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: 5534 - 5484

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

Quoting Jeff9641:


It could the thing that's in it's favor is the vorticity has increased quite a bit since last night.
Yep, I see that.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting mcluvincane:


How do I become unhidden?


Well, just come out of the closet
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TankHead93:
Nothin' much man, finishin' off my bowl of oats. What do ya think about our little disturbance around 55W? I know it's being enhanced by the TUTT, ya think it has potential down the road?
Sorry, if this is off topic but are you West Indian ? I only ask because Americans say oatmeal and West Indians say oats.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting rmbjoe1954:
For a storm or storms to come about before August 10th the lows would have to lift away from the ITCZ and the environment must contain minimal SAL and shear. Somehow there is no evidence otherewise the meteorologists would be hopping all over the place. What I'd like to know is how and why the models are predicting storms without the current environmental support? Are the models factoring in 'what-if scenario' that the low(s) will lift out of the ITCZ becasue that is what historically happens most of the time? I am just trying to rationalize model support.


If we don't have a storm by mid August my head will explode.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting DestinJeff:
I am hidden from some. That is funny. My posts are sooooooooo threatening and offensive!


Its Homer Simpson! He scares me!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Nrt, then the wave emerging off Africa would have to be it.


I agree, also the trough at ~30W may still develop, if you look at the operational 00Z 96 hour image, there is a small area of lower pressure north of Hispaniola, which may be it. Tough to tell.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
For a storm or storms to come about before August 10th the lows would have to lift away from the ITCZ and the environment must contain minimal SAL and shear. Somehow there is no evidence otherewise the meteorologists would be hopping all over the place. What I'd like to know is how and why the models are predicting storms without the current environmental support? Are the models factoring in 'what-if scenario' that the low(s) will lift out of the ITCZ becasue that is what historically happens most of the time? I am just trying to rationalize model support.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting SLU:


Good model support Teddy. Looks like something's going to happen. The ECMWF seems to be the northern outlier. I'd discredit the ECMWF track because it has show a lack of consistency. 24 hours ago it showed the tropical cyclone south of PR now it's east of the Bahamas and I suppose it will drop the system again at 12z.


I disagree.. only if the 12z shows it back in the Caribbean, remember Bill? It was the northern outlier then Bill went out to sea.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24164
I seen a lot of possibilities comming from ITCZ yesterday through the 9th but the GFS models did not show anything that was going to affect the US- if anything maybe a few systems developing somewhat and hooking back out towards Bermuda. If I lived in a world where so many storms were "wished" out, then Id hide somewhere high, dry, and safe.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RJT185:


I didn't mean to imply them as trolls, but the trolls themselves are also capable of "down-ranking" their nay-sayers. Hence the end-effect is the large amount of hidden posts. A shame since I remember some pretty awesome weather discussions in the past. Now it simply feels like a "pissing contest" as to who can -cast the best.


I agree, the blog this year just isn't what it used to be. Filled with trolls and it isn't even August. Ah well, the more active the blog, the more trolls.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Nrt, then the wave emerging off Africa would have to be it.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24164
5520. SLU
Quoting CybrTeddy:
This is what we're looking at this morning..
ECMWF 00z shows a borderline TS/Hurricane.



CMC shows a TS
Link

NOGAPS shows insanity.. but shows a TS heading towards the Caribbean.
Link


Good model support Teddy. Looks like something's going to happen. The ECMWF seems to be the northern outlier. I'd discredit the ECMWF track because it has show a lack of consistency. 24 hours ago it showed the tropical cyclone south of PR now it's east of the Bahamas and I suppose it will drop the system again at 12z.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting bohonkweatherman:
From what i am reading on other tropical sites and watching models I would be surprised if we don't have a storm or 2 by August 10th.


Surely agree with you there. The wave along 55-60W is rather impressive this morning and will need to be watched. This should be our next invest if convection maintains this afternoon. Convergence/Divergence are excellent so the support is there.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
I still do not believe the storm the ECMWF develops is from the trough currently ~30W. You would half to believe is remains there stationary for about the next 3 1/2 days, based on the 96 hour 00Z ECMWF





Also, while the operational 00Z ECMWF shows a system east of the Bahamas at 192 hours, the 00Z ECMWF ensemble mean shows the area of lower pressure more concentrated in the Eastern Carribean.




It is from the Wave currently at 17W
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I still do not believe the storm the ECMWF develops is from the trough currently ~30W. You would have to believe it remains there stationary for about the next 3 1/2 days, based on the 96 hour 00Z ECMWF





Also, while the operational 00Z ECMWF shows a system east of the Bahamas at 192 hours, the 00Z ECMWF ensemble mean shows the area of lower pressure more concentrated in the Eastern Carribean.


