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 DestinJeff:


Correct. Most economists agree that it is merely a Great Recession.


Tis merely an extension of another assention to another recession but in a different, dimension.
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5933. 7544
Quoting Jeff9641:


No everyone along the SE US needs to monitor this as we talking next weekend and I know things can change but it is eary that all models are now onboard with what looks to be Colin in the making.



yep agree look at the gem i posted if the high builds in could be a so fla event for now
Member Since: May 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6874
Quoting DestinJeff:


Correct. Most economists agree that it is merely a Great Recession.


"Bah-Dump-Sh"
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GFS combines the ITCZ disturbance with the tropical wave off Africa to create a system.
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Quoting jasoniscoolman2010x:
its how big the storm get here..maybe its will N.C COAST TO..BUT I SEE A HIGH IN THE NNORTHEAST MEAN ITS GO NORTH WEST AND GOING BACK TO THE WEST BECAUSE THE HIGH IN THE NORTHEAST IF THE STORM IS BIG.


It is my understanding that the bigger more powerful a system gets the less effect things such as Highs and other systems have on the storm.. Also the larger the storm is the Coriolis effect will be more pronounced tracking it further north.

And of course I can be full of manure since Im no MET!
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Quoting ElConando:


Take a step back there isn't a Depression yet.

Let alone even an invest...
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5923. 7544
ouch if the high builds and pushes it west watch cha could cover most of se coast

Link
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Quoting ElConando:


Take a step back there isn't a Depression yet.
Agreed. Still 240+ hours out.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


PMSL - Mean sea level pressure
m Oh, OK, so how is this derived? tia
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Quoting Jeff9641:
Looks like the whole SE US might want to start paying attention over the next several days. CMC slams a hurricane to E C FL.


Take a step back there isn't a Depression yet.
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12Z is on board with the storm, and in consensus with the CMC,GEM, and EIRO with the track aiming westward towards Florida, GFS a bit south of there, but in that direction.. Follow closely on the model the wave, you can see that it is the same wave other models are forming.
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Quoting Jeff9641:
Looks like the whole SE US might want to start paying attention over the next several days. CMC slams a hurricane to E C FL.
Still 240+ hours out. If and when the system organizes and passes west of the Antilles we start talking.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
The system then stalls over the Gulf stream/south Florida and intensifies. After a couple days there it skates up the Gulf stream and makes landfall as a pretty considerable system over south Carolina.

Link
Forget the nickle..we need cover 2
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If this potential storm verifies, you have to give the CMC credit for picking it up earlier this week.
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Quoting muddertracker:
Is this a model? It says pmsl tropical at the bottom? Never heard of it so I'm curious.


PMSL - Mean sea level pressure
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Quoting SavannahStorm:


Looks similar to a Floyd track. Weakness in the ridge of over the Carolinas.



The model run shows the center riding up the Peninsula but I get what your saying.
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Quoting hcubed:


JFV has had 5 new names.

can you WUmail me them so I can put them on ignore.
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Quoting Dakster:
WE are rapidly approaching the 6,000 post limit... Let's see if that bug has been fixed.


I regard that more as a feature than a bug.
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All of these model runs look great to me, for once the GOMEX is not the intended target.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Looks to me that it splits it up into 2...one part recurves and goes through the Atlantic while the other goes through south Florida.
The system then stalls over the Gulf stream/south Florida and intensifies. After a couple days there it skates up the Gulf stream and makes landfall as a pretty considerable system over south Carolina.

Link
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting DestinJeff:


Hope it doesn't track to Savannah. Nice city.


See my long range GFS post above. :(
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Thank goodness this is at 372 hours, or i might be alarmed...

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Quoting jasoniscoolman2010x:
its how big the storm get here..maybe its will N.C COAST TO..BUT I SEE A HIGH IN THE NNORTHEAST MEAN ITS GO NORTH WEST AND GOING BACK TO THE WEST BECAUSE THE HIGH IN THE NORTHEAST IF THE STORM IS BIG.
Is this a model? It says pmsl tropical at the bottom? Never heard of it so I'm curious.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
00z GGEM takes our disturbance towards Florida as a hurricane.





Looks similar to a Floyd track. Weakness in the ridge of over the Carolinas.

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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Don't know that one. To have position and intensity on the money 10 days out? May have happened, but probably pretty rare. The one I see touted the most is the GFS development of Dean.
Yeah I'm sure it has happened, it is a very rare thing though.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting DestinJeff:


Not against the Nickel Package.


Lol
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5894. hcubed
Quoting DestinJeff:
Anything develop yet? Since about 2 hours ago?


JFV has had 5 new names.
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Quoting 7544:
latest gfs on board now takes it right to so fla hmmmm

Link
Looks to me that it splits it up into 2...one part recurves and goes through the Atlantic while the other goes through south Florida.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Nrt is probably the only one that knows. But the 'too far out' argument makes sense, I remember when we were tracking pre-Alex, the ECMWF took it as a 950mb hurricane into Mississippi. Did the intensity verify? Sure did, how about track? Not even close.


Don't know that one. To have position and intensity on the money 10 days out? May have happened, but probably pretty rare. The one I see touted the most is the GFS development of Dean.
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Quoting TankHead93:
I prefer Selita Ebanks and Adriana Lima :)
Hi again. You do realize that Selita is a native Caymanian, right. We are very proud of her.
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5887. 7544
latest gfs on board now takes it right to so fla hmmmm

Link
Member Since: May 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6874
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


There is no "extension of the CMC". The two acronyms are used interchangably. Canadian Meterological Center (CMC), Global Environmental Multiscale Model (GEM).
Oh ok.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194

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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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