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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4425. TropicalAnalystwx13 5:12 PM EDT on July 28, 2010

Possible good paper topic on the new "bi-annular" seasonal variation (BAV)...... :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Anyone noticed this?

2003: Inactive

2004: Active

2005: Active

2006: Inactive

2007: Active

2008: Active

2009: Inactive

2010: Expected to be active

2011: Following the pattern...active (Just a guess)


I noticed the pattern as well, but it begins in 2004. 2003 had 21 depressions and 16 named storms. How do you call that inactive while calling 2004, 2007, and 2008 active??
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


Bust? July on average only has one named storm form. We've had a storm and a depression, no bust there.

However this year in general is about to go below average if we don't get a named storm by August 1st. Very weird considering we were supposed to have all the ingredients. Obviously something is missing.
ACE is in the basement...called by Skye very early
Member Since: February 11, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 828
Quoting IKE:


Agree...July is about a bust.


Bust? July on average only has one named storm form. We've had a storm and a depression, no bust there.

However this year in general is about to go below average if we don't get a named storm by August 1st. Very weird considering we were supposed to have all the ingredients. Obviously something is missing.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Anyone noticed this?

2003: Active

2004: Active

2005: Active

2006: Inactive

2007: Active

2008: Active

2009: Inactive

2010: Expected to be active

2011: Following the pattern...active (Just a guess)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting angiest:


Even harder to see than a black hole. ;) Black dwarfs are a theoretical construct (since they have not been observed), but since white dwarfs are the glowing cinders of mid-mass stars it makes sense that as they cool they will fade from white to black


I don't know whats worse? This or the GW debate? Wait... no contest... GW
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Ya ever wonder why there are 18 holes in golf and 18 beers in a suitcase?...coincedence?...I think not
Member Since: February 11, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 828
Quoting jasoniscoolman2010x:


Big blob of nothing so far. We shall see if the convection persists.
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4420. angiest
Quoting Surfcropper:


And if there were black dwarfs already, it would be hard for us to see them as it is.

I'm not arguing with you...I just find a trillion years a very unrealistic prediction.


Even harder to see than a black hole. ;) Black dwarfs are a theoretical construct (since they have not been observed), but since white dwarfs are the glowing cinders of mid-mass stars it makes sense that as they cool they will fade from white to black
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
4417. IKE
Quoting belizeit:
Good afternoon everyone. just got a minute but our weather has finally cleared of after 3 weeks of heavy rain here is the rain fall amount from our National weather Bureau . I Live between region 7 and 9 MAXIMUM TWO DAY RAINFALL TOTALS (25th and 26th July)

REGION 7 - 91.5 mm recorded at Libertad in New River watershed.

REGION 9 - 69.5 mm at Baldy Beacon in the Macal River Watershed.

REGION 11 - 133.9 mm at Hershey in the Sibun Watershed.


How much is that in inches?
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4416. IKE
Quoting DestinJeff:


Yeah. You like the shot of me at Booking?


LOL! Destin "off-topic" Jeff.


Quoting SeniorPoppy:


Maybe August will be the same. One can hope.


The positive about August being here...no way can say....it's early in the season, it's suppose to be quiet.....anymore.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Good afternoon everyone. just got a minute but our weather has finally cleared of after 3 weeks of heavy rain here is the rain fall amount from our National weather Bureau . I Live between region 7 and 9 MAXIMUM TWO DAY RAINFALL TOTALS (25th and 26th July)

REGION 7 - 91.5 mm recorded at Libertad in New River watershed.

REGION 9 - 69.5 mm at Baldy Beacon in the Macal River Watershed.

REGION 11 - 133.9 mm at Hershey in the Sibun Watershed.
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4413. angiest
Quoting Surfcropper:


The universe isn't even 25 billion years old yet!! Or so they say..



13.7 billion years or so is the currently accepted age of the universe.

Hence, no black dwarfs are expected to have formed yet.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting IKE:


Agree...July is about a bust.


