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 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

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4383. xcool
TROPICAL DISCUSSION - INTERNATIONAL DESKS
NWS HYDROMETEOROLOGICAL PREDICTION CENTER CAMP SPRINGS MD
227 PM EDT WED JUL 28 2010

NOTE TO ALL USERS. STARTING AT 12 UTC TODAY...A NEW GFS MODEL CAME
INTO EFFECT. ALTHOUGH THE MODEL SHOWS IMPROVEMENTS ON
PRECIPITATION FORECAST ACROSS MID LATITUDES...WE NOTED SOME
DEGRADATION ON THE WIND FORECAST ACROSS THE TROPICAL ATLANTIC AND
EASTERN CARIBBEAN... WHERE IT TENDS TO UNDER FORECAST INTENSITY OF
THE WINDS IN ASSOCIATION WITH TRADE WIND SURGES BELOW 700 HPA. THE
ERROR/ DIFFERENCE FROM ACTUAL OBSERVATIONS CAN BE AS HIGH AS 20
KNOTS. THIS IS A SYSTEMATIC PROBLEM WITH THE MODEL AND EXPECT IT
TO RECUR.
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
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.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
PLEASE JEFF PLEASE CHANGE THE BLOG!!! WHY TORTURE US?!?!?

He's loving it since he has obviously slept on his GW pillow. (ref:Saturday Nite Live)
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Quoting angiest:
Did anyone realize Bonnie will go down in the record books? Rarely does a tropical cyclone in the Gulf never make landfall in the Gulf, and Bonnie certainly was not a TC at the time whatever was left of her did hit land.

was bonnie a cyclone in the gulf?
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4378. IKE
Remaining Quiet in the Atlantic Basin

Jul 28, 2010 4:41 PM


The Atlantic Basin remains very quiet thanks to a large area of subsidence and drier-than-normal air over the central Atlantic and Caribbean. The clusters of showers over the eastern Caribbean are associated with a tropical wave near 67 west. However, this wave is running into increasing southwest shear as a result of an upper-level low centered over the southwest Caribbean. This along with dry air in place should inhibit development. Elsewhere, another tropical wave is found near 50 west, mainly south of 18 north. This tropical wave will reach the Lesser Antilles Thursday night then move across the central Caribbean this weekend and into the northwest Caribbean early next week. Otherwise, there are no features at this point that are showing signs of organization. We expect no tropical development across the Atlantic Basin through at least Friday.

By AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Carl Erickson
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Quoting Diplomacy:
Teddy, that's barely noticeable! LOL. Overall, the model shows nada.


'Barely' noticeable? Check again, easily a TS.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24548
4376. xcool
jasoniscoolman2010x:know for photoshop stuff lolololl
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
yellow in the p.ocean to..wow
Member Since: July 4, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 965
Quoting jasoniscoolman2010x:
tropical is going up high % in the a.ocean


Man those dots keep getting bigger and bigger... Did you use photoshop??? LOL J/K
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4373. xcool
stop lie
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
I dont see a new blog
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Quoting NttyGrtty:
NEW BLOG!!!


Re-ported

NOOOOO!!! >:(
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tropical is going up high % in the a.ocean
Member Since: July 4, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 965
Quoting btwntx08:
oh no that gw guy is back ughhh


I know, right?

The first thing he comes back after his err... "break" is GW. What a surprise. <_<
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4367. IKE
Quoting DestinJeff:
What do we make of the lack of significant development of the 12Z ECMWF?


You're back!
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Quoting Levi32:


Haha, well the funny thing is that we already have the ability to do that at times. Not specific dates and storm tracks but we can get a pretty good idea of when the Atlantic will burst in activity a couple weeks in advance, especially during pronounced El Nino and La Nina years.

But it's a general capability.. an odds are better kind of thing VS. this disturbance in the indian ocean will become a cat 3 hurricane in the Atlantic..
Member Since: September 1, 2009 Posts: 23 Comments: 1007
Quoting angiest:


4-5 billion years left on the main sequence.
A few million (I'm not placing an upper limit on this, I don't know off the top of my head) as a red giant.
Likely trillions of years as a white dwarf before fading to a black dwarf. HTH. :D


=)

I'll be worm poop by then.
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Teddy, that's barely noticeable! LOL. Overall, the model shows nada.
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PLEASE JEFF PLEASE CHANGE THE BLOG!!! WHY TORTURE US?!?!?
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Quoting LowerCal:


I was thinking of 1893 for this reason:

