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 TropicalAnalystwx13:
Wow:

Wow is right! Get Mitch Rapp on the phone!
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4580. alcomat
Quoting reedzone:


There was a great oval looking vorticity on the last few runs.. but it died out, maybe an error in the map. I don't see how a really good vorticity can just go umm.. poof like that, especially when convection is deepening and becoming more circular.
I agree!
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Quoting portcharlotte:
Sorry to be rude but I just got home from work and my relaxation is reading the weather topics in the tropics. Instead for the 2nd day in a row I have to keep scrolling and scrolling down throw your long messages to find out about the real time weather. I am tired of the politics, oil and all that non wx data. Thanks for your understanding I hope!




it won't stop until there is a storm to talk about. it's bothers me too at times, but it's dr. m's blog and he chose the topic. i suppose we'll have to go elsewhere if we don't to scroll through the politics. i'm not trying to be sassy. i hear ya, but it's his blog
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Wow:

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4577. SLU
Quoting WatchingThisOne:


Looking at the Oceanic Nino Index, you will note a very strong similarity between 1995, 2003 and 2010.

Oceanic Nino Index

In 1995, only ONE storm born in CV or CATL made landfall with North America - a tropical storm that hit the northern tip of Nova Scotia.

1995 Storm Tracks

In 2003 (see your map post 4449), only TWO storms born in CV or CATL made landfall - one in North Carolina and one in Nova Scotia. Both majors.

Everything else from CV/CATL recurved north.

So even if this is an active CV/CATL season, we may be looking at a bunch of fish spinners with perhaps a landfall or two from Georgia north. Depends on what that AB high ends up doing, among other things.

Edit: same basic idea in 2005 ... CATL/CV recurved north. Same fading El Nino pattern.


Interesting .. i'll have a look at it
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Sorry to be rude but I just got home from work and my relaxation is reading the weather topics in the tropics. Instead for the 2nd day in a row I have to keep scrolling and scrolling down throw your long messages to find out about the real time weather. I am tired of the politics, oil and all that non wx data. Thanks for your understanding I hope!


Quoting JFLORIDA:
Re: 4534

I mean im sure there is more oil out there, and the dollar is most likely to win the argument - Its just its not looking like a very pretty or sustainable future even if Oil produces a fraction of the warming it is thought to.

Four hours ago:

Gulf of Mexico's Deepwater Oil Industry Is Built on Pillars of Salt

Financiers called it "the Dead Sea." Nearly a century of production had run its course. Well after deeper well turned up dry, many drilling into thick layers of salt. And where there was salt, most believed, all hope of oil was lost. Then, 25 years ago, it all began to change. Exploration geologists discovered that, rather than signaling oil's end, underground salt -- leftovers of repeatedly evaporated seas -- could lead to a horde of new discoveries.

"When you drill through salt, you find high pressures," he said.

"The earth is like a refinery," Moore added. "With more temperature and pressure, more of the heavier hydrocarbons are cooked away. But the thick salt above the reservoir allows the oil to survive."
It remains to be seen how much the Earth's atmosphere can tolerate more oil combustion, and how the government will regulate deepwater drilling in the Gulf's future. But despite its long history, the Gulf and its salt-shaped structures will continue to produce finds for another generation, Moore said.
"There are decades of exploration left in the Gulf of Mexico," he said.
Member Since: September 7, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 703
4574. xcool
btwntx08 new gfs not work ;)(
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Western Africa Soundings:

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Quoting xcool:
new GFS not work nowwwwwww


just give him the link if you have it
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a little off topic (hot tropical or G warming) but i'm just curious. how careful and "pristine" is the drilling in Saudi Arabia. i'm just curious if they try to be clean or if they even care. for some reason, i think they wouldn't care and that they make a big mess of it. but i am just making an unfounded assumption.
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Quoting JLPR2:


its looking good so far


Let's see how it looks like tomorrow.
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5521
I dont expect the NHC to mention the wave off Africa at 8 PM. Probably tomorrow afternoon...
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4562. xcool
new GFS not work nowwwwwww
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Quoting JFLORIDA:
Re: 4534

I mean im sure there is more oil out there, and the dollar is most likely to win the argument - Its just its not looking like a very pretty or sustainable future even if Oil produces a fraction of the warming it is thought to.


