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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Shucks...now my feelers are hurt...
Member Since: October 18, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 3052
00z ECMWF at 240 hours:

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3482. Patrap
#3476

why bring my name into anything here this am..?


Please dont include my handle in your ramblings.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128344
I see the 00z ECMWF is onboard with developing a CV storm. It shows the system beginning to take shape in 120 hours.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting IKE:


Figure it will be the 12Z run. Bye-bye operational GFS forever. RIP.


Naw, just switching names, parallel is now operational. Next new parallel is scheduled for Fall 2011 at which time they will switch again.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3478. breald
Quoting NEwxguy:
Breald,yeh its pretty scary the water temps up here,right now we look to be safe,not so sure about the later half of August into September.
We've had a zonal flow just about all of July with a series of troughs marching across the US-Canadian border,but it looks like things are changing.


Yeah and that is about the time we would see a hurricane hit the NE coast. I am really worried for the gulf coast states more than any other reagion.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Our Palm Beach Post staff writer Frank Cerebino has an amusing article this morning on Businessweek.com ranking of the country's laziest states based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey (where's Patrap when you need him?). For all to enjoy and revel in:

Dear Business Week:

I am writing in response to your recent story about the 20 laziest states in America, and in particular, Florida's spot on the list.

As a longtime resident of Florida, I couldn't let this occasion pass without setting the record straight on the misleading tone of your story.

I had planned to write an actual letter to you, but that would involve getting a stamp, looking up your address, and schlepping to the post office in this heat. Then I thought about calling you. But I'd have to go into the other room for my phone, which would mean getting off the recliner.

Feh . So I'm just sending you this e-mail.

First of all, how dare you include Florida on your "lazy" list!

I'm not going to dispute your numbers: That the average Floridian spends 2 hours and 53 minutes a day watching television and more than 8½ hours sleeping. Or that when it comes to obesity, we've certainly stepped up to the plate.

And I don't know how you got the number that says we spend only 18 minutes a day thinking - I suppose I could look it up - but that seems more than generous on your part.

My beef with your list is that you are assuming that you can objectively determine laziness by looking at years of data from the American Time Use Survey done by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But numbers don't tell the real story here. If I were writing the headline on your story, I wouldn't say that Florida is the 17th laziest state in the nation.

My banner headline would be "Florida: Busy Bee of the South."

Here's your top laziest states in America, in order of sloth: Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina, and Alabama.

In short: Practically all of the American South.

So the fact that Florida can rise above its geographic roots is a testament to its greatness, not evidence that it's still pretty darn lazy at 17th from the bottom.

You should have said that we're the over-achievers of the South.

That we're like the best player on the Detroit Lions, the chubbiest Lohan sister, the smartest Bush.

And consider this. New York, that alleged paragon of industry and frenetic vitality, came out as the 11th laziest state, meaning that Florida is less lazy than New York.

New Yorkers will find this incomprehensible. But it makes sense.

This is because when New Yorkers get older, the ones who stay in New York are those who are too lazy to move to Florida, like they're supposed to do.

We get all the non-lazy New Yorkers. Eventually. They apparently come here to talk to each other during movies.

And here's something else that bugs me about your story. You say the "median age" in Florida is 40.1 years old. What medians did you check? The guys on Military Trail seem much older.

I could go on, but I think my 18 minutes are up.
Member Since: October 18, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 3052
3475. IKE
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
000
NOUS42 KWNO 281354
ADMNFD


SENIOR DUTY METEOROLOGIST NWS ADMINISTRATIVE MESSAGE
NWS NCEP CENTRAL OPERATIONS CAMP SPRINGS MD
1346Z WED JUL 28 2010

THE 12Z NAM STARTED 18 MINUTES LATE...DELIVERY IS EXPECTED
TO BE DELAYED BY 15-20 MINUTES.

THE UPGRADED GFS MODEL WILL BE IMPLEMENTED AT 12Z TODAY...
WED JUL 28 2010. PLEASE SEE THE TIN FOR FURTHER
INFORMATION REGARDING THE SCIENTIFIC AND PRODUCT CHANGE
DETAILS. IT IS EXPECTED THAT SOME OF THE METEOROLOGICAL
FIELDS THAT CUSTOMERS RECEIVE, VIA NOAAPORT, COULD BE A BIT
NOISIER DUE TO THE HIGHER RESOLUTION MODEL DATA. IT IS
ALSO EXPECTED THAT SOME PRODUCTS FROM THE
GFS...GEFS...WAVE...GFDL...HWRF AND SREF MODEL SUITES COULD
BE DELAYED/VARY BY 3-8 MINUTES ON ANY GIVEN CYCLE DUE TO
THE HIGHER RESOLUTION GFS.


