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 CybrTeddy:


Oh I don't mean that the system won't develop, rather it won't go the same track or intensity that far out the CMC, ECMWF, and other models are showing. And yes, a modeled system at 240 has verified before, twice this year. ECMWF caught Alex and TD2 240 hours out.


But verification of TC's 10 days out is pretty rare. Long waves and blocking formations can be very good at times...
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Quoting DestinJeff:


I don't understand the "too far out" argument as the basis for reasoning that a modeled TC won't develop, or develop to the modeled intensity.

Quick, research team ... has a modeled system at +240 ever verified?
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.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting DestinJeff:


I don't understand the "too far out" argument as the basis for reasoning that a modeled TC won't develop, or develop to the modeled intensity.

Quick, research team ... has a modeled system at +240 ever verified?


Oh I don't mean that the system won't develop, rather it won't go the same track or intensity that far out the CMC, ECMWF, and other models are showing. And yes, a modeled system at 240 has verified before, twice this year. ECMWF caught Alex and TD2 240 hours out.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24478
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
00z GGEM (extension of the CMC) takes our disturbance towards Florida as a hurricane.



There is no "extension of the CMC". The two acronyms are used interchangably. Canadian Meterological Center (CMC), Global Environmental Multiscale Model (GEM).
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Quoting DestinJeff:
Anything develop yet? Since about 2 hours ago?
my grass grew about 1/1000 of an inch, I drank 1 can of diet dr pepper, changed 3 diapers 1 for each of three babies, answered 1 wrong number, the temp outside went up 8 degrees, I ate 300 calories, about 300 posts were done, everything tropically speaking is still on hold for 10 days or so just like every week, I'm still trying to figure out how many days 240 hours is, not much else happened, and no storms developed and hit Miami.
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5877. 900MB
Wow, still the same blog post.....
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Quoting reedzone:


Looks like to me that a trough is lifting it north and as a new high builds north of there, it heads it NW to the Carolinas.. EURO showing a similar situation.
Looks that way to me now... towards the end of the run it turns stationary and then moves towards the N.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting StormW:


Well, even though the ECMWF has been kind of sluggish, once it does pick up on something, it usually locks on. When the GFS is working properly (?), it can be very good too.

So, I prefer them in the following order:

ECMWF
GFS
CMC
NOGAPS
UKMET
NAM (WRF-NMM/ETA)

The ECMWF will most likely be the most accurate, as it looks at information in a four dimensional sense.


I think CMC uses 4-d Var now too
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


I thought for a second it said '903'. JFV would have had a minor stroke if it said that. Won't happen regardless, way to far out although the track is possible.
LOL!
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting BFG308:


Can someone please make a wunderground app? The website won't work with Safari on my ipod

Have a look here I hope this is what your looking for.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
00z GGEM (extension of the CMC) takes our disturbance towards Florida as a hurricane.



Looks like to me that a trough is lifting it north and as a new high builds north of there, it heads it NW to the Carolinas.. EURO showing a similar situation.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
00z GGEM (extension of the CMC) takes our disturbance towards Florida as a hurricane.



I thought for a second it said '903'. JFV would have had a minor stroke if it said that. Won't happen regardless, way to far out although the track is possible.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24478
Quoting DestinJeff:
Anything develop yet? Since about 2 hours ago?


Not Tropically....
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Quoting angrypartsguy:
mine used to be cindy crawford but now shes old and outdated
At my age Cindy is still Hot. :)
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5866. BFG308
Quoting nolacane2009:
Anyone know a good Iphone App for Tracking Hurricanes?


Can someone please make a wunderground app? The website won't work with Safari on my ipod
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If we start to see some convection begin to develop north of where this impressive ITCZ blob is then it would seem what the models have been trying to pick up on. I am going to be looking for that to happen.
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I am fairly certain when I say the 12z ECMWF will drop the system. It's having problems for some reason at 12z for the past few days.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24478
00z GGEM takes our disturbance towards Florida as a hurricane.



Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting Floodman:
Quoting StormW:
WOW!
I never new that many people visited my blog! A little over 5,000 hits in less than 48 hours.


What I like about you is that you don't get smarmy or condesccending (at least you haven't with me)...you are knowledgeable and give freely of your knowledge and yourself and when you're wrong you tend to be the first one to say so

Thanks, Storm, by the way...

I 1million % agree, StormW = great man :-)
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Quoting sebastianflorida:
Everybody Seems To Have A Favorite Model These Days!



I prefer Selita Ebanks and Adriana Lima :)
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Quoting sebastianflorida:
Everybody Seems To Have A Favorite Model These Days!



mine used to be cindy crawford but now shes old and outdated
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5858. 7544
so far the new gfs run tries to develope the 31 wave have to wait for the run to finish
Member Since: May 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6874
be there before 3pm est.
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so - close - 6000 - posts
feel - compulsive - need - to - keep - posting
need - break - need - to - post
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Quoting StormW:


This isn't directed at you...I enjoyed the read.