"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein
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4560. alcomat
Quoting JFLORIDA:
With respect to the blog topic, I mentioned DoD report on Peak Oil and mistakenly gave 2014 as the critical date - that actually is 2015 -

A report from the American Joint Forces Command published March 15 predicts that in 2015, the world capacity for petroleum production could be 10 million barrels per day less than the demand.

The report of the American Department of Defense (DoD), titled Joint Operating Environemnt 2010 indicates (page 29):

"By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015. the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD."

10 million barrels per day (MBD), that represents the production of Saudi Arabia, the world's leading petroleum producer. Such a shortfall, if it should come, would be more than 10 percent of the world demand for crude, which is today 86.5 MBD, and ought to reach 90 MBD in 2015.

If this hypothesis of the Pentagon comes to pass, a third oil shock would hit the world economy, one that would probably be more violent than the two preceding ones.

But in fact, 10 MBD in 2015 ...

An identical prediction of a gap of 10 MBD between supply and demand in 2015 appeared on page 8 in the Department of Energy (DoE) document published in investigative report here on March 21.

The DoD and the DoE seem to agree on the same prediction


Here is the link to the report:

http://www.jfcom.mil/newslink/storyarchive/2010/JOE_2010_o.pdf

The have also begun to develop supplies accordingly:

Sustainable Oils, Solazyme, Cargill to supply 600,000 gallons of jet biofuel to US military

According to UOP, the military has ordered a total of 600,000 gallons of renewable jet fuel to be delivered in 2009 and 2010, in a series of contracts issued by the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC). For the Air Force order, DESC tapped Cargill and Sustainable Oils to provide jet fuel made from rendered animals fats and camelina, respectively; the Navy tapped Sustainable Oils and Solazyme.
is this a weather blog or a political blog?? your facts are excellent,but we are in hurricane season,and very soon,there will be no time for political discussions!! not trying to be an a##hole but I went through a whole page of political junk yesterday !! who cares? it aint gonna change!!!
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Quoting truecajun:


diplomacy
I don't even bother ignore button. Just skip over newest avatar and it disappears in 48 hr max.
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I would still like to see the link for the new GFS please.
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Quoting xCat6Hurricane:
i came here to get an update on the 2 waves we got out there.. all i see is ignorance and con artist, people pretending to be someone they are not. I will join the party fellas...

The world as we know it will end in DEC 2012, The Super Volcano in Yellowstone national park will erupt and block out the sun and billions will die.


check out storm w's blog for updates on waves.
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Quoting JLPR2:


its looking good so far



That's looks like it means business
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Quoting Tazmanian:



i say yes
roflmao! That's great! Diplomacy? What say you?
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http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/eumet/eatl/flash-rb.html

right off the african train. chugga chugga wooh wooh
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AP: Hottest day ever in Moscow, four-week heat wave breaks all records, smoke from burning forests cover city http://bit.ly/dgRHkp
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Could I have a link to the new GFS?
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Quoting Seflhurricane:
which name NOW so i can put him on ignnore


diplomacy
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Quoting xcool:


..XCOOL.more bigg wave comeing


the one right off africa was just really firing up convection. there was even some white in the middle.
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Quoting StormW:


Yeah...Supply and Demand...The Saudis are demanding more money, and demand that we pay it. Every time I hear supply and demand, I could vomit.

You know that leak that just happened, I had read an article posted online by BP that that was one of the largest discoveries they had made, and the supply would have out done the Middle east.

Accident?

It's all been based on greed..if ya read the articles I posted.


agreed. saudi's oil is a monopoly, which is why we need to figure out a way to get our own oil safely OR figure out another way to "fuel" around.
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Quoting muddertracker:
Yup. and Taz could be JFV's sponsor. What do you say Taz?



i say yes
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5089 Comments: 114075
Quoting muddertracker:
Yup. and Taz could be JFV's sponsor. What do you say Taz?



i say yes
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5089 Comments: 114075
4539. JLPR2
Quoting Seflhurricane:
looks like the wave near the cape verde islands is sustaining its convection quite well so far


its looking good so far

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Correct me,but I think 1973 was like-tropical depression world or something?

Tropical depression world
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4536. IKE
GFS @ 126 hours.....not sure about the GFS....I think there's a lunatic fringe in the ATL shutting the ATL down.

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looks like the wave near the cape verde islands is sustaining its convection quite well so far
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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.