Figure it will be the 12Z run. Bye-bye operational GFS forever. RIP.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting Jeff9641:


lol! Things are back to normal.


It was sort of fun... I cleared my ignore list when I saw the GW Blog posted... and just sat back and watched :)

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
000
NOUS42 KWNO 281354
ADMNFD


SENIOR DUTY METEOROLOGIST NWS ADMINISTRATIVE MESSAGE
NWS NCEP CENTRAL OPERATIONS CAMP SPRINGS MD
1346Z WED JUL 28 2010

THE 12Z NAM STARTED 18 MINUTES LATE...DELIVERY IS EXPECTED
TO BE DELAYED BY 15-20 MINUTES.

THE UPGRADED GFS MODEL WILL BE IMPLEMENTED AT 12Z TODAY...
WED JUL 28 2010. PLEASE SEE THE TIN FOR FURTHER
INFORMATION REGARDING THE SCIENTIFIC AND PRODUCT CHANGE
DETAILS. IT IS EXPECTED THAT SOME OF THE METEOROLOGICAL
FIELDS THAT CUSTOMERS RECEIVE, VIA NOAAPORT, COULD BE A BIT
NOISIER DUE TO THE HIGHER RESOLUTION MODEL DATA. IT IS
ALSO EXPECTED THAT SOME PRODUCTS FROM THE
GFS...GEFS...WAVE...GFDL...HWRF AND SREF MODEL SUITES COULD
BE DELAYED/VARY BY 3-8 MINUTES ON ANY GIVEN CYCLE DUE TO
THE HIGHER RESOLUTION GFS.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Website is having a few issues this morning....

Arn't we all....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting ackee:
which models is best in forecasting tropical cyclone Genesis

A GFS
B CMC
C ECMWF
D NOGAPS



C
A
B
D

in that order! What do I win?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3467. IKE
Website is having a few issues this morning....

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting catastropheadjuster:


Yeah come on in, it's better than yesterday. Mornin.
sheri


NOW Sheri....LOL....ya think!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3465. ackee
which models is best in forecasting tropical cyclone Genesis

A GFS
B CMC
C ECMWF
D NOGAPS
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Sure, but if some models do show more of a northern storm then I think the cone becomes a little larger then being confined to just the Carribean, Gulf and Mexico. Especially as we approach this time of the year. Of course out to sea is not out of question, but like I said this year has shown a pretty consistent pattern towards the west.
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Quoting CyclonicVoyage:


post 3445. Day 11 mean anomaly position in red dash line over the great lakes. Seems to migrate between the east coast and great lakes region with a mean position over the great lakes.


Exactly like 04. 04 had a trough set up over the great lakes which fueled the tracks.
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Quoting Jeff9641:
Quoting hurricane23:


Unfortunately thats the way i see it.The upper tropospheric trough (TUTT) that has been in place for a while seems to have weakend and begun to lift out. Things should really begin to pop soon across the central atl.


Hi Adrian both the GFS and Euro are hinting at troughing along the SE coast how would this affect the tracks of these systems or could this be 2004 all over again where there is a trough in place but weak enough for these system to move very slow to the west as steering will be weak?


Hard to say Jeff but the southeast is at high risk this season based on my view of things. Just about everyone should be ready.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
For my credibilitys sake, I would like it noted that I am lurking - but since the blog is headed where it is suposed to go and I only comment on GW, I have my mouth firmly shut. Hopefully next spring I will finally get my models up and running and try a few actual forecasts next season.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Jeff9641:


Hi Adrian both the GFS and Euro are hinting at troughing along the SE coast how would this affect the tracks of these systems or could this be 2004 all over again where there is a trough in place but weak enough for these system to move very slow to the west as steering will be weak?


post 3445. Day 11 mean anomaly position in red dash line over the great lakes. Seems to migrate between the east coast and great lakes region with a mean position over the great lakes.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Is it safe for me to poke my head up this morn?


