Storms of My Grandchildren by Dr. James Hansen

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 11:34 PM GMT on July 26, 2010

Share this Blog
9
+

"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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 5784 - 5734

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66 | 67 | 68 | 69 | 70 | 71 | 72 | 73 | 74 | 75 | 76 | 77 | 78 | 79 | 80 | 81 | 82 | 83 | 84 | 85 | 86 | 87 | 88 | 89 | 90 | 91 | 92 | 93 | 94 | 95 | 96 | 97 | 98 | 99 | 100 | 101 | 102 | 103 | 104 | 105 | 106 | 107 | 108 | 109 | 110 | 111 | 112 | 113 | 114 | 115 | 116 | 117 | 118 | 119 | 120 | 121 | 122 | 123 | 124 | 125 | 126 | 127 | 128 | 129 | 130 | 131 | 132 | 133 | 134 | 135 | 136 | 137 | 138 | 139 | 140 | 141 | 142 | 143 | 144 | 145 | 146 | 147Blog Index

I say no more quiet time for now I say watch that area PGI20 AND PGI22 I have a strong feeling that these would become invest 90L and 91L
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Jeff9641:


Maybe he didn't get his coffee yet and he's still sleeping this morning.


He's such a "downcaster!" LOL j/k Storm.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I just wanna state an observation made on the latest EURO, if you follow it closely, the storms comes from the blob in the ITCZ, not the wave.. follow the model closely...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Awww...poor him...sorry that I said his name...-_-.
*tear for kitty* everyone raise your glass... lol
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting reedzone:


Yes fallingstorms!! You are god! What you say goes!!!! I worship you alone!!!! Get a life...


Dude, just ignore him. He does it to ruffle feathers and hopefully the admins will pick him up like they did premadonna.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24044
Quoting Surfcropper:


Yup. Nothing like an 'A' storm at the end of August. No doubt people would have been throwing fits on here in 1992 From July through August. Then the power goes out for 2 weeks in 90 degree heat. Ugh, thanks for reminding me.
and review 2004 for that matter we are ahead by 1 storm. We all know what happened in 2004, then HELL broke out over Florida and my backyard twice in 3 weeks.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
5778. 7544
Quoting CaribBoy:


nope the NHC prefers tagging invests over land (99L a few days ago). kidding



haha we might see one for now
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
goodmorning every one! hope all is well in blog!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting fallinstorms:


see

exeperts agreeing with me

models agreeing with me


get ready for your crow stew upcasters


Yes fallingstorms!! You are god! What you say goes!!!! I worship you alone!!!! Get a life...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 7544:
morning all our 2 aoi looks good this am could we soon see 2 yellow circles today form the nhc

looks like the cmc is confused on where the catl hurricane will be heading for now if it does form


nope the NHC prefers tagging invests over land (99L a few days ago). kidding
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
5773. SLU
At the risk of being called a hypecaster, I think I can see an increase in vorticity with the surface trough aroung 30W.

Link

Meanwhile the large wave approaching the Windwards is dumping tons of rain in St. Lucia this morning. Over an inch of rain has come down in the last 3 hours.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FLdewey:
*sobs silently*

Mah kitteh!
Awww...poor him...sorry that I said his name...-_-.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Vorticity with the wave approaching the Lesser Antilles has had an impressive increase in 850mb vorticity in both how strong it is and how organized it is since last night.

12 hours ago:



Now:

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting muddertracker:
Is there any vorticity in that mess east of the Antilles?
Yes, vorticity has increased quite a bit. It is not as elongated as it was yesterday either... Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Sure it wasn't just JFV having a nervous breakdown and clicking the F5 button every 4 seconds?
LOL! Ya' neva know...probably was him though.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StormW:


Have to see as we get out in time. The time frame I'm looking at, isn't covered yet in the forecast steering layers maps, as they only go out to 144 hours, and become less accurate after 48-72 hours.


Great post as usual Storm.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
5764. 7544
morning all our 2 aoi looks good this am could we soon see 2 yellow circles today form the nhc

looks like the cmc is confused on where the catl hurricane will be heading for now if it does form
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting muddertracker:
Is there any vorticity in that mess east of the Antilles?
Yes...

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
LOL, a great blog gets a load of views. I remember during 92L I put up one of those counters on this main blog and I got about 10,000 hits in less than 40 minutes. That goes to show how many people visit here when it's active.


Sure it wasn't just JFV having a nervous breakdown and clicking the F5 button every 4 seconds?
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24044
Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
Better watch out the blog police are out in full force today... (shivers in boots)


Just busted fallinstorms for failure to comply and disturbing the peace
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting muddertracker:
Is there any vorticity in that mess east of the Antilles?


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting BDADUDE:
So anyway dudes, we are down 33% on our rainfall for the year. Any ideas why so little precipitation in the Atlantic this year? We are all getting thirsty and may have to order another watership!!