Maybe August will be the same. One can hope. Not very likely though.
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Quoting jasoniscoolman2010x:
LOOK AT ALL THIS HOT WATER IN THE A.OCEAN RIGHT NOW UP TO 80F FAR NORTH AS NEW YORK CITY WOW.


I'll only become concerned when the conditions in the upper levels become more conducive for tropical cyclogenesis.
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4409. IKE
Quoting Snowlover123:


so far this season, a lot of wishcasters have been depressed. They kept on shunning me when I said that July would be a bust. Waddaya know...


Agree...July is about a bust.
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4407. angiest
Quoting Surfcropper:


PETA years? Is the white dwarf going to kill some kittens?


1 petayear is 1,000 trillion years (or 10^15). That is the lower bound I am finding on the lifespan of a white dwarf. It may be orders of magnitude longer.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
Could we at least wait untill we have actual tropical cyclone development in the Atlantic and then look back at which model did what with it?


What a concept! Good plan. 10 days out is a long time when extrapolating a wisp ... little errors tend to add up. Now you see it, now you don't should be expected until there is something to lock onto.
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July, according to tropical history, is usually a benign month for development. By the end of July as of now, the CV season begins to start real activity. On Aug 1, 1980 we had "raging Allen" on the scene. Real activity is beginning to get underway.
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csu update released end of the week
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4401. angiest
Quoting Surfcropper:


Trillions? No way.


OK, peta years.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Dr. Masters is on a little vacation. From his last blog on the 24th:

Next update
The next updates will be by wunderground meteorologists Rob Carver and Shaun Tanner. I'm taking advantage of a break in the tropical action to take a few days away. I'll be back blogging on Friday, at the latest.


He also forgot to mention he was dropping a nuke full of "hot air". lmao :)
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Anyone care to speculate on post 4341?


It looks like the ECMWF develops it from a trough split, and makes it a potent system, probably 50-60 mph winds. I wouldn't discount it, but I would wait for consistency to know for sure.
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Quoting SeniorPoppy:


Let's just say that a lot of wish-casters were depressed lol.


so far this season, a lot of wishcasters have been depressed. They kept on shunning me when I said that July would be a bust. Waddaya know...
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4397. xcool
HA NEW GFS broken NO LIES
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
Quoting angiest:


Yes, as a depression.


Let's just say that a lot of wish-casters were depressed lol.
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Anyone care to speculate on post 4341?
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23626
Quoting pcbdragon:

was bonnie a cyclone in the gulf?


Yes it was!!!!




in 2004
Member Since: July 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1683
Quoting Snowlover123:


Re-ported

NOOOOO!!! >:(
Reported? Really? So you're bored too?
Member Since: February 11, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 828
Quoting pcbdragon:

was bonnie a cyclone in the gulf?


I had a chocolate and vanilla swirl that packed a bigger punch than Bonnie.
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


It always amazes me how many storms were crammed in such a short period of time in 2004. Not only did it start about two months late, but it pretty much ended two months earlier than normal as well.

Yeah, no kidding! It was a late starter, and then the El Nino shut off the end third of the season, but it sure did make the most of that middle third!
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Quoting earthlydragonfly:


Man those dots keep getting bigger and bigger... Did you use photoshop??? LOL J/K


Yes he did and they are all at 70% probability like Bonnie!!!! LOL
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Dr. Masters is on a little vacation. From his last blog on the 24th:

Next update
The next updates will be by wunderground meteorologists Rob Carver and Shaun Tanner. I'm taking advantage of a break in the tropical action to take a few days away. I'll be back blogging on Friday, at the latest.


It figures that we're with all of the GW lovers when he is out... <_<
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4387. angiest
Quoting pcbdragon:

was bonnie a cyclone in the gulf?


Yes, as a depression.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting jasoniscoolman2010x:
yellow in the p.ocean to..wow


I guess the NHC is right...

This just in... Hot off the presses

There is now favorable development inland along the western coast of Mexico
Forecaster
Superflycaster

Member Since: July 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1683

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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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