LOL.....hey Bro...just take a peak then open your eyes wide.....LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3451. NEwxguy
Breald,yeh its pretty scary the water temps up here,right now we look to be safe,not so sure about the later half of August into September.
We've had a zonal flow just about all of July with a series of troughs marching across the US-Canadian border,but it looks like things are changing.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting SLU:
GFS-like parade of Cape Verde storms.



when is that pic from?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hurricane23:


Yep very long range but i actually think the model is painting a real picture of what maybe coming in the coming weeks.


I don't disagree at all.

GFS 500mb height anomalies, day 11.



Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3444. jpsb
Quoting NotCircumventing:
I hope Dr Masters will update the blog today, but probably not since the development suggested by the ECMWF is not within the next seven days.

I wonder If he will begin his next entry with a "dressing down" of us bloggers about the insane day we had yesterday? That was the worst display of civility that I have seen on here since I began blogging (commenting) in 2006.

Never thought restraining orders would have to be issued as a result of an opinion!
Emotions run high when to talk about depriving folks of food, shelter and mobility. Just imagine what the USA would look like if tomorrow fossil fuels disappeared? How many would have to die before we in the USA reached a stable population of 75 million or so? AGW calls for mankind to make unprecedented sacrifices based on very shaky science.

In the entire 4.5 billion years Earth's existence there has only been one episode of dangerous warming, that was 250 million years ago and caused by a massive volcanic eruption (Siberian Traps) plus a likely impact event. It is inconceivably that mankind can inflict as much damage to the environment as an eruption of the scale of the Siberian Traps. Just to put the Siberian Traps eruption into perspective the last great Yellowstone super eruption ejected 1 thousand km squared of stuff. The Siberian Traps eruption ejected 4 million km squared of stuff over a period of 1 million years. It was the equivalent of 4 Yellowstone super eruptions every year for 1 million years. I hardly think mankind is doing that kind of damage by heating homes and driving SUVs. Even that event did not drive the Earth Climate into runaway global warming (Venus). The Earth cooled once the eruptions stopped.

Is mankind warming the Earth burning fossil fuels an releasing CO2, possibility but his effects on the climate system are insignificant when compared to the natural forces at play.

And just what exactly is the Earth's proper temperature? How do we know that adding a little CO2 and creating a little warming is a bad thing? The more CO2 the more productive plant life becomes. Warm periods have produced an abundance of life whereas cold periods have done the opposite. Would a mile of ice on much of North America be a good thing? Not in my book.

At this point in time I see AGW as a tool being used by elitist globalist to gain economic and political power over what is left of the American and European middle class. The science is shaky but the naked power grab is as plan as day for all to see. Should we fold in this debate and allow our betters to determine just who gets to use energy and how much we will have given up our right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. We will be serfs of the ruling class and we will be treated as such.

Before I give up all my rights I'd like to see some solid science indicative of a mass extinction event in the foreseeable future.
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1192
3443. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting hurricane23:
If I had to lean towards something, I'd lean towards a more active Caribbean and possibly downstream in the Gulf as well. La Nina years do tend to favor more Caribbean-cruiser type storms, and the anomalously-weak shear in the Carib so far this season would seem to support this.


Totally agree.. should be a great year to be a westcaster..

As for 92W, really died in the night (or well their day)..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CyclonicVoyage:


Good thing it's a long range forecast. However, still makes my stomach turn. Someone could get a 1, 2 punch with that set up.


Yep very long range but i actually think the model is painting a real picture of what maybe coming in the coming weeks.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Is it safe for me to poke my head up this morn?


Yeah come on in, it's better than yesterday. Mornin.
sheri
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Is it safe for me to poke my head up this morn?


Mornin' Doug! Today will be a good day, ay?
Member Since: October 18, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 3052
Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Is it safe for me to poke my head up this morn?


Yep, the GW debate has stopped. All it took was the ECMWF show Dean part 2.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24039
Morning everyone.

Quick Wunderground-related question: How can we report bad data or a bad personal weather station?

The "Fountain Estates" station here in Slidell is consistently reporting much higher temperatures than observed by the NWS. Right now, the NWS office in Slidell says it's 77, whereas Fountain Estates has it at 90 degrees.

The two stations are certainly not far apart enough for that high of a reading to be true. In addition, the Fountain Estates station is even closer to Lake Pontchartrain than NWS Slidell, so if anything I would assume it'd be cooler there.

Here's a link to the station in question:Link

I just wanted to see if I could bring it to an admin's attention or something. Thanks
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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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.

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