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 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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Quoting fallinstorms:
there will be nothing!
Im bout' to let yo' but have it!
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3828. xcool
tropical weather, or the topic
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Quoting CJC111:
We REALLY need some kind of weather to talk about


Careful for at you ask for, you just might get it.
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3826. angiest
3809 - I'm making quite liberal use of the - button today. Unfortunately some of the people who are getting the - from me are people I would actually be interested in seeing when we actually have some activity so I am not bringing out the heavy artillery.
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3825. IKE
Quoting Diplomacy:
Ike, what did the other half of the model show, if anything? LOL. TIA.


Minor lows west of the African coast on the end of the run. New GFS seems to be lacking in showing much activity on almost all runs lately. Hope it doesn't have issues the rest of this season.
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I have to tell you, Pat that he idea of methane hydrates fascinates me...these are, in essence, frozen dinosaur farts, yes?
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3821. 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
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Quoting reedzone:


Actually according to the tropical tidbit from Levi, the models develop the wave that came off of Africa yesterday. It needs to be watched because convection has sustained itself as SAL is too far north to hinder it's development.


The ECMWF certainly does not develop the wave off Africa now. This is apparent as the ECMWF shows the low first appearing south of the CV islands in 48 hours the moves it westward. Not saying we shouldn't watch this one, but the big one the ECMWF shows is still a few days away.
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Quoting reedzone:


Actually according to the tropical tidbit from Levi, the models develop the wave that came off of Africa yesterday. It needs to be watched because convection has sustained itself as SAL is too far north to hinder it's development.


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?
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3815. xcool
hmm
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Quoting earthlydragonfly:


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


Sorry this post was for Levi... Or StromW
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3811. CJC111
We REALLY need some kind of weather to talk about
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3810. Levi32
Quoting StormW:
Hey Levi!


Afternoon Storm!
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Quoting extreme236:


No it's not. It is still over Africa.


Actually according to the tropical tidbit from Levi, the models develop the wave that came off of Africa yesterday. It needs to be watched because convection has sustained itself as SAL is too far north to hinder it's development.
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3805. Patrap
U.S. Geological Survey
Marine and Coastal Geology Program
Gas (Methane) Hydrates -- A New Frontier


Methane trapped in marine sediments as a hydrate represents such an immense carbon reservoir that it must be considered a dominant factor in estimating unconventional energy resources; the role of methane as a 'greenhouse' gas also must be carefully assessed.
Dr. William Dillon,
U.S. Geological Survey

Hydrates store immense amounts of methane, with major implications for energy resources and climate, but the natural controls on hydrates and their impacts on the environment are very poorly understood.

Gas hydrates occur abundantly in nature, both in Arctic regions and in marine sediments. Gas hydrate is a crystalline solid consisting of gas molecules, usually methane, each surrounded by a cage of water molecules. It looks very much like water ice. Methane hydrate is stable in ocean floor sediments at water depths greater than 300 meters, and where it occurs, it is known to cement loose sediments in a surface layer several hundred meters thick.

The worldwide amounts of carbon bound in gas hydrates is conservatively estimated to total twice the amount of carbon to be found in all known fossil fuels on Earth.

This estimate is made with minimal information from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and other studies. Extraction of methane from hydrates could provide an enormous energy and petroleum feedstock resource. Additionally, conventional gas resources appear to be trapped beneath methane hydrate layers in ocean sediments.






Recent mapping conducted by the USGS off North Carolina and South Carolina shows large accumulations of methane hydrates.

A pair of relatively small areas, each about the size of the State of Rhode Island, shows intense concentrations of gas hydrates. USGS scientists estimate that these areas contain more than 1,300 trillion cubic feet of methane gas, an amount representing more than 70 times the 1989 gas consumption of the United States. Some of the gas was formed by bacteria in the sediments, but some may be derived from deep strata of the Carolina Trough. The Carolina Trough is a significant offshore oil and gas frontier area where no wells have been drilled. It is a very large basin, about the size of the State of South Carolina, that has accumulated a great thickness of sediment, perhaps more than 13 kilometers. Salt diapirs, reefs, and faults, in addition to hydrate gas, may provide greater potential for conventional oil and gas traps than is present in other east coast basins.

The immense volumes of gas and the richness of the deposits may make methane hydrates a strong candidate for development as an energy resource.

Because the gas is held in a crystal structure, gas molecules are more densely packed than in conventional or other unconventional gas traps. Gas-hydrate-cemented strata also act as seals for trapped free gas. These traps provide potential resources, but they can also represent hazards to drilling, and therefore must be well understood. Production of gas from hydrate-sealed traps may be an easy way to extract hydrate gas because the reduction of pressure caused by production can initiate a breakdown of hydrates and a recharging of the trap with gas.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128273
Quoting extreme236:


I'm puzzled as to why the NHC hasn't identified this as a tropical wave yet.


We could blog on your post like we did on Miami's yesterday???
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3803. jpsb
Dr. Roger Pielke Sr., a climatologist at the University of Colorado “The sea ice around the continent is far above average (ref. UIUC). Also, note the colder than average sea surface temperatures around Antarctic (ref. NOAA). If the media is going to discuss the Wilkens Ice Shelf, they should also discuss this other data. The expansion of the sea ice coverage implies a cooling.”
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1191
Quoting ezcColony:


It's simple to answer this one! Follow the money!!!

NASA and GISS are one in the same. Who funds NASA? The Fed!

What does the Fed want? Cap and Trade taxation. How do they justify it? With data obtained from NASA.