However, anyone willing to bet that once we go from the warm cycle of the AMO to the cool cycle, that air temps, will lower somewhat, and we'll see ice return to the Arctic?


Highly unlikely. Even if the AMO is a real phenomenon, we're not likely to see the current upward phase hit its peak until as late as 2040. Allow another 50-90 years after that for the pendulum to swing the other way puts us around 2100...and all the other GW factors predicted to be in play by then would likely make any downward AMO phase nearly indetectable.
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


I cheated and used actual model performance statistics.
Lol, ya got me there.

Seasonal average scores - historical time series, GFS/MRF, EC, UK, FNMOC, CMC, and CDAS

Monthly average scores - historical time series, GFS/MRF, EC, UK and CDAS (frozen model).
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
5851. IKE
SYNOPSIS FOR CARIBBEAN SEA AND TROPICAL N ATLC FROM 07N TO 22N
BETWEEN 55W AND 65W
1130 AM EDT THU JUL 29 2010

.SYNOPSIS...MODERATE TO FRESH TRADES ARE EXPECTED TO PREVAIL
ACROSS THE BASIN THROUGH THE WEEKEND. A TROPICAL WAVE ACROSS THE
CENTRAL CARIBBEAN LATE THIS MORNING WILL MOVE W ACROSS THE SW
CARIBBEAN THIS AFTERNOON THROUGH FRI MORNING AND THEN INLAND
ACROSS CENTRAL AMERICA AND ACROSS THE FAR W CARIBBEAN FRI AND
FRI NIGHT. ANOTHER TROPICAL WAVE WITH VERY ACTIVE WEATHER HAS
ENTERED THE TROPICAL N ATLC AND WILL MOVE ACROSS THE LESSER
ANTILLES TONIGHT AND REACH NEAR 63W FRI MORNING...AND THEN REACH
THE CENTRAL CARIBBEAN NEAR 71W SAT MORNING AND THEN TO NEAR 78W
SUN MORNING. FRESH WINDS AND A SIGNIFICANT RISE IN SEAS WILL
ACCOMPANY THIS SECOND WAVE.

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5850. 7544
so are the 2 aoi moving west for now
Member Since: May 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6874
5849. 7544
storm w knows what he is talking about dont let anyone tell u differnt great job mr sir
Member Since: May 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6874
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I was going to say that I would put the UKMET ahead of the NOGAPS. The constant SW Caribbean system never verifies.


I cheated and used actual model performance statistics.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Right now the AMO is in its hot phase while the PDO is in its cold phase.


Yep, that's why I stated that once both of them are at cold phase,(PDO since around 2008-2009, and AMO around 2020-2025) we might get a wider scope of the topic.
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I agree. Storm is a great and nice guy.
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Quoting mtyweatherfan90:
NOAA VS JB though, to me, JB wins this round.

Link


Joe B always wins the round! :)
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


They did do hindcasts on last year, since they have in archive the initial conditions fed into the models. It may have not been the best comparision since it was a below normal sheared season.

Good point. Thanks for the info!
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NOAA VS JB though, to me, JB wins this round.

Link
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Anyone know a good Iphone App for Tracking Hurricanes?
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Quoting LoneStarWeather:

But you really can't work the kinks out of a hurricane model unless there is tropical weather for it to run against. I believe that is the reason they waited until now to fire this one up.


They did do hindcasts on last year, since they have in archive the initial conditions fed into the models. It may have not been the best comparision since it was a below normal sheared season.
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Quoting StormW:
WOW!
I never new that many people visited my blog! A little over 5,000 hits in less than 48 hours.


What I like about you is that you don't get smarmy or condesccending (at least you haven't with me)...you are knowledgeable and give freely of your knowledge and yourself and when you're wrong you tend to be the first one to say so

Thanks, Storm, by the way...
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Mine would be similar, I would have the UKMET ahead of the CMC.
I was going to say that I would put the UKMET ahead of the NOGAPS. The constant SW Caribbean system never verifies.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
The CMC is good on track, but not cyclogenesis. It's developed more things than Kodak.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 2351
Quoting mtyweatherfan90:


Agree, might see some cooldown next year and in 10-15 years once both AMO and PDO are at cold phase we might get some answers.
Right now the AMO is in its hot phase while the PDO is in its cold phase.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Well, I expect the two wave will merge and then a classic CV hurricane will form. Dry air is leaving, shear lowering, the ingredients are all mixing in.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Thanks! I agree with the order.


Mine would be similar, I would have the UKMET ahead of the CMC.
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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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