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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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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WeatherChannel founder sues Al Gore...

Link
Member Since: February 11, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 786
Nice turning evident on the satellite, mid-levels I think, very interesting ASCAT pass (on Levis blog). The center seems to be in that deep convection, very good for development, lets see if it holds..
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Quoting btwntx08:

no problem just look at the 850 mb vorticity one


very interesting.I wonder where it will go ? I guess that is the million dollar question.
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Quoting 7544:
invest soon on the 25 wave looking good


Yes! That looks like it's definitely organizing. I will be very surprised if the NHC doesn't give this a code yellow. I think it definitely has a fair chance to become Colin.
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Evidently, polar bears can swim Mr. Gore

Link
Member Since: February 11, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 786
Question. The wave between 50-40W is tilted NE-SW. Does a wave that is tilted have a higher or lower probability of development?
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3876. 7544
invest soon on the 25 wave looking good
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3875. BFG308
Link

How to make up your mind about GW
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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.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23012
You folks yelling about AGW, and debating each other, and you folks yelling @ them to stop, and talk about the Tropics. Well I can connect AGW with Tropical Weather!

http://coaps.fsu.edu/~maue/tropical/global_running_ace.jpg

This image URL will say the rest. It seems that Global ACE is at 50 year lows according to http://www.isthereglobalwarming.com.

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Quoting Skyepony:
Doug~ I see it as freeing our hands from the power companies. Renewables are the new economy builder. Other countries are leaving us behind as we continue to suck the oil .... I'd assume we quit killing the old & young with air pollution & save our mountain tops regardless of what China does. & China does currently produce way more & better solar panel & wind turbines than the USA.


Corporate America Turns Against China

Member Since: October 18, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 3052
3869. IKE
Quoting reedzone:


That would cause the blog to go haywire and you know this Ike :P


Probably...we'll see what it shows.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
3868. Levi32
Quoting StormW:
Levi,
Nice update today!


Thanks Storm! That's nice coming from you. I enjoyed yours as well!
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Quoting Levi32:


There is another tropical wave back there yes but the model initializations indicate that the wave along 22W is the one they are developing.


Another way you can tell that it's this current wave Levi is that models like the EURO show the storm 6 hours after it's current position. Seen this with the GFDL and HWRF as well as the GFS.
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3865. Levi32
Quoting IKE:


Just think for a minute...the 12Z run(yesterday), of the ECMWF showed very little. Now the 00Z run shows a hurricane in the Caribbean. That's quite a change. I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't back off some on the 12Z run. I could be wrong though.


Exactly why patiences is required with tropical waves. Often they look good and the models jump on and then everything falls apart. That's why we need to wait for consistency from both the models and the actual appearance of the wave. So far, it's the best wave I've seen so far this season in the eastern Atlantic, but we must wait and see.
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All aboard the wave train 7/28/10
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23012
3863. jpsb
Quoting Diplomacy:


Thank you, Levi! Well, y'all just heard the man. Obey his request, or else he'll be leaving (Patrap). By the way, plz do not leave, Levi, :(. We value your input too GREATLY for that.
I see yall only want one side of the argument huh? Well sorry, AGW is the topic of the blog, I did not choose the topic and I refuse to allow a totally one sided "debate". I fact I find it hard to believe you are asking only those of us that are not convinced emminate doom due to AGW to be silent. How is that fair in the slightest? And since when is silenting critics of a theory ever advanced human knowledge? NEVER!
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Quoting btwntx08:
link to the ecmwf
Link



Thanks!
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3860. xcool
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3859. Levi32
Quoting WeatherMSK:


I agree that wave may need to be watched, but how about the blob just to the east right along the coast right now? That appears to be another interesting feature. May be what the models are hinting at?


There is another tropical wave back there yes but the model initializations indicate that the wave along 22W is the one they are developing.
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3858. Ossqss
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:



Because Anthony Watts is making things up.

---------------------------------------

PSSST, that is Steve Goddard that wrote that, not Watts,,,,, as you like to say, next-- LOL

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/07/28/giss-polar-interpolation/#more-22648
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Quoting deepee:


Just curious. What's with the spinning over Cameron and Willacy counties?


Nothing Tropical, that's for sure. All areas of disturbed weather have circulations (if they're organized enough) but this one clearly does not have a closed circulation, so it's not tropical.
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Quoting IKE:


Just think for a minute...the 12Z run(yesterday), of the ECMWF showed very little. Now the 00Z run shows a hurricane in the Caribbean. That's quite a change. I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't back off some on the 12Z run. I could be wrong though.


That would cause the blog to go haywire and you know this Ike :P
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3855. xcool
25w wave hmmm
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does hurricane have his post open again today? This stuff is really boring. If I want to fight about politics then I'll just go to every other site.

Seriously.

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3851. Patrap
A Quiet Atlantic Basin is a good Basin
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125552
3850. NEwxguy
Quoting Floodman:
I have to tell you, Pat that he idea of methane hydrates fascinates me...these are, in essence, frozen dinosaur farts, yes?


ROFL,we can always depend on you to lighten things up around,and lord knows it needs lighten up.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 862 Comments: 15075
Quoting FLdewey:


True. With all of these GW posts the servers is working harder, thus using more electricity. Odds are it's getting that power from the death trains. Oh no.

Cue Glenn Beck style tear fest.


See, that's what I like about you: you fling stuff at both sides equally...LOL
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3848. angiest
Quoting Floodman:
I have to tell you, Pat that he idea of methane hydrates fascinates me...these are, in essence, frozen dinosaur farts, yes?


