyCenter or AutomatedTropicalCycloneForecastingSystem were authorized to initialize Invests.
Got 'em bookmarked now.
Still don't see it on ATCF. Woulda thought initialization would have to be approved by people first. So FNMOC called it?
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Quoting DestinJeff:


that means another slow to develop situation, correct?


Afraid so! The reason I say that is I noticed the lack of activity in the monsoonal areas of South and Central America. It looks like the monsoonal trof has lifted north and is interacting with a tropical wave in the Central and Western Caribbean. Add the Lesser Antilles wave to that and you have another big mess. I don't really expect much development in this area for several days because of this.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
6620. Jax82
Plenty of gas out there.
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Quoting IKE:
I see the Atlantic has 90L or is it a cat 1 already on here?



hi ike yes we have 90L we may see 91L soon and all so we have two yellows and all so a big mass in the N Caribbean Sea wish seems to be geting its act to geter
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Quoting IKE:
I see the Atlantic has 90L or is it a cat 1 already on here?


sar-caster????

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6616. xcool



MississippiWx .lots ofmoisture
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Quoting hydrus:
Where are you located? You went through a lot of storms...
east central florida which is between cape canaveral and Stuart,fl
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6614. IKE
I see the Atlantic has 90L or is it a cat 1 already on here?
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6612. hydrus
Quoting ecflweatherfan:


Yeah, they can be fun but at the same time not so fun. I have lived here for 21 years, went through Erin in 1995, Charley, Frances, and Jeanne in 2004, Wilma in 2005. Was here when Andrew passed to the south in 1992. But the best thing is to watch and wait, because it may never even come close to us either... still so far out yet.
Where are you located? You went through a lot of storms...
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Quoting MrJoeBlow:


I am a simple man with a high school education and working in a grocery store. I guess I should know my place and stay off the blog.


I'm just messing around man, I didn't mean any harm. We all mess with each other a lot on here. But it all boils down to were all weather dorks in some way, shape or form.
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Quoting kingzfan104:


so that would be next sunday? damn it. im not going to lie and act like i dont love hurricanes, but if this hits us and ive been dieing for a storm for 5 years and im out of town im going to be a little more than pissed.


Yeah, they can be fun but at the same time not so fun. I have lived here for 21 years, went through Erin in 1995, Charley, Frances, and Jeanne in 2004, Wilma in 2005. Was here when Andrew passed to the south in 1992. But the best thing is to watch and wait, because it may never even come close to us either... still so far out yet.
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Quoting StormChaser81:


I'm highly impressed with that sentence...lol


I am a simple man with a high school education and working in a grocery store. I guess I should know my place and stay off the blog.
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that mass in the N Caribbean Sea seem too be geting its act togeter
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AL, 90, 2010072918, , BEST, 0, 85N, 300W, 20, 1010, DB, 34, NEQ,
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6603. SLU
Quoting DDR:

Nah man,we need it the drought was bad,cricket is for the dry season lol,im out laterz.


lol later
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Looks like we could be setting up another Alex/monsoonal type situation in the Caribbean. I've said it twice already this week and I'll say it again: We don't have any downward MJO in the development regions of our basin.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
Quoting Dakster:


Is that the red one or the blue one?
Not the blue one!!!! Stay away from the blue one!
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6599. Jax82
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Quoting Tazmanian:
i think we may see 3 yellows at the next two
dont think so i will probably think 90L may get a 30-40% chance
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Quoting MrJoeBlow:
I am highly concern.


I'm highly concerned about your grammer...lol
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i think we may see 3 yellows at the next two
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I am highly concern.
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6594. DDR

Nah man,we need it the drought was bad,cricket is for the dry season lol,im out laterz.
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Quoting MrJoeBlow:
CAN ANBODY SEE MY POSTS?


According to Albert Einstein:
"If A equals success, then the formula is: A=X+Y+Z.
X = work.
Y = play.
Z = keeping your mouth shut."

Listen and learn (and I'll try to do the same).
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6592. Dakster
Quoting sammywammybamy:
Can Everyone take a Giant Chill Pill?




Is that the red one or the blue one?
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both 90L and the wave near the islands have a long way to go before they can really get there acts together but 90L is looking a little bit organized than the other one
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Quoting kingzfan104:
just asking, but if it were to hit florida, what would be the time frame in days? next thursday i am going to california but im not sure what we would do if it were to come towards us.


10 to 14 days. These things speed up and slow down ya know.
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Quoting MrJoeBlow:
CAN ANBODY SEE MY POSTS?


ITS KINDA HARD NOT TOO!
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Quoting SLU:
240hrs



Still has a tropical cyclone.. just weaker.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24167
Quoting kingzfan104:
just asking, but if it were to hit florida, what would be the time frame in days? next thursday i am going to california but im not sure what we would do if it were to come towards us.
way to early it has not even formed just sit back and wait no one can really tell you whats going to happen
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Quoting DestinJeff:


He tends to be around in the late evenings. Surely he'll pop in tonight around Post 8000.


You talking about that CV storm?
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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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