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 Drakoen:
Another thing I need to comment on is how terrible the new GFS is. It may do well with tracking cyclones when they actually form, but the new GFS has numerous problems from not handling winds properly to having dry air biased. The new GFS will probably have an affect on the hurricane models since the hurricane models use the GFS boundary layer scheme.


Before you try, convict and execute the new GFS, you may want to look at some data
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Wow just checking in to see if I was right yesterday and I see we have 90L....
Now maybe this "Blog" will get back to "Weather" and not so much GW stuff....

Taco :o)
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7129. xcool
gator23:
lmao
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7128. Levi32
Quoting scott39:
So you see 60W as being the time period when the forecast track will be clearer? If so, When do you anticipate 90L to be at 60W?


Well the track will naturally be much clearer by the time it reaches 60W. Right now the track beyond 60W is largely unknown. It should arrive there, near the northern Antilles, in 5-7 days.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26562
Quoting gator23:

if you are going to put up fake pictures you think you could have piked a better looking girl.


LOLLOLLOL!!!!
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7124. scott39
Quoting Levi32:


Yes. I say a chance because this far out the timing of when the trough and invest 90L arrive in the area may change. So far, I have seen nothing wanting to recurve this well east of the US.
So you see 60W as being the time period when the forecast track will be clearer? If so, When do you anticipate 90L to be at 60W?
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Quoting muddertracker:
Which means no curve, right?
Yep.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
7122. Patrap
Quoting catastropheadjuster:


I am so glad to see ya, some folks said they thought u was banned. Of course I didn't believe them. something over JFlorida and another blogger, JFlorida pushed some of the crap to far in my opinion. Just glad ur back.

So what do ya think about the wave out there? I think it's kinda of descent but i am no weather person.

Hey Floodman, how r ya? :)
Sheri


Havent checked out 90L

So dunno is my easy synopsis
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7121. pottery
BBL..
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7119. Drakoen
Quoting muddertracker:
Which means no curve, right?


Right
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7118. Patrap
Quoting pottery:

LOL I knew you were not banned.
I was joking.....

Been coming down here all day, sometimes heavy.
Pressure bottomed out at 1010 two hours ago.
No breeze, but lots of electricity from 1 pm to about 4 pm.



Life in da tropics
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less then 1hrs be for the new two comes out cant wait
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7116. hydrus
Quoting stormpetrol:

Too low in Lat / I think most storms/hurricanes this year will be Caribbean Cruisers.
Great. and all that hot water to power them up... If that does happen, we may see another cat-5 landfall. Naturally I pray that does not happen.
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7115. pottery
Quoting Patrap:



I wasnt banned.
Thats just wishful thinking for some,LOL


I made post earlier today for the wunderbroadcast Network.

Been Busy doing stuff for the portlight Project,

Disaster Relief Trailer

Posted by: Portlight, 12:29 PM CDT on July 29, 2010

LOL I knew you were not banned.
I was joking.....

Been coming down here all day, sometimes heavy.
Pressure bottomed out at 1010 two hours ago.
No breeze, but lots of electricity from 1 pm to about 4 pm.
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7113. Levi32
Quoting Drakoen:


Trough looks flatter and faster on the ECMWF and by the time the heights decrease enough the system is already under the 500mb CONUS ridge.


Yes. I say a chance because this far out the timing of when the trough and invest 90L arrive in the area may change. So far, I have seen nothing wanting to recurve this well east of the US.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26562
I'd like to install a quality weather station w/computer interface hopefully for under $500.00. Would love some input. Davis? Oregon Scientific? Don't want something that's gonna die @ 90kts. No reply. I'll try one more time. Also plan to link a webcam as needed.
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Quoting Patrap:
The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Womp,,wahhhh


Better luck next time.



I am so glad to see ya, some folks said they thought u was banned. Of course I didn't believe them. something over JFlorida and another blogger, JFlorida pushed some of the crap to far in my opinion. Just glad ur back.

So what do ya think about the wave out there? I think it's kinda of descent but i am no weather person.