That's the La Nina effect.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting weathermanwannabe:
5739. Neapolitan 11:09 AM EDT on July 29, 2010

Anyone on here who experienced Andrew in late August of 1992 (or any major hurricane for that matter)knows that it only takes one to cause massive destruction and loss of life regardless of where it makes landfall and you would never wish that on anyone......Had there been a Blog in 92, folks would have written the season off by mid-August.


I've experienced Wilma in '05 and Jeanne in '04.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Is there any vorticity in that mess east of the Antilles?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Areas to track are certainly increasing


Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 11179
Better watch out the blog police are out in full force today... (shivers in boots)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
5752. K8eCane
Quoting StormW:


Well, I don't know about that...I just put down in writing, what I see per my analysis of things...just like 456, Levi, Drak, and other folks that put out a valid forecast based on information they see in their analyses.



Storm you just have to accept that you are excellent at what you do here for everyone
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting fallinstorms:


see

exeperts agreeing with me

models agreeing with me


get ready for your crow stew upcasters


I sure would like to see a picture of you to go with your outlandish posts. You do crack me up at times though.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
5739. Neapolitan 11:09 AM EDT on July 29, 2010

Anyone on here who experienced Andrew in late August of 1992 (or any major hurricane for that matter)knows that it only takes one to cause massive destruction and loss of life regardless of where it makes landfall and you would never wish that on anyone......Had there been a Blog in 92, folks would have written the season off by mid-August.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Ack, rattlers. Hate them, once I had one in my boot and when I picked it up to put it on I heard a rattle and imagine my surprise when I turned the boot over to take a peak. Glad your wife is all right.


Yikes. When I was younger, me and my friend were at my house, walking outside, and a foot to our right was a coral snake, first one I ever saw in the wild. My dog was about to go outside with us, but we stopped him. It didn't attack, but needless to say it was taken care of.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Or did 1,000 users refresh 10 times?
Lol, God knows.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
5746. hcubed
Quoting Neapolitan:
For those who ask why their comments are being hidden to some, here's some info: the posts for which I hit the minus are the ones that don't follow the rules of the blog...


I hit minus for this post.

Wait - that was the ignore user button I hit.

Oh well, same result...
Member Since: May 18, 2007 Posts: 289 Comments: 1639
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
LOL, a great blog gets a load of views. I remember during 92L I put up one of those counters on this main blog and I got about 10,000 hits in less than 40 minutes. That goes to show how many people visit here when it's active.


Or did 1,000 users refresh 10 times?
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 11179
Storm you are the guru here
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting weathermanwannabe:
...the only question will be where they are going to make landfall....That is all that really counts at the end of the day/season.


You can say that again.

Speaking of analog years (and I'm sure this has been brought up): 1969 had only one TD and one TS (Anna, a CV special) prior to August 11...and that's when things went haywire. Hurricane Blanche formed on that day, followed by both Camille (yes, that one) and Debbie on the 14th, then two more named storms to round out the month. September saw the generation of nine TCs, October followed with five, and November had one (Martha), for a grand total of 18 TCs, 13 named storms, (and 12 hurricanes...a record that stood until 2005's 15).

Point being? Again, it ain't over til it's over. Bustcasters beware...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13538
5737. DVG
Quoting CybrTeddy:
The track is nothing like Andrew. It shows it begin to re curve north of the Islands and head NW under a influence of a weakness in the ridge.

For myself, it seems to bear some similarity to 1964 Dora.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StormW:
WOW!
I never new that many people visited my blog! A little over 5,000 hits in less than 48 hours.
LOL, a great blog gets a load of views. I remember during 92L I put up one of those counters on this main blog and I got about 10,000 hits in less than 40 minutes. That goes to show how many people visit here when it's active.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FLdewey:


F) NttyGrtty is released on bail
Nttygrtty ain't in jail...(and never has been)

Oh, and good morning everyone
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StormW:


Have to see as we get out in time. The time frame I'm looking at, isn't covered yet in the forecast steering layers maps, as they only go out to 144 hours, and become less accurate after 48-72 hours.


So then lets wait, that's all we can and speculate.
Thanks! :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 5784 - 5734

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66 | 67 | 68 | 69 | 70 | 71 | 72 | 73 | 74 | 75 | 76 | 77 | 78 | 79 | 80 | 81 | 82 | 83 | 84 | 85 | 86 | 87 | 88 | 89 | 90 | 91 | 92 | 93 | 94 | 95 | 96 | 97 | 98 | 99 | 100 | 101 | 102 | 103 | 104 | 105 | 106 | 107 | 108 | 109 | 110 | 111 | 112 | 113 | 114 | 115 | 116 | 117 | 118 | 119 | 120 | 121 | 122 | 123 | 124 | 125 | 126 | 127 | 128 | 129 | 130 | 131 | 132 | 133 | 134 | 135 | 136 | 137 | 138 | 139 | 140 | 141 | 142 | 143 | 144 | 145 | 146 | 147Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.