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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Severe Weather possible across Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. Main threat will be damaging winds.

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3977. Melagoo


Looks like an active wave/storm leaving Africa to create havoc in America
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3976. Dakster
Quoting Floodman:


Okay, so by that logic, let's follow the money on the denial side:

Big oil, umm, big oil, and oh yeah, big oil...so they hire "scientists" to refute any evidence that GW is caused in some greater or lesser degree by carbon emissions, the "intellectuals" on the right buy it hook line and sinker and they make...oh yeah, a bunch of money!

The truth is in between the two camps somewhere, but the guys with the most money will be able to propagandize more effectively...to say that the debate is over and thata one side or the other has proven their case is intellectually lazy. Period.


There are always three sides to the coin...

BTW - We were having a debate over what caused the end of the last fill ice age, do you remember?
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Looks like heavy thunderstorms coming Southbound from I-75 in Florida today. Looks like my area in Hillsborough will see some good rain today.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24576
I've seen several comments posted here over the past two days which have attempted to explain that, since global ACE is down, no planetary warming can possibly be taking place.

First: there's never been more than a statistically weak correlation between ACE and increasing ocean temperatures.

Second: where just the Atlantic basin concerned, there does appear to be an upward trend of ACE over the past 50 years or so...but even that correlation is weak at best. (The following graph only plots to 2007, so note that ACE in the NA was 83 in 2008, and 125 in 2009, meaning that 2009 was well above the 50-year average of 96.61, while 2008 was somewhat below...though both years were well within the standard deviation of 59.59.)

See?

Third: as has often been pointed out here, there is a lot more behind cyclogenesis than simply having ample hot water at the surface; if there weren't, we wouldn't have much to talk about here, would we? :-)
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wake me up when things get interesting....
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


As you say---Steven Goddard appears to have no scientific credentials. None I could locate. Does he have a degree?

He certainly has odd ideas about planet Venus

If there were no Sun (or other external energy source) atmospheric temperature would approach absolute zero. As a result there would be almost no atmospheric pressure on any planet -> PV = nRT.

Which shows he has no knowledge whatsoever of atmospheric physics.

As I say....next!


And Ossqss how come you have not once been able to find a paper by a climatologist or meterologist that denies anthropogenic global warming. In all the years you've posted here, you have never given a credible source denying global warming. Not even once. And yet you still deny it. Why?


Wouldn't say that he's not a certified met, but he's certainly not a major in physics or astronomy.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24576
Quoting SeniorPoppy:
Probably the most retarded 4000 comments in history if we get there.


And just think, you added to them just like the rest of us...LOL
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Quoting FLdewey:
Jerry... Jerry... Jerry!


Yes?
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Quoting StormW:


I like this one:

You Tube

This one is interesting
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5SRgwg1nLo&feature=related
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#3956 -

I would also reiterate another passage from StormW’s blog that says, “models have a tendency to be more aggressive during initialization and the first 24 hours of "development".” I’m sure the NHC is aware of this also…
Member Since: October 18, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 3052
Quoting Diplomacy:
Ignorant and arrogant, NHC. Oh well, at least they're watching the situation.


Oh? And you know better? Please..
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24576
3961. Levi32
Quoting sailingallover:

and

OK Thanks guys makes sense.. correct me if wrong..
So the wave digging into higher pressure has a better chance of developing?
and the tilt is positive or negative related to a perpendicular to the pressure gradient?


Correct. It's like sticking a stick (wave axis) into the ground (high pressure) and then dragging it behind you versus pushing it forward out in front of you. If you try to push it it's much harder and it starts digging up the dirt (convergence). Pulling is easier in almost any situation....same reason car breaks create more resistance in the front wheels than in the back wheels. In the tropics, you don't want easy, because if the wind is flowing along all free, you're not gonna get a tropical cyclone. When the flow is encountering resistance that means air is piling up, which forces it to rise and you get thunderstorms. If you get enough rising air, you can get a tropical cyclone.
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3959. Squid28
I know it is that time of year and all, and it is just a model at 7.5 days out, but the current nogaps definitely has ability to induce a certain amount of pucker factor. Perhaps, this is because I realize that it is that time of year....

We have already replenished the water and food stores, but I think I will listen to that nagging voice in my head and go pick up an extra bar and a couple more chains for the ole saw. We have been building on our supplies kit for years now, and used every item in it after Ike, and thought of about another two dozen items we could have used.
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Quoting Levi32:


Generally, the more amplified a wave is, the more "upright" it will be tilted. This isn't always true, but the kind of wave you're describing, oriented SW to NE is what we call "positively tilted". If it were more oriented SSE to NNW, it would be "negatively tilted". This is the same thing as when we talk about a negatively tilted 500mb trough over the eastern US in the winter time which always leads to a big storm near the eastern seaboard. Here we're talking about an inverted trough, so it's a reflection, but the orientation is the same. In both cases, a trough oriented from SE to NW is negatively tiled, with the base digging into the area of high pressure.

Negatively tilted troughs usually generate much more convergence and can result in more upward motion along the wave axis, which can aid development. It is usually a sign of a very strong tropical wave to begin with. Positively tilted troughs, on the other hand, usually are weaker and result in less convergence and less convection. There are exceptions to the rule, but often the tilt tells you a lot about the wave.

and
Quoting StormW:


I've never really researched the thought...however, if it's anything as compared to troughs over the U.S., a wave tilted the other way, to me at least, would stand the better chance. The wave in question is displaying what we call a positive tilt.

In general, with trofs over the U.S., a negative tilt trof indicates strengthening.

OK Thanks guys makes sense.. correct me if wrong..
So the wave digging into higher pressure has a better chance of developing?
and the tilt is positive or negative related to a perpendicular to the pressure gradient?
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I say no circles till atleast 8pm tonight
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3953. IKE
Quoting weatherforecast94:
I wonder if NHC is going to make the wave of the coast of Africa a tropical disturbance in their 2pm run.



^^^
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
3952. Patrap
GOES-12 Atlantic Low Cloud Animated Loop

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As expected..
000
ABNT20 KNHC 281745
TWOAT
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
200 PM EDT WED JUL 28 2010

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER BERG
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24576
The NHC is looking for consistency, persistence with the convection. If it continues by tonight, tomorrow morning the TWO should either have a yellow or orange depending on what state it's in and how much models develop it.
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I wonder if NHC is going to make the wave of the coast of Africa a tropical disturbance in their 2pm run.
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I have the accordion type shutters too
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nada..

000
ABNT20 KNHC 281745
TWOAT
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
200 PM EDT WED JUL 28 2010

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER BERG

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3942. IKE
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
200 PM EDT WED JUL 28 2010

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER BERG
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
NOOOO! 2 PM TWO has nothing! :(
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Quoting NttyGrtty:
Three words: not your blog. The current blog topic is global warming. A guy named Jeff posted it. Send him a WU mail and ask him to change it...besides the Department of the Navy Grand Freak'in PooBaa said we have to stay on topic...any questions?


Will you please stop trying to bait Patrap. He hasn't been responding to your posts and your still trying to argue with him. It is getting old.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
well SeniorPoppy I just has the guys from the shutter company put the up


Good. LOL :)

I'm just having some fun. I have the accordion type shutters so it's easy for me.
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3938. xcool
I wouldn't be suprised see yellow on wave at 25 imo imo
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well SeniorPoppy I just has the guys from the shutter company put the up
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Quoting reedzone:
Nothing will pop in the next TWO until probably either this evening or tomorrow morning.


I believe tomorrow morning the earliest.
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3935. xcool
Snowlover123 WELCOME
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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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