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 Seflhurricane:
carribean is really getting fired up


yup


well you guys want some in too track well here you go
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hydrus:
That 90L will raise some eyebrows in Florida this time next week...jmo


Or rip some out, you never know.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
i have a feeling that are 10% on are wave may be geting bump up too 20% too 30% and we may have 91L be for days end

carribean is really getting fired up
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i have a feeling that are 10% on are wave may be geting bump up too 20% too 30% and we may have 91L be for days end

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7030. hydrus
Quoting Levi32:
18z catching on to 90L at 168 hours:

That 90L will raise some eyebrows in Florida this time next week...jmo
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22628
Quoting Intimidator3:


17 minutes... ;)


minutes caster!
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Quoting mikatnight:


Places to evacuate to?


Seems like that map was missing data. Dade county had a flood disaster declaration from President Clinton in Oct of 2000.
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Quoting xCat6Hurricane:
This thing will be a Major Hurricane by sunrise.


Major Hurricane Upcaster
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Finally something to watch....
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this wait in tell the end of augs
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Quoting Intimidator3:


17 minutes... ;)


Oh really?
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This is starting to look like a very ugly beginnning of August and we ain't there yet....The SW Caribbean may be start to rotate some too as the ULL to the WEst is helping to vent something there it appears as well....READY! SET! GO!...
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Quoting CaneWarning:
If this thing develops, when do you all think it may become a TD?


17 minutes... ;)
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Quoting Levi32:
18z catching on to 90L at 168 hours:




look at all them storms
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7017. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
ok next mark is 10,000 posts come on people lets pick up the pace
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7016. Levi32
18z catching on to 90L at 168 hours:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
Quoting CaneWarning:
If this thing develops, when do you all think it may become a TD?



i say in the next 24 too 48 hrs
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Quoting ElConando:


What are all the black county's?


Places to evacuate to?
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Hey all! do u think i will be fine to go to orlando on mon and return on fri? I live in south florida and I don't wanna be gone if a storm comes....
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"Storms of my Grandchildren"

I'm 32 years old, but I'll probably have grandchildren by the time Dr. M updates his blog...
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this could be the 1st 10,00 blog
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If this thing develops, when do you all think it may become a TD?
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7008. hydrus
Quoting Levi32:
18z GFS Day 6:

It also develops a low in the SW Caribbean and brings it up into the Gulf of Honduras on this frame, though it loses the "L" symbol.

If that pans out, there is a weak trough to the north that could bring it into the Gulf of Mexico.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22628
Quoting sammywammybamy:





WANTED




Incredible make-up job...I never woulda guessed. Does explain how he's able to circumvent the bans so effortlessly...
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7006. xcool
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OK OK -Gotcha!!!
Member Since: July 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 530
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Post 7000?



yup your post 7,000


and you this won a 72hr banned



this kinding



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Quoting mikatnight:
No matter where you go, it's always something...

Presidential disaster declarations related to flooding in the United States, shown by county: Green areas represent one declaration; yellow areas represent two declarations; orange areas represent three declarations; red areas represent four or more declarations between June 1, 1965, and June 1, 2003. Map not to scale. Sources: FEMA, Michael Baker Jr., Inc., the National Atlas, and the USGS



Link


What are all the black county's?
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7000 comments on the sky is falling...
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Post 7000?
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Quoting sammywammybamy:





WANTED



KInda sad and silly at the same time! A stuck record!!!
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Quoting Drakoen:


The CIMSS group has Rapid Scan which updates every hour on the CIMSS PREDICT page.

Man Drak, you know all the good links! Thanks! ;)
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6997. Levi32
18z GFS Day 6:

It also develops a low in the SW Caribbean and brings it up into the Gulf of Honduras on this frame, though it loses the "L" symbol.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
Quoting gator23:

if you were we couldnt tell you you were not.
LOL!...good point!
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6994. gator23
Quoting NoNamePub:
AM I BLOCKED?

Hello ?
: (

if you were we couldnt tell you you were not.
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6993. xcool


90L
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6992. Levi32
Quoting Drakoen:


Definitely, I wish the previous version of the GFS was running; something tells me it would have developed or at least represented 90L and our potential system in the Caribbean better than the new GFS.


The grand finale run of the old GFS developed 90L and 3 storms behind it for a total of 4 storms on the final run before it was retired. From hour 240 to hour 384 there were no less than 3 tropical cyclones on the map.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
6991. hydrus
Quoting StormW:


Good point!
I like what you said earlier, look at the models for the possibilities, but make you own observations with the current conditions that are presently occurring around the area of interest.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22628
6990. Levi32
Quoting Drakoen:


The CIMSS group has Rapid Scan which updates every hour on the CIMSS PREDICT page.



That's really nice. Thanks for the link.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
Quoting StormW:


Hi Sheri!
I'm doing good!...I hear ya!!

How are you this evening?


I'm doing fine, just watching the tropics. and in lurking mode, best way to be right know.
Sheri
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6988. Drakoen
Quoting Levi32:


I was appalled at the NCEP notice saying that the new GFS can be off on the trade winds in the tropical Atlantic by as much as 20 knots. That's unacceptable.


Definitely, I wish the previous version of the GFS was running; something tells me it would have developed or at least represented 90L and our potential system in the Caribbean better than the new GFS.
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6986. Levi32
Quoting Drakoen:
Another thing I need to comment on is how terrible the new GFS is. It may do well with tracking cyclones when they actually form, but the new GFS has numerous problems from not handling winds properly to having dry air biased. The new GFS will probably have an affect on the hurricane models since the hurricane models use the GFS boundary layer scheme.


I was appalled at the NCEP notice saying that the new GFS can be off on the trade winds in the tropical Atlantic by as much as 20 knots. That's unacceptable.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
Quoting NoNamePub:
AM I BLOCKED?

Hello ?
: (
Not by me...
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AM I BLOCKED?

Hello ?
: (
Member Since: July 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 530

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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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