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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5033. SLU
Quoting Bordonaro:

Yes, the African CV wave train is firing up nicely, we will have an active season, I have been around 49 yr, watching weather for 42 yrs.

About a 14-18 TC season coming right up, complete with about 8-9 hurricanes and about 5 majors!!


Welcome onboard!!
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Quoting CyclonicVoyage:


Seems as if you've missed my opinion of this area. I was pointing out that this is indeed not a wave, that's it. 10 hours isn't going to make it a wave, nor 48 or 200. Ivan formed from an ITCZ disturbance as could be this one.



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?
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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/?
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Quoting floridaT:
hey storm since not much is happening let me ask ya this. i notice alot of gas stations here in sw fl have installed generators. have they done that up the east coast?>


I'm in the DC area - not that I've seen. I dunno why they would honestly.
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5028. angiest
Quoting StormW:


Good question.


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.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


According to the NHC post-storm report:

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

Ivan was born from an African tropical wave.


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

Here is a verified example

Hurricane Beulah.
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5025. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
coming into view

AOI/XX/XL
MARK
7.8N/31.1W
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Quoting JLPR2:


Because it isn't, it came off from Africa, but as soon as it did it hugged the ITCZ LOL!


I am inclined to believe you that its not a mere disturbance on the ITCZ, but a tropical wave (see post 4998). Plus, that ASCAT pass you posted also points in that direction.
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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.
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5021. JLPR2
It sort of have a chance, but look at the E-Pac, it has bright pretty colors! LOL

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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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Quoting StormW:


Good question.
they did that here in collier county made them put them in great idea
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yeah, sorry, I'm looking at a more interesting wave that will come off of africa tommorrow
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CI 101 are you still on here ?
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Quoting JLPR2:


Not really, if the NHC says it isn't a wave, then it isn't one XD

hnm.....we'll see, don't lose faith, NHC will have this in yellow tommorrow ;-)
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5011. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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Quoting sammywammybamy:
Here Comes the African Wave Train.

ALL ABOARD.. CHU CHO CHUG CHUGA CHU CHO

Yes, the African CV wave train is firing up nicely, we will have an active season, I have been around 49 yr, watching weather for 42 yrs.

About a 14-18 TC season coming right up, complete with about 8-9 hurricanes and about 5 majors!!
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5009. JLPR2
Quoting whs2012:
When are we mostly likely going to have a new invest? This weekend? Next week? This is just too boring right now lmao


Lets all post images of the blob! LOL!
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hey storm since not much is happening let me ask ya this. i notice alot of gas stations here in sw fl have installed generators. have they done that up the east coast?>
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5007. JLPR2
Quoting CyclonicVoyage:


Seems as if you've missed my opinion of this area. I was pointing out that this is indeed not a wave, that's it. 10 hours isn't going to make it a wave, nor 48 or 200. Ivan formed from an ITCZ disturbance as could be this one.



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.
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5006. angiest
Quoting StormW:


A free copy of Dr. Hansens book.


Darn it! Missed my chance.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting Caribbeanislands101:

Hey bro, what's up ?

Hey not much!! I'm just keeping an eye on Cape Verde Wave? What's you verdict?
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Quoting Bordonaro:

They do not work very well with 14" of wet, heavy snow:0)


I loved that :D
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5001. beell
It looked like a wave passing Dakar, Senegal on the 25th, I think.


Link
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5000. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
and iam back
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Yes, there can be flares up of convection on the ITCZ. This is triggered either by surface convergence (tropical wave) or upper divergence. I don't see divergence in the 200 mb streamlines over the ITCZ in the East Atlantic. So, then it seems to be surface convergence (maybe a tropical wave).
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Quoting JLPR2:


A lot can happen in 10 hours and this isn't just an ITCZ disturbance, this piece of energy moved off from Africa along with a weak spin.


Seems as if you've missed my opinion of this area. I was pointing out that this is indeed not a wave, that's it. 10 hours isn't going to make it a wave, nor 48 or 200. Ivan formed from an ITCZ disturbance as could be this one.

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4996. JLPR2
Quoting Caribbeanislands101:

Hey, we have a wave to watch now!!


Not really, if the NHC says it isn't a wave, then it isn't one XD
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Quoting JLPR2:


When it gets a spin I will give my guess LOL! XD
If I say a low will form by tomorrow, when I wake up there wont be nothing left of the blob, sometimes I think the tropics just like to prove me wrong LOL!
its ok there are still alot of experts scratchin there head about andrew
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4993. SLU
Quoting scibrad:


Ha I laughed when I read this. Just shows how non-linear hurricane activity is with respect to the month. People have posted the standard graphic showing activity over 100 years or so vs the month. The bulk of the season is dead ahead!


Nothing but Mount Everest lies ahead from here onwards.
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Quoting PRweathercenter:

hey, JLPR2!! yeah it does, What's your guess on this one, I'm taking a wild guess, TD by Sunday!

Hey bro, what's up ?
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4991. JLPR2
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


With that ASCAT pass showing cyclonic curvature in the winds, I am not sold on this being a perturbation on the ITCZ.


Because it isn't, it came off from Africa, but as soon as it did it hugged the ITCZ LOL!
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Quoting JLPR2:


A lot can happen in 10 hours and this isn't just an ITCZ disturbance, this piece of energy moved off from Africa along with a weak spin.

Hey, we have a wave to watch now!!
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4988. JLPR2
Quoting PRweathercenter:

hey, JLPR2!! yeah it does, What's your guess on this one, I'm taking a wild guess, TD by Sunday!


When it gets a spin I will give my guess LOL! XD
If I say a low will form by tomorrow, when I wake up there wont be nothing left of the blob, sometimes I think the tropics just like to prove me wrong LOL!
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Quoting JLPR2:
This isnt your everyday blob
seems its trying to do something, not much yet but if it persists for another day, maybe...


With that ASCAT pass showing cyclonic curvature in the winds, I am not sold on this being a perturbation on the ITCZ.
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Quoting gator23:

Mr. Plow that's my name that name again is Mr. Plow.

ROTFL!!!
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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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