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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Nothing will pop in the next TWO until probably either this evening or tomorrow morning.
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Quoting IKE:


Looks like a tropical storm with the strength of the vorticity.


Good Lord, so the wave near the Lesser Antillies is projected to develop, acording to the NOGAPS model?
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Probably the most retarded 4000 comments in history if we get there.
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3929. jpsb
Quoting CapnJimbo:
Mstekkie, et al:

It is particularly disturbing that those who are so willing to accept science when tracking or modeling storms portray climate change as simply "politics".

Weathercasting and weathercasters have a significant, if not primary role in getting the messege out that (a) drastic climate change represents the overwhelming consensus and (b) that it is now a question of limiting the damage, not avoiding it.

Fail this, and our grandchildren die. Period.
Do you have any idea how much more dificult it is to model climate years out then to model highs lows days out? Think about it. We are no where near close to being able to model the entire climate of the Earth, no where near close.
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1009
Quoting xcool:
Snowlover123 JUST SNOW THAT ALL.


Thank you. :)
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Soooo suspenseful 4 the next TWO :D
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3926. IKE
Quoting Snowlover123:


What is that in the GOMEX?


Looks like a tropical storm with the strength of the vorticity.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
3925. xcool
Snowlover123 JUST SNOW THAT ALL.
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3922. unf97
I'm off from work today, and folks it is absolutely brutally hot today here in Jax. Current temp at my North Jax home 97 degrees with Heat index approaching 110 degrees. Probably will reach 100 degrees later this afternoon unless we get relief from some late afternoon thunderstorms.
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Quoting xcool:


AOI E-ATL


What is that in the GOMEX?
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3917. xcool


AOI E-ATL .GOM STORMS ANYWAY.
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3915. IKE
12Z CMC


12Z NOGAPS
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting xcool:
stop what global warming talk


There are people still baiting others on here.
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3912. xcool
stop what global warming talk
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3911. xcool
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Enough of the GW bs. I rather talk about blobs in the Atlantic.
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Quoting StormW:


No. The pressures you are referring to are caused and maintained by the atmospheric and oceanic pattern we are in this season. A systems central pressure would not change the pattern.
Thanks
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3907. xcool
stop what global warming talk plz thanks
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
NHC probably wont mention anything. They will want to see consistency in the models and in the wave itself.


Which is why I said it probably wont get tagged till this evevning or tomorrow. Persistence is the key!
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The general trend is leaning toward a less hostile environment in the tropical Atlantic.
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3902. unf97
Good afternoon everyone!
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Quoting Jeff9641:


This is the wave the Euro and CMC are developing. Reed are there any storms near because just north of Orlando these storms are starting to look quite intense.


SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE JACKSONVILLE FL
121 PM EDT WED JUL 28 2010

FLZ038-281745-
FLAGLER-
121 PM EDT WED JUL 28 2010

...A SIGNIFICANT WEATHER ADVISORY HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR SOUTHERN
FLAGLER COUNTY FOR STRONG WINDS AND EXCESSIVE LIGHTNING VALID UNTIL
145 PM EDT...

AT 121 PM EDT NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
STRONG THUNDERSTORM CENTERED OVER FLAGLER COUNTY...OR 8 MILES
SOUTHWEST OF BUNNELL...MOVING SOUTHEAST AT 5 MPH. THIS STRONG
THUNDERSTORM WILL ALSO AFFECT AREAS AROUND THROUGH 145 PM EDT.
EXCESSIVE CLOUD-TO-GROUND LIGHTNING AND GUSTY WINDS OF 45 TO 55 MPH
CAN BE EXPECTED ALONG WITH POSSIBLE MINOR DAMAGE. HEAVY RAINFALL WILL
PRODUCE PONDING OF WATER ON ROADWAYS AND MINOR FLOODING OF LOW-LYING
AREAS.

REPORT DAMAGE TO THE NEAREST LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY OR YOUR COUNTY
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT.

LAT...LON 2927 8139 2943 8143 2944 8128 2927 8125
TIME...MOT...LOC 1721Z 325DEG 5KT 2937 8134

$$

ZIBURA
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
oh no this is not good



These are just some simple probability percentages. This is just showing that things are becoming more conducive for a shot at development.
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3898. xcool



.xcool
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NHC probably wont mention anything. They will want to see consistency in the models and in the wave itself.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23009
3894. Levi32
Quoting sailingallover:
Question. The wave between 50-40W is tilted NE-SW. Does a wave that is tilted have a higher or lower probability of development?


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.
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Quoting Levi32:


Yeah, mentioned that yesterday in my blog. The ECMWF and GFS are both showing much below-normal pressures in the tropical Atlantic in the extended period. They are already below normal, but they are forecasted to intensify even more. It's quite impressive looking.


That + returning upward MJO, TUTT lifting out, and northward progression of the ITCZ is setting up for a wave train.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23009
Global warming hoax planned in 1961...

Link
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90L is on the way!!
Strong vorticity
turning in the mid-levels
strong wave
deep convection

If it persist through this afternoon, I see no reason for them not to tag it an Invest.
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oh no this is not good

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Good afternoon everyone!
Got a question for STORMW. Is it possible for a CV type storm, like the one possibly trying to form at appx 25W right now, to strengthen, and "plow the way", so to speak? Meaning, with already low pressures noted in the MDR, lower the pressures further and leave a "wake of low pressure", making it easier for following waves to srengthen?
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3886. Ossqss
No more AGW stuff from me after this item on this blog.

Tell me this folks. What percentage of the published temperature rise in the last century is attributable directly to CO2 and not naturally occurring.

100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, 3% or other? Think about it.. I'm outta here >>>>>>
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3884. Levi32
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Levi if your still out there.. did you notice how far down south that line of 1012 mb extended across the Atlantic on the 00z ECMWF? South of Cuba.


Yeah, mentioned that yesterday in my blog. The ECMWF and GFS are both showing much below-normal pressures in the tropical Atlantic in the extended period. They are already below normal, but they are forecasted to intensify even more. It's quite impressive looking.
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.