Hey Floodman, how r ya? :)
Sheri
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7110. xcool
bye jfv drama queen back to tropical weather
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7109. hydrus
Quoting Floodman:


LOL...someone was reporting your demise?
Him and that NttyGrtty dude have been having it out for months it seems. I wonder what the deal is...
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Quoting Drakoen:


Trough looks flatter and faster on the ECMWF and by the time the heights decrease enough the system is already under the 500mb CONUS ridge.
Which means no curve, right?
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7106. Patrap
Quoting pottery:
Pat, how was it "over there"?
Welcome back!





I wasnt banned.
Thats just wishful thinking for some,LOL


I made post earlier today for the wunderbroadcast Network.

Been Busy doing stuff for the portlight Project,

Disaster Relief Trailer

Posted by: Portlight, 12:29 PM CDT on July 29, 2010


When one faces these kinda Moments..


4. Patrap 1:26 PM CDT on July 29, 2010
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Quoting Congress:
Storm, how far into the bahamas?

Too low in Lat / I think most storms/hurricanes this year will be Caribbean Cruisers.
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7103. xcool
Congress so Your Point
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7102. Levi32
The TUTT is in a great position to ventilate 90L should it end up off the SE US coast.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26562
7101. Drakoen
Quoting Levi32:


ECMWF will probably beat the GFS as it usually does, but the ECMWF does have a trough that could have a chance at recurving the system, but both models show the ridge winning and taking it west ultimately.


Trough looks flatter and faster on the ECMWF and by the time the heights decrease enough the system is already under the 500mb CONUS ridge.
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7100. pottery
Quoting hydrus:
I was saying to myself, Pottery is going to get some rain on the omnipotent Calabash Tree....Good Evening Pott....:)

Thanks. But can you turn it off now?
LOL
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Quoting Congress:
Storm, how far into the bahamas?


It doesn't necessarily have to go into the Bahamas. It could go north or south, as seen with different models. We don't know quite yet. ;)
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Is there any chance of another Floyd or Isabel?
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Quoting jasoniscoolman2010x:
I DID SAY THAT..i was thinking this morning invest 90L WILL BE ON FRIDAY MORNING.


It is 12 hours earlier. What was your thinking, intensification wise, for this system? As it would probably now happen 12 hours earlier.
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7094. hydrus
Quoting pottery:
All day long I wondered why the sky was so dark and sort of yellow.
Now I see that the NHC has put a yellow blob right overhead!
It has caused heavy rain, thunder and lightening, and mud.
What have I done to reserve this ?
I was saying to myself, Pottery is going to get some rain on the omnipotent Calabash Tree....Good Evening Pott....:)
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7093. IKE
Dram time on the blog...by the same bloggers.
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7092. unf97
Quoting stormpetrol:
Orange circle for 90L at 8 pm , 20% for the AOI by the windwards at 8pm, another yellow circle in the western caribbean near 14/77 at 8pm?


Yes, I definitely think NHC should put a yellow circle on the disturbance in the western Caribbean too. That AOI looks rather vigorous early this evening.
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7091. Levi32
Quoting scott39:
How strong of a TC is that showing?


A mature hurricane, but it matters little what intensity it is showing. Just the fact that it is a mature tropical cyclone.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26562
7090. pottery
Pat, how was it "over there"?
Welcome back!
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7089. Levi32
Quoting Drakoen:
GFS and ECMWF look like polar opposites regarding the 500mb patter the GFS features a trough creating a substantial enough weakness while the ECMWF has a big ol' ridge. The GEFS ensemble forecast of a positive NAO would tend to favor a trough but it's hard to combat the ECMWF and its forecast of increasing heights over the Great Lakes region.


ECMWF will probably beat the GFS as it usually does, but the ECMWF does have a trough that could have a chance at recurving the system, but both models show the ridge winning and taking it west ultimately.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26562
7087. Relix
Meh. I am sure the Puerto Rico barrier will stop the system from getting here. =P
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Quoting Levi32:
Landfall in South Carolina on Day 14:

This run should be taken with a grain of salt, as should all long-range model runs. However, it is nice to see the new GFS catching onto the system.



A little further north than the last run. We'll have to see if this continues, and becomes an East Coast storm, or will completely change in the 0Z run, as that is when the fresh data gets sent to the models.
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7084. xcool
Congress stop put last name on here you dam fool
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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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