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 JLPR2:


It was waay up there while it was inland in Africa, around 15-18N, before moving off the coast the spin moved WSW, an area of convection related to it developed over water as the spin prepared to move off and when the spin moved off it mixed itself with the convection, I have been following this area for a few days now.


JLPR2, I saw the same thing you see. So, I am on standby for this thing to become classified as a tropical wave. Lets see what'll happen.
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5083. beell
Quoting CyclonicVoyage:


If it's not a wave then where did it come from? The ITCZ is centered up @ 10N now.


CV, if you want, click on the link at post 5001. Take a look along the vertical line for the 25th. Strong break in the winds from NE to SE. From the surface to near 500mb. Seems like a wave.

Not an NHC basher but they have had some trouble keeping the waves straight this year.
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Quoting StormW:
Too many people are hung up on degrees, like the folks with degrees are the only ones that know what they are talking about.
you are sooo soo right its called an over educated bafffoon
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Quoting StormW:
Too many people are hung up on degrees, like the folks with degrees are the only ones that know what they are talking about.

well, they have a better chance of knowing what they are talking, lol
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5080. JLPR2
I actually have a picture of the disturbance as it was inland

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Quoting JLPR2:


ha! that explains it, being a gardener and photography are my hobbies. XD

lol, it's okay gardening is nice, nothing wrong with that, i like storms better though!;-)
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Quoting StormW:


What else do you notice in that discussion?


A bridge of high pressure, am I missing something else?
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5074. JLPR2
Quoting CyclonicVoyage:


If it's not a wave then where did it come from? The ITCZ is centered up @ 10N now.


It was waay up there while it was inland in Africa, around 15-18N, before moving off the coast the spin moved WSW, an area of convection related to it developed over water as the spin prepared to move off and when the spin moved off it mixed itself with the convection, I have been following this area for a few days now.
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5073. SLU
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
How much is it to board the train?


lol .. as long as you're not an unreasonable downcaster
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i ask about generators and building correctly to bring up a point. if we did it right barring a katrina or a andrew or a hugo a big storm would be nothing more than an inconvienence. we would all miss work for a day and a half have some trees to take a chainsaw to and then our life would be back to normal
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Quoting CyclonicVoyage:


That is my fault for not verifying an earlier post made by another.

Here is a verified example

Hurricane Beulah.


Sorry, Wikipedia is going to have to check there sources. Check out page 4 of this American Metorological Service Monthly Weather Reivew article published in 1967 (free for viewing by public):

http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/general/lib/lib1/nhclib/mwreviews/1967.pdf

Says it formed from an African wave emerging from the coast of Africa on August 28, 1967. LOL, there words for that is "The disturbance from which Beulah developed emerged from the African coast of August 28, and moved westward as a 'humping up' of the ITCZ, in the form of an interted vee."

LOL, a humping up of the inverted vee. So that's what the called it back in the day! Maybe we should refer to African waves in acronym form here as an inside joke (HUOITCZ), ROFL!
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perturbation
: a disturbance of motion, course, arrangement, or state of equilibrium; especially : a disturbance of the regular and usually elliptical course of motion of a celestial body that is produced by some force additional to that which causes its regular motion
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5065. SLU
Based on established trends, the ECMWF should show us a tropical cyclone on its 00z run.



The Cape Verde's blob looks incredibly powerful on satellite pictures but it seems to be another ITCZ disturbance. We've had 2 others for the month including a similarly potent looking one last week which eventually fizzled out. If this system can remain persistent with its thunderstorms, then it might be able to spin up a circulation which it lacks at this time. We're heading into prime time now and any cluster of thunderstorms over record warm water, as is the case this year, needs to be taken seriously.


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Quoting JLPR2:


Right now it isn't a wave and I agree, you didn't get my point? that was a very clear post O.o.
I'm saying it didn't originate in the ITCZ.


If it's not a wave then where did it come from? The ITCZ is centered up @ 10N now.
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5061. JLPR2
Quoting Caribbeanislands101:
lol, cool, i feel better now!!
It might be because your blog has sunflower pics ;-)


ha! that explains it, being a gardener and photography are my hobbies. XD
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


What Dry Air?




I swear, sometimes I despise this place.

ATLANTIC OCEAN...
A 1020 MB HIGH IS CENTERED OVER THE NORTHERN BAHAMAS NEAR 27N78W
PRODUCING FAIR WEATHER. ANOTHER 1025 MB HIGH IS CENTERED OVER
THE CENTRAL ATLANTIC NEAR 31N43W. A STATIONARY FRONT IS OVER THE
W ATLANTIC ALONG 32N60W 31N70W TO SOUTH CAROLINA NEAR 33N79W.
ISOLATED MODERATE CONVECTION IS WITHIN 60 NM OF THE FRONT. A
1024 MB HIGH IS OVER THE CENTRAL ATLANTIC NEAR 31N38W. VISIBLE
SATELLITE IMAGERY SHOWS DRY SAHARAN AIR ACROSS THE TROPICAL
ATLANTIC E OF 60W.