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
5513. angiest
Quoting RJT185:


I didn't mean to imply them as trolls, but the trolls themselves are also capable of "down-ranking" their nay-sayers. Hence the end-effect is the large amount of hidden posts. A shame since I remember some pretty awesome weather discussions in the past. Now it simply feels like a "pissing contest" as to who can
"insert noun here"-cast the best.


Turn off filtering and then manually hit - for the ones you don't want to see.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
5511. divdog
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


For some reason though, some hidden posts include:
Jeff9641
mcluvincane
RitaEvac
DestinJeff

None of those mentioned above are trolls though.
they must have gotten more minuses than pluses you bad boys you
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 755
Quoting Jeff9641:


What's up Tank!
Nothin' much man, finishin' off my bowl of oats. What do ya think about our little disturbance around 55W? I know it's being enhanced by the TUTT, ya think it has potential down the road?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
From what i am reading on other tropical sites and watching models I would be surprised if we don't have a storm or 2 by August 10th.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


For some reason though, some hidden posts include:
Jeff9641
mcluvincane
RitaEvac
DestinJeff

None of those mentioned above are trolls though.


How do I become unhidden?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
5507. RJT185
Quoting wayfaringstranger:


That dog rocks....Im not much of an animal person but that dog is actually cool.


Thanks. He's my pug, 1yr old at the time of the pic, he's 1 and a half now. Which in doggie years is like 12, haha.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FFtrombi:
Unrelated to the topic but:
Finland has just broken their all time temperature record, with a reading of at least(could still go higher, a few hours left) 36,3C (97,3F). The old record was 35,9C from 1914!!!


Wow! Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the cauldron continues to simmer...and with at least another week of above-average highs and little cloud cover expected--at least around Florida--things will only get, er, better:

What's cooking?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

TS BUSTED FORECAST ALIBI
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Steering is rather straight forward west down there and the ITCZ is flat around 10N. It may begin to feel a weakness and try to pull out around 50W, IMO. It will stay confined until at least then, again, IMO.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RJT185:
You know what's sad? Out of 36 posts current in "page 110" of this current blog, 15 are hidden from view when using "Show Average." Apparently 2010 is the Year of the Troll.

thanks for all the input StormW, I am glad to know we're in the clear so to speak for a little while longer. **knocks on wood**


For some reason though, some hidden posts include:
Jeff9641
mcluvincane
RitaEvac
DestinJeff

None of those mentioned above are trolls though.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RJT185:
You know what's sad? Out of 36 posts current in "page 110" of this current blog, 15 are hidden from view when using "Show Average." Apparently 2010 is the Year of the Troll.

thanks for all the input StormW, I am glad to know we're in the clear so to speak for a little while longer. **knocks on wood**


That dog rocks....Im not much of an animal person but that dog is actually cool.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StormW:


Oh...really?
Please, don't even pay him no mind... man, what is up with people today?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
This is what we're looking at this morning..
ECMWF 00z shows a borderline TS/Hurricane.



CMC shows a TS
Link

NOGAPS shows insanity.. but shows a TS heading towards the Caribbean.
Link
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24164
Quoting Jeff9641:



What???
high, oh I mean high preassure or something like that.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
5494. RJT185
You know what's sad? Out of 36 posts current in "page 110" of this current blog, 15 are hidden from view when using "Show Average." Apparently 2010 is the Year of the Troll.

thanks for all the input StormW, I am glad to know we're in the clear so to speak for a little while longer. **knocks on wood**
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


Probably moderate La nina
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FFtrombi:
Unrelated to the topic but:
Finland has just broken their all time temperature record, with a reading of at least(could still go higher, a few hours left) 36,3C (97,3F). The old record was 35,9C from 1914!!!

May not seem like much to folks further south, but the reading is at a weather station approx. 200miles from the artic circle.


Finland??? WOW!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StormW:


Oh...really?


I have to admit, I am surprised that you can even see his posts Storm :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StormW:


I want to see it break free from the ITCZ first, then sustain itself for 24 hours.


Oh. OK but to say low with most models forecasting development I dindnt expect to here low from you.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Jason,

I mean this with all respect so I hope you dont take this the wrong way because the last thing we need is more drama right?

It's one thing to say your opinion (we all have them) but its disrespectful to just say "if someone tell you low..there do not know what there are talking about"...# 5475

Your a smart fella and I'm sure you have nothing but respect for other senior met's.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting mcluvincane:


I agree. I wonder why storm says low with all the models support


If it's able to detach from the ITCZ and survive, then it's chances will go up from there.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 5534 - 5484

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.