Release of methane from methane hydrates is one of the posited causes of the Permo-Triassic Mass Extinction, but like all of the other possibilities it has its own flaws.

Link

(Yes, I know it is a Wikipedia article. Deal with it. The fact of the matter is that it offers a decent overview of the topic for the layman and it is cited.)
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
3846. deepee


Just curious. What's with the spinning over Cameron and Willacy counties?
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3844. xcool
MJO THEOLOGY

A good friend of mine and a client (that usually happens with me, I befriend my clients) asked me for an explanation of the MJO chart so here is a quick look at how I play with it for the hurricane season and the winter:

Octants 8, 1 and 2 are the places where upward motion is strongest in the Atlantic Basin. The farther the MJO line is out away from the circle, the more development is likely. It is a product of the difference of land and water temps in the equatorial areas, and when the Atlantic is warm and the Pacific cool, it tends to focus on our area of the world. In the winter, the same type of situation is associated with troughs over the eastern and central U.S., and enhanced storminess.

The circular area and Octant 4 are neutral for tropical cyclones; the other octants are hostile for development.

Now, when the winter forecast comes out here on Friday (the public will not see it until Tuesday, but my private clients are seeing it today), this looks like another year where I can play with the hurricane season as an indicator of the front part of winter. That will be explained in the winter idea, which is coming out. However, it has to do with the "link" between strong upward motion that produces enhanced tropical convection in the summer season, and the leftover part of that pattern being southeast of North America for the front part of the winter and the large-scale movement of sinking air masses (cold) toward air masses where there is upward motion. This little piece of amazing knowledge, or for most of you out there that want to scoff, voodoo, was first put in my head by my dad. When I was a kid, he used always to say there had to be some kind of link in the seasons based on the hurricane season, and he came up with that because he observed it, as a non-meteorologist when he grew up in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.. WHEN THE AMO TURNED WARM AND HURRICANES RAN RAMPANT! For the life of me I could not see it in the 1970s and 1980s and the only "link" was the mega season of 1969 until 1995 came along! In any case, those of you that watched the winter forecast in 2008-2009 noticed I had a cold winter forecast for the Midwest, contrary to most of the pre-season opinion (I went out with it in late August and was speaking to energy gatherings on it in September) and like last winter, simply held the forecast through the winter. That was simply the winter of 1950-1951 and 1985-1986 blended together, more heavily weighted on 1950-1951. The freak hurricane season of 1985 was a bonanza for the Gulf Coast and Southeast and was repeated in 2005 and 1995. The theory is that this is bigger indicator at the front of the season (Nov. 15-Jan .1) because once the push of cold gets going and wipes out the upward motion centers left by the warm waters near the coast, the pattern naturally goes to the bigger, more conventional drivers. The other problem is that extremes mean more extremes. One may argue, well, look at January 2006 and how warm it was. Good point, but it was brutal in Asia. The winters of 1933-1934, 1995-1996 and 2005-2006 had major January thaws, only 2005-2006 was on steroids here in the states, while Asia froze. January 1934 was fifth warmest on record and 1996 had the major late-month thaw, too. In any case, there is enough linkage so I can be tested on the theory.

Okay enough for now... I don't want to give away the entire package.

Ciao for now.

by joe.
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Global Warming again!???? >:I
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Quoting btwntx08:
236 levi said that needs to be watch eventhough it isnt what the models develop


I agree, I was just simply saying it isn't what the models are developing but it too needs to be watched.
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
3841. IKE
Quoting NotCircumventing:


I can't keep up with Ignores.

Seems like all of the GW posts are dreadfully long-winded, too. My goodness, stop talking so darn much and maybe the mean global temperature will decrease a bit!

I hope that 12Z ECMWF doesn't drop the TC, because of it does then we'll be over the cliff again.


Just think for a minute...the 12Z run(yesterday), of the ECMWF showed very little. Now the 00Z run shows a hurricane in the Caribbean. That's quite a change. I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't back off some on the 12Z run. I could be wrong though.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Can someone post the link for the ECMWF
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3839. Levi32
Quoting earthlydragonfly:


We could blog on your post like we did on Miami's yesterday???


I don't care what you guys do as long as we can actually have the ability to talk tropics. My blog is always open and everyone is welcome any time, but this forum is too hard to deal with when it's like this.
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Goodnight all.
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Quoting BFG308:
Sorry flood, the sky IS purple. Now the Johnny Walker thing I'd like to see though...

http://littleshop.physics.colostate.edu/docs/CMMAP/tenthings/SkyPurple.pdf


LOL

I hope everyone understands that my somewhat vehement post about the money was only partially serious...I find the incredible amount of energy utilized to argue pro and con on this subject rather hilarious; I mean believe or don't believe...there's plenty of evidence for either camp. The scary thing is that by the time enough evidence exists to actually prove it one way or the other it will be too late. I myself prefer to err on the side of caution
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3835. Patrap
Quoting Floodman:
I have to tell you, Pat that he idea of methane hydrates fascinates me...these are, in essence, frozen dinosaur farts, yes?




Ask BP..they have some sperience in da matta's
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125552
Quoting earthlydragonfly:


We could blog on your post like we did on Miami's yesterday???
Quoting Floodman:
I have to tell you, Pat that he idea of methane hydrates fascinates me...these are, in essence, frozen dinosaur farts, yes?
lol:)
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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.

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