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5058. JLPR2
Quoting CyclonicVoyage:


I am still trying to figure out your point? It's not a wave. Even being an iTCZ disturbance it has a chance, it may be saving it right now with all the dry air.


Right now it isn't a wave and I agree, you didn't get my point? that was a very clear post O.o.
I'm saying it didn't originate in the ITCZ.
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Quoting StormW:


Cause it's not as pretty as this one?

img src="Photobucket" alt="" />


Thanks, I've been looking for the larger image file of this crazy thing.
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Quoting JLPR2:


Well lol, I'll have to use manlier words, your the second one that asks that, I'm a guy!
:S
lol, cool, i feel better now!!
It might be because your blog has sunflower pics ;-)
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Quoting Caribbeanislands101:

I know this doesn't have to do with weather, but the curiosity is killing me, are you a guy or a girl? I'm a guy, lol. back to weather, the wave has some spinning with it, but there is one coming off of africa that i think has a better chance, will see.
lol, what kind of question is that??? Does it matter?
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


The debate is over. No serious meteorologist or climatologist doubts global warming.


And the post I made was related to a post ossqss made which linked to a blog post by an imaginary cyber character. Not a scientist.


That's what they all say, as they have nothing to counter it.
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Quoting CyclonicVoyage:


I am still trying to figure out your point? It's not a wave. Even being an iTCZ disturbance it has a chance, it may be saving it right now with all the dry air.


What Dry Air?

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5051. JLPR2
Quoting Caribbeanislands101:

I know this doesn't have to do with weather, but the curiosity is killing me, are you a guy or a girl? I'm a guy, lol. back to weather, the wave has some spinning with it, but there is one coming off of africa that i think has a better chance, will see.


Well lol, I'll have to use manlier words, your the second one that asks that, I'm a guy!
:S
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


If Ivan was merely an ITCZ disturbance, why does the NHC post-storm report on Ivan say that it formed from an African tropical wave?

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/2004ivan.shtml?



See post 5027. I did not verify an earlier post by another, I mis-spoke and provided an accurate example.
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5048. angiest
Quoting DestinJeff:


Yeah I saw that. Wonder how we get different images?


Were they the same day? ;)
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Quoting JLPR2:


seems to be growing a little and breathing?

I think so, I bet it will be a TD by sunday, 456 is going to post a blog on this one tomorrow!
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Quoting JLPR2:


Its the PURELY that made me answer, since for it to be purely an ITCZ it would have to originate in the ITCZ and it didnt.


I am still trying to figure out your point? It's not a wave. Even being an iTCZ disturbance it has a chance, it may be saving it right now with all the dry air.
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How much is it to board the train?
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Quoting JLPR2:
It sort of have a chance, but look at the E-Pac, it has bright pretty colors! LOL


I know this doesn't have to do with weather, but the curiosity is killing me, are you a guy or a girl? I'm a guy, lol. back to weather, the wave has some spinning with it, but there is one coming off of africa that i think has a better chance, will see.
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5040. flsky
Quoting futuremet:
FLsky,

This is because the positive MJO pulse will be moving into the central Atlantic next week. This will allow more surface convergence, upper level ridging, and less wind shear. I do not have access the to the SAL forecat, but I think its going to be low because of the increased precipitation in northern Africa.

Thanks, appreciate it.
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5039. JLPR2
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
coming into view

AOI/XX/XL
MARK
7.8N/31.1W


seems to be growing a little and breathing?
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5037. Ossqss
Quoting futuremet:
4948

I am used to removing viruses. I must say this is toughest malware I ever dealt with because nothing could detect it, not even highly remute anti-malware tools. I had to manually remove it myself.

I remember this blog was hacked by malware this time last year. Hopefully this malware will not infiltrate this blog.


Try this, it works ! It is very difficult to manually do it, if not impossible for some. I have done this for many other friends in need with success.

Follow the steps in their entirety.

http://www.dslreports.com/faq/13616
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Quoting angiest:


Great idea! Now, they just need to give each gas station an oil well and a refinery so that that generator will have a use.


Ha. A little pipestill.

Thing is when there is a power outage - you can't pump anything out. I don't think they would be able to pump into the below ground tanks because I don't think they could see the level in the drum (risk of over-filling).

But fair point - when the power is out, the refineries aren't running. Though they usually have a fair amount of mogas in storage at the site.
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5035. JLPR2
Quoting floridaT:
since its a slow night let me bring this up. how come the far east can surrvive so many storms is it because they build for them/?


I dont know about the far east but I can tell you this:
The US isnt built for storms
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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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