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: 4784 - 4734

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 CybrTeddy:


I was born in the North, I was called a yankee.
I live in the South, I am called a yankee.


They gave me my Badge of Honor, after the first time that Boiled (Baallled) some peanuts and brought them to work.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Still, no one has brought to the table why this season would feature less than 14 named storms.


You would have to average 1 storm per week just to get it to 14 from this point forward and that will pretty much take you to the end of October. Even 14 right now may be a stretch.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PanhandleChuck:
I was always called a redneck when I lived in up North. I kinda took offense to it until I moved here and realized that it was actually a huge compliment


I was born in the North, I was called a yankee.
I live in the South, I am called a yankee.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting angiest:


It has become a badge of honor down here. ;)


I fit right in, they realized that I wasn't a Damn Yankee.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting pilotguy1:
Good luck wishcasters. I see a fizzle in the next twenty four hours.


This is no more than a flareup in the ITCZ. Watch the wave behind this, however. And watch the Gulf too.. there could be some mischief there.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
4777. xcool
angiest lmao
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
4776. angiest
Quoting PanhandleChuck:
I was always called a redneck when I lived in up North. I kinda took offense to it until I moved here and realized that it was actually a huge compliment


It has become a badge of honor down here. ;)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PanhandleChuck:
I was always called a redneck when I lived in up North. I kinda took offense to it until I moved here and realized that it was actually a huge compliment


Uhh I just realized something... If you look at my avatar, I have no neck LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I was always called a redneck when I lived in up North. I kinda took offense to it until I moved here and realized that it was actually a huge compliment
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Still, no one has brought to the table why this season would feature less than 14 named storms.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting pilotguy1:
Good luck wishcasters. I see a fizzle in the next twenty four hours.



Lol. I am not an expert, more along the lines of the guys that 'panhandlechuck' refers to.

I am not wishcasting, merely saying what I see.

But, as said, look at the sea surface temps in that area.

This will be a good 'un. If it was going to fizzle, it would have started shearing already, its actually pulling together.

A heapload a trouble for some of us.

As I said, I am a streetman, not a meteorologist.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Taz are you here?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
4769. angiest
Quoting xcool:


Wow does NOGAPS still have the 1900 redux storm?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting DestinJeff:


I knew I could count on Jeff... LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
El Nino 2004 didn't start until 7/31, this coming Saturday, and finished with 15 storms. We have 2 already, so 15 to 18 sounds reasonable. However, with the conditions about, +3 or 4 is not out of the question either.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
C'mon, I'm waiting for the chart to pop up that shows Hurricane activity ramping up in Aug.

I'm tellin y'all right now, I work with a bunch of good old boys from the South. They keep tellin me that this is just the quiet before the storm. These guys were dead on the last 3 years(when I moved here). They told me for the last 3 seasons that we would probably be alright. This year, they are telling me that it's going to be a bad year. I put quite a bit of faith in the people who have lived here for 30 - 40 years. The ability to recognize natural signs with life long history has to be recognized.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Recent ASCAT





Lower Resolution
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 15 Comments: 11342
Quoting DestinJeff:


No, that point was mentioned earlier.


yea once lol
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
4760. Ossqss
Click to enlarge





Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8188
Maybe, maybe....maybe.....

But I dont think so........
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
seems to me people keep forgetting that the TWO is only for a 48 hour time period

Even if that wave looks good, it probably would take more than 48 hours to develop; which in that case then no reason to put it on the TWO

doesn't mean they aren't watching it and it doesn't mean there isn't potential there for development
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Time to buckle up chickens.....rides about to begin....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I think AUG will have 4-7 and SEPT will have 5-8 named storms.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting DestinJeff:


Haha. Yeah, you have. Just playing with the new toy.


Just so you know, that is a new product and I have noticed some differences between it and the standard 3 hour product that I could not explain as due to the time difference.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 15 Comments: 11342
''ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.''


Lol, well looks to me like that around 30West in the Eastern Atlantic is plling together nicely, surprise!

Low down just around the ITCZ, but the waters there are HOT.

Hello COLIN!

If this is not going to be a doozie, then my name is Womble.

What will be interesting is the track, generated from a beginning low latitude.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting DestinJeff:
Man that is one fancy looking blob:


Oh no, I've released a monster.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 15 Comments: 11342
4746. NRAamy
PINHOLE EYE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Yeah I am thinking 15-18 as well. There is still alot of season left.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AussieStorm:

Not even noted on the ATSA 18Z


but is mentioned here
THE ITCZ AXIS IS CENTERED ALONG 11N15W 9N25W 12N46W 8N60W.
BESIDES THE CONVECTION MENTIONED IN THE TROPICAL WAVE SECTION
...SCATTERED MODERATE TO ISOLATED STRONG CONVECTION IS OFF THE
COAST OF WEST AFRICA FROM 8N-11N BETWEEN 15W-18W. SCATTERED
MODERATE TO STRONG CONVECTION IS FROM 7N-10N BETWEEN 24W-30W.

SCATTERED MODERATE CONVECTION IS FROM 7N-9N BETWEEN 56W-58W.




Check out the 1007 mb low about to emerge.. that's our future storm.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting DestinJeff:


Didn't know they had such product. Secret squirrel location?


Yep, I think you can get there using this Link, but I'm not sure since I use that browser that won't work with that specific site, but I have my ways of accessing the information.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 15 Comments: 11342
Quoting IKE:


If you picked 15-18 you're probably still okay. Anything over 18...forget it....





Maybe Dr. M will have his August outlook.


Agreed, not looking for anything over 20 anymore, last month it was possible but July lull killed that. 15-18, sticking more towards 15 for now.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
4735. IKE
Quoting reedzone:


Yet again, it is July. 2004 started in late July, in fact, Alex formed on July 31. It is not even that date yet. I'm still predicting an active season 15-18 storms. No reason for me to downgrade my numbers.


If you picked 15-18 you're probably still okay. Anything over 18...forget it....



Quoting DestinJeff:
I picked a good weekend to go to Atlanta. Looks like nothing will be going on here. Will be gone from Friday through Sunday.

I can't imagine how NVTS the blog will be if nothing even threatens with NEAR ZERO percent.


Maybe Dr. M will have his August outlook.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
4734. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684

Viewing: 4784 - 4734

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.

Local Weather

Overcast
28 °F
Overcast

JeffMasters's Recent Photos

Lake Effort Snow Shower Over Windsor, Ontario
Sunset on Dunham Lake
Pictured Rocks Sunset
Sunset on Lake Huron