9. Most hurricanes ever in one day: On August 22, 1893, four hurricanes were occurring simultaneously: storm #3 approaching Nova Scotia, Canada, storm #4 between Bermuda and the Bahamas, storm #6 northeast of the Lesser Antilles, and storm #7 west of the Cape Verde Islands. Storm #4 would end up making a direct hit on New York City as a Category 1 hurricane two days later and storm #6 ending up hitting Georgia and South Carolina as a Category 3 hurricane (the "Sea Islands Hurricane") and killing 1000-2000 people. The only other known date with four hurricanes occurring at the same time was September 25, 1998, when hurricanes Georges, Ivan, Jeanne and Karl were in existence. Link


looks like the A/B high was pretty low....
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4358. angiest
Quoting StormChaser81:


That's like asking when the SUN will burnout.



4-5 billion years left on the main sequence.
A few million (I'm not placing an upper limit on this, I don't know off the top of my head) as a red giant.
Likely trillions of years as a white dwarf before fading to a black dwarf. HTH. :D
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That bit of broken off front off the SC coast is firing a bit. Warm water, no shear....
Member Since: September 1, 2009 Posts: 23 Comments: 1007
oh no that gw guy is back ughhh
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4355. hahaguy
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Its strange to be talking about Alex, Bonnie, and then 'Colin'. I'm used to that 3rd name being entirely different.


I hear ya.
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Quoting 1900hurricane:
Here are some of the infamous seasons with alot of tropical cyclones that got off to a late start.



1893 (12, 10, 5, ACE = 231)



1969 (17, 13, 6, ACE = 158)



1998 (14, 10, 3, ACE = 182)



2004 (15, 9, 6, ACE = 224)


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.
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Its strange to be talking about Alex, Bonnie, and then 'Colin'. I'm used to that 3rd name being entirely different.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24548
Quoting Diplomacy:
Levi, when are you expecting our first ''major'' of the season to finally form???



That's a funny question, like he can answer that one.

Give me a break people.

That's like asking when the SUN will burnout.

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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Here's something I did not notice about the 12z ECMWF run. Check out over Florida, this is what levi was talking about when he said 'home grown' mischief.

at 216 hours its over the gulf as a semi-potent system.


at 240 hours, inland so it was probably stronger over water.


Look at all these lows along the front too.


Levi, if you are out there what are you thoughts? Your the one who's been warning us to watch out for that second front.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24548
Levi, when are you expecting our first ''major'' of the season to finally form???
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Quoting DestinJeff:
What do we make of the lack of significant development of the 12Z ECMWF?


That'll show development again on the next run.
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4344. BFG308
4338:

Notice the last two start with "Alex"...
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Quoting StormW:
Anyone remember which year it was, in which we had 10 storms within a 35 day period?
1998 .... in a hyperactive 35-day span from August 19 to September 23, 10 named tropical cyclones formed ....
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4342. angiest
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Here's something I did not notice about the 12z ECMWF run. Check out over Florida, this is what levi was talking about when he said 'home grown' mischief.

at 216 hours


at 240 hours, inland so it was probably stronger over water.


Look at all these lows along the front too.


I think CMC was showing it too.
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Here's something I did not notice about the 12z ECMWF run. Check out over Florida, this is what levi was talking about when he said 'home grown' mischief.

at 216 hours its over the gulf as a semi-potent system.


at 240 hours, inland so it was probably stronger over water.


Look at all these lows along the front too.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24548
1950: 8 major hurricanes in two months, starting August 12th, finishing 13-11-8.
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Robert, how are all of your procedures coming along for your ''big move'' up towards FSU in the fall? Are you thrilled to begin your studies for your B.A. Degree in Met? :).
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Here are some of the infamous seasons with alot of tropical cyclones that got off to a late start.



1893 (12, 10, 5, ACE = 231)



1969 (17, 13, 6, ACE = 158)



1998 (14, 10, 3, ACE = 182)



2004 (15, 9, 6, ACE = 224)
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Quoting StormW:
Anyone remember which year it was, in which we had 10 storms within a 35 day period?

1995 ?
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Quoting StormW:
Anyone remember which year it was, in which we had 10 storms within a 35 day period?


2007? 2002?
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24548
Quoting Levi32:


Has a shot....but needs consistency both in satellite presentation and in model support. So far it's just one cycle of runs that we have supporting development with some backing off on the 12z. The pattern is evolving towards a very favorable one for African waves so these things will eventually start popping here soon. Whether this is the first one or not I don't know yet, but it should be watched very closely. The one between 45W and 50W also bears watching.

Thanks Levi!!
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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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