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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Who thinks we'll hit 8000 comments by tonight?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
i have been looking around do we have computer model runs for 90L as of yet i do not see them anywhere.
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Quoting SLU:
240hrs



That's on my birthday lol. I hope no one in the Bahama's has my birthday.. Then again, you know what they say about the models, is that if a model shows a hurricane go over your house far out, that's the one place where it won't go. :P
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Quoting Jeff9641:
Reason why a Florida landfall could be a good bet.

Melbourne FL Discussion

MON-WED...(PREV DISC) THE SURFACE TROUGH SHOULD GRADUALLY WEAKEN
AND ALLOW THE ATLANTIC RIDGE AXIS TO BUILD BACK TO CENTRAL
FLORIDA
...WHICH WOULD SHIFT THE FOCUS FOR THE GREATEST AMOUNT OF
CONVECTION BACK TO INTERIOR SECTIONS.


Yeah, I had mentioned that several posts ago, but again, it is at least 10 days away from being a threat and a lot can change... but given the patterns this summer (leaves a big question mark)...
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Also... if you will notice... the 12Z ecmwf shows what may become 91L near the Yucatan Peninsula
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6477. RI92138
I meant Dr. Masters.
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Quoting Jeff9641:
Reason why a Florida landfall could be a good bet.

Melbourne FL Discussion

MON-WED...(PREV DISC) THE SURFACE TROUGH SHOULD GRADUALLY WEAKEN
AND ALLOW THE ATLANTIC RIDGE AXIS TO BUILD BACK TO CENTRAL
FLORIDA
...WHICH WOULD SHIFT THE FOCUS FOR THE GREATEST AMOUNT OF
CONVECTION BACK TO INTERIOR SECTIONS.


That's EXACTLY like 04. Trough pulls it up and high pressure sends it back west.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Been working since after lunch; actually a but surprised that NHC gave a yellow to the area by the antilles.....I thought it was just some short term TUTT enhanced convection.
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6473. angiest
Quoting DestinJeff:


you mean you can get that from a FREE site? Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!


What Chart?
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting wfyweather:


thats yesterdays 12z


you are wrong yesterday's 12Z didn't even show a system
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i think 91L we need too watch 1st it more closer too home
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Quoting Tazmanian:



one of them is 90L and the other may be 91L


Development of the Disturbance near the Islands is less likely than with 90L.... But once it gets into the caribbean I see no reason why it shouldnt at least be an invest...
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I see we have 90L and i guess the next is 91L....not much of a surprise.....not much to stop it from becoming a storm down the road.
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Quoting RI92138:
Can someone wake up Dr. Forbes as we might have something growing in the Eastern Atlantic.



We all know it is naptime at TWC... that is what they are doing during Storm Stories. And actually I think that is Dr. Rick Knabb. They kinda mentioned the convection that we have come to adore named "90L" earlier, saying that they didnt expect anything to develop in the next 24-36 hours in that area.
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Quoting SLU:
240hrs

this is scary it is just SE of south florida
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Quoting 1900hurricane:

The highest I can find from that time period is the one entitled "Ike closes in on Galveston" with 3694 posts.

Link


It looks to me like several comments were wiped, maybe not on that specific blog entry but check out all of the early September 2008 blogs. They have 0 comments. No way no one posted in them.
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Quoting wayfaringstranger:
Check again Taz....NOAA has two yellows right now.



one of them is 90L and the other may be 91L
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Quoting WINDSMURF:
Hey guys,
I think that it is too early to go running for the ketchup when the fries are not even ready. In other words, I think that we should give these systems some time to make up their minds on what they want to do. But at least we have something to watch.


There's french fries? WOO HOO!
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Quoting SLU:
240hrs



thats yesterdays 12z
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Not a record. There were more than 7,000 comments in less than a day when Ike was bearing down on Texas.

The highest I can find from that time period is the one entitled "Ike closes in on Galveston" with 3694 posts.