The principle behind this despicable conspiracy is equally simple. Fed dangles funding under NASA's nose, but with stipulations. Funding will be granted with the express understanding that NASA will provide "proof" in the form of "data" that AGW is a force that is only stoppable by the Fed.

It is sickening. Libs SUCK!


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.
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Quoting fallinstorms:
the wave is dying



Why do you troll this blog? Your comments are unnecessary and quite invalid.
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Quoting Levi32:
A tropical wave along 22W in the eastern Atlantic is exhibiting very strong and well-defined low-mid level turning this morning. The wave is at a perfect latitude for potential development, just north of 10N, far enough north for the Coriolis effect to aid good spin and yet far enough south to not get embedded in a dry airmass. There is some dry air coming off with this but almost every strong wave does pull dry air off the African continent to its north, and this dry air has far less punch that it did with the preceding waves which got completely dried out. This may have a chance, and has the mark of a trouble-maker. If the WindSat pass from earlier this morning was accurate, this is only one small hop from a tropical depression, in all honesty. However, as with most things, we will want to see consistency in such a presentation before drawing big conclusions. These things have a tendency to fall apart on you even when they look perfect, but this is by far the most impressive wave I have seen in the eastern Atlantic so far this season, and is the first one to increase in convection and organization more than 24 hours after leaving Africa.

See my blog for more info.

nice!
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When using Dr. Masters' blog, please refrain from posting material not relevant to the discussion of tropical weather, or the topic of the blog entry itself. Please do not engage in personal attacks or bickering. Material not conforming to these standards should be flagged with the button and ignored

You mean like a half page of spam about an oil spill in the midwest? That kind of not relevant material? LOL, you funny man G.I.

"The only thing worse than ignorance is arrogance"

Albert Einstein
Member Since: February 11, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 834
This guy has actually become better organized since I last checked a few hours ago.

Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24018
3793. Patrap
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.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128273
3792. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting extreme236:
Also, looks like the EPAC could finally see some life again.


Yeah~ I've been leaning toward seeing an EPAC storm try & pull together before anything in the Atlantic.
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Quoting jpsb:


CO2 levels last 500 million years.




"Fig. 4 reveals that CO2 levels have mostly decreased for the last 175 My. Prior to that point they appear to have fluctuated from about two to four times modern levels with a dominant period of about 100 My."
http://www.pnas.org/content/99/7/4167.full


That is very funny to say earth is 500 million years old especially since God created it probably 12,000 years ago or so.
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3788. jpsb
If President Obama were not planning on introducing and energy tax (carbon tax) based on AGW then I might be inclined to agree with you but since Congress is planing on taking action then i think it is important and timely to debate the issue. $10.00 gasoline, $1 kwh will have an effect on everyone and everything.
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1191
3786. Patrap
www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/hansens-1988-projections


As mentioned above, with a single realization, there is going to be an amount of weather noise that has nothing to do with the forcings. In these simulations, this noise component has a standard deviation of around 0.1 deg C in the annual mean. That is, if the models had been run using a slightly different initial condition so that the weather was different, the difference in the two runs mean temperature in any one year would have a standard deviation of about 0.14 deg C., but the long term trends would be similar. Thus, comparing specific years is very prone to differences due to the noise, while looking at the trends is more robust.

From 1984 to 2006, the trends in the two observational datasets are 0.24 /- 0.07 and 0.21 /- 0.06 deg C/decade, where the error bars (2[tex]\sigma [/tex]) are the derived from the linear fit. The %true error bars should be slightly larger given the uncertainty in the annual estimates themselves. For the model simulations, the trends are for Scenario A: 0.39 /-0.05 deg C/decade, Scenario B: 0.24 /- 0.06 deg C/decade and Scenario C: 0.24 /- 0.05 deg C/decade.

The bottom line? Scenario B is pretty close and certainly well within the error estimates of the real world changes. And if you factor in the 5 to 10% overestimate of the forcings in a simple way, Scenario B would be right in the middle of the observed trends. It is certainly close enough to provide confidence that the model is capable of matching the global mean temperature rise!

But can we say that this proves the model is correct? Not quite. Look at the difference between Scenario B and C. Despite the large difference in forcings in the later years, the long term trend over that same period is similar. The implication is that over a short period, the weather noise can mask significant differences in the forced component. This version of the model had a climate sensitivity was around 4 deg C for a doubling of CO2. This is a little higher than what would be our best guess (~3 deg C) based on observations, but is within the standard range (2 to 4.5 deg C). Is this 20 year trend sufficient to determine whether the model sensitivity was too high? No. Given the noise level, a trend 75% as large, would still be within the error bars of the observation (i.e. 0.18 /-0.05), assuming the transient trend would scale linearly. Maybe with another 10 years of data, this distinction will be possible. However, a model with a very low sensitivity, say 1 deg C, would have fallen well below the observed trends.

Hansen stated that this comparison was not sufficient for a precise assessment of the model simulations and he is of course correct. However, that does not imply that no assessment can be made, or that stated errors in the projections (themselves erroneous) of 100 to 400% cant be challenged. My assessment is that the model results were as consistent with the real world over this period as could possibly be expected and are therefore a useful demonstration of the models consistency with the real world.

Thus when asked whether any climate model forecasts ahead of time have proven accurate, this comes as close as you get.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128273
3785. Levi32
Quoting extreme236:


I'm puzzled as to why the NHC hasn't identified this as a tropical wave yet.


Same.....was just pondering the surface map wondering if I had loaded yesterday's 12z lol.
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:


pure opinion, no supporting data, dubious linkage -3


Bingo...I can say the sky is purple and drips Johnny Walker but until I can prove it one way or the other...though it would be nice if that theory were true

LOL
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About

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