Link
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HPC Extended Forecast Discussion

Excerpt:

FOR THE TROPICS...A QUARTET OF SYSTEMS ARE FORECAST...WITH TWO IN
THE TROPICAL ATLANTIC AND TWO IN THE NORTHEAST PACIFIC. FOR YET
ANOTHER DAY...TPC AND HPC POINTS WERE QUITE SIMILAR AND A
COMPROMISE WAS AGREED TO WHERE MODERATE DIFFERENCES WERE SEEN.
THE CPC ANALOG COMPOSITE FOR THE END OF THE MEDIUM RANGE PERIOD
LINKS TO TEN DATES AS THE BEST MATCH TO THE EXPECTED PATTERN...AND
OF THOSE DATES...SIX CONTAINED A TROPICAL CYCLONE IN THE ATLANTIC
BASIN...FOUR OF WHICH WERE CENTERED IN THE WESTERN SUBTROPICAL
ATLANTIC WHERE THE WAVE NEAR 17 WEST LONGITUDE THIS MORNING IS
EXPECTED TO END UP BY NEXT THURSDAY.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 11222
90L, there goes the blog, lol. May it reach 10,000 comments?
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Quoting Tazmanian:



there olny one at this time wish is 90L but we may see 91L by friday or the end of today
Check again Taz....NOAA has two yellows right now.
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6453. SLU
240hrs

Member Since: July 13, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 5281
One thing helping 90L is the 30C water temps it is in. The lowest water temp it should encounter in its track across the Atlantic or Caribbean is 28C.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
can we leve the global warming crap put of the blog plzs and this stay with 90L


You need to take that up with the good Doctor. Plzs...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13579
Quoting hurricaneben:
I predict that either tonight or tomorrow, a Code Orange could be issued for this and in a few days or so maybe a Code Red. By early next week, this also should become TS Colin and possibly hurricane by mid-week as it approaches the Lesser Antilles. Sounds reasonable, anyone agree?


Code orange- tonight
Code red- soon
Yes... I think it will most likely develop into a tropical cyclone... but way to early to forecast exact intensity.
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YAY
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6447. Michfan
Quoting Twinkster:


this is part of the reason we have so many comments. Not bashing you personally but if you are going to complain about irrelevant comments and that we need a new blog because it is getting crazy in here don't post comments like that


Yeah but its not like the dumb repeat questions help either.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
at lest we got some in too track this weekend lol


Thank goodness... and this one won't really affect land for a while...
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6444. rljack
Soooo...Dr. Masters is on vacation and we get two yellow circles and 90L. Here we go...

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Quoting xcool:
Tazmanian ,about time yayy



yup
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6442. RI92138
Can someone wake up Dr. Forbes as we might have something growing in the Eastern Atlantic.

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Quoting sammywammybamy:


We really need a New bog. Things are getting crazy in here.


Still pretty sure that ship sailed long ago...

Seriously, anyone know what the record number of posts is for da blog?
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Hey guys,
I think that it is too early to go running for the ketchup when the fries are not even ready. In other words, I think that we should give these systems some time to make up their minds on what they want to do. But at least we have something to watch.
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6438. xcool
Tazmanian ,about time yayy
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I predict that either tonight or tomorrow, a Code Orange could be issued for this and in a few days or so maybe a Code Red. By early next week, this also should become TS Colin and possibly hurricane by mid-week as it approaches the Lesser Antilles. Sounds reasonable, anyone agree?
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Quoting Tazmanian:
by this time next week we may see a strong hurricane


Might wanna wait until this thing becomes a td to make that call ;)
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at lest we got some in too track this weekend lol
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Quoting sammywammybamy:
Heres a Bet: IN A FEW DAYS. WE WILL GET A COMMENT LIKE THIS:

Storm W, Do you Think 90L/Collin is going to make it into the gulf.

OR THIS:

"This has NOLA's name all over it, Im going to go hide in my basement and hold myself."

OR THIS:

"This is going to get ripped up by the mega super high wind shear that is 5kts. Oh NO RIP 90L. The water is way too cold to support it."


this is part of the reason we have so many comments. Not bashing you personally but if you are going to complain about irrelevant comments and that we need a new blog because it is getting crazy in here don't post comments like that
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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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