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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"i'm watching that wave. something developing would be great to end this GW back and forth, but i really want BP to get the relief wells in place (even though it's capped)"

I agree. I don't usually come to the blog unless something's going on, because it can get kinda ridiculous.

But yeah we dodged a bullet with Bonnie. I'm in Slidell and that thing rained pretty good, but we don't need a strong storm coming through here, especially not with the oil situation.
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3083. xcool
35W Something to keep an eye on
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Quoting SouthALWX:
me personally? I dong see any one feature that draws my attention. Moreso I think development is eminent towards the first to second week of august due to the indicators calling for an active season and the climatological uptick during that time.


probably the most likely scenario. ok. i'm really going to bed now. night everyone.
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The wave is monitoring by the navy site predicted 2010. Link

20100728.0345.goes13.x.ir1km_bw. 20LPGI20L.15kts-1010mb-141N-385W
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Quoting cirrocumulus:
truecajun: Did you see the Charlie Rose show? They had the decision spoof of LeBron. Only it was about eating at The Outback instead of Chili's. I think the wave at 34 is about to kick off an active season.


i missed that one.

i wish i could remember what storm said about the the wave at 34. he said it was possible, but that it needed to develop in 3 days in order to be something.....then something about the dry air around it
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me personally? I dont see any one feature that draws my attention. Moreso I think development is eminent towards the first to second week of august due to the indicators calling for an active season and the climatological uptick during that time.
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I think atmosweather will be back before global warming ends.
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Quoting RobbieLSU:
Alright thanks, cajun and eagle. I appreciate it.

As far as the tropics go, doesn't look to me like dry air is gonna be a problem for 34W wave. Could be something to watch


good luck. i checked that site he said he was going to, and was pretty slow (nothing like what goes on here).

i'm watching that wave. something developing would be great to end this GW back and forth, but i really want BP to get the relief wells in place (even though it's capped)
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3076. xcool



WAVE 35W KEEP EYE ON
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Alright thanks, cajun and eagle. I appreciate it.

As far as the tropics go, doesn't look to me like dry air is gonna be a problem for 34W wave. Could be something to watch
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3073. xcool
LOTS PEOPLE LEAVE Weather Underground
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Quoting sailingallover:

But wait this is supposed "catastrophic" climate change! do we have a very different definition of catastrophic? because that means suddenly to me..not over decades or half centuries..


Really? So by your definition, the Black Death wasn't a catastrophe? Weird.


5 is a valid statistical sample.


Yes, if you are trying to measure *weather*. If you are going to try to differentiate the climate signal from the weather noise, you need to at least triple that; though twenty years would provide a higher level of confidence.

if I don't see a solid difference from a 5 year average 10 years after it ends from something that is supposed to be increasing I have doubts. So how many years into the future do I have to go to see a noticeable difference? 20? 40? 60?


The changes are visible now. Some were listed in the OP.


The other baseline ended at 1980 but any data from back then is very suspect. Microwaves were a new thing..not a lot of money for a lot of weather stations...


Suspect? Says who? Says what peer-reviewed paper? No, they weren't (and aren't) perfect. But perfection is required, thank goodness.

Um, the number of weather stations is actually less, iirc.

And thermometers worked pretty well prior to 1980.
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Quoting RobbieLSU:
Atmo left?! I was wondering why he wasn't responding to mail... Dang... well I really need to get in touch with him. Does anyone know which blog or site he left for?


check back on the pages around 11pm last night and 12 am this morning. he did say the blog he was going to. he declared his move between 11 and midnight. it was around the time i signed off. there was drama with st. simon and Jlflorida (i think that's his name) look for their names as you search the pages as well as mine. my green hat and baby's red coat are easy to spot
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Quoting RobbieLSU:
Atmo left?! I was wondering why he wasn't responding to mail... Dang... well I really need to get in touch with him. Does anyone know which blog or site he left for?


Greetings...I believe he was headed here...Link

v/r

Jon
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Quoting chrisdscane:
anything out there guys?


ANYTHING in the tropics to talk about?
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Atmo left?! I was wondering why he wasn't responding to mail... Dang... well I really need to get in touch with him. Does anyone know which blog or site he left for?
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well good night everyone.
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truecajun: Did you see the Charlie Rose show? They had the decision spoof of LeBron. Only it was about eating at The Outback instead of Chili's. I think the wave at 34 is about to kick off an active season.
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Quoting extreme236:
00z Operational (albeit not for long) GFS thru 72 hours shows nothing of real significance, but does show some interesting activity (a few weak lows) in the EATL.



agreed,some on the board were getting exited about models 384hrs out,lol....72hrs is much more believable
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anything out there guys?
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3063. Buhdog
could somebody please stop the cd from skipping.......


I could honestly be a spokesperson for both sides of the debate by now. Lets talk about Abortion, marijuana legalization, and church in schools. not.

Wicked lightning in SWFL today on the ride home from work made for a great ride.
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Quoting Skyepony:


I've never seen it so melted, even in August. I know, drought is more exciting atleast you can get dust storms. Russia broke it's all time July temp high which was last set in 1926, the year of the great dust bowl. Even though July isn't over Russia has already declared it Hottest July in their written record back 138 years.


There is also a record cold snap in south america killing hundreds of people so far, with the hot, comes the cold as well.
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this is off topic, but being that the blog is so slow. i've never watched My Name is Earl. it came on after The Office and it is pretty funny.
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3060. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


wow its summer...


I've never seen it so melted, even in August. I know, drought is more exciting atleast you can get dust storms. Russia broke it's all time July temp high which was last set in 1926, the year of the great dust bowl. Even though July isn't over Russia has already declared it Hottest July in their written record back 138 years.
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Quoting truecajun:


that's what i've been watching too, but i recall storm saying possible, but lots of dry air to contend with


I'd say most of that activity is more associated with the ITCZ rather than with the wave itself. Much of the wave axis is farther north and west.
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
Quoting hulazigzag:


haha ohhh, 111F is cool to the 125F we had ths weekend :p
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SouthAlWx: What do you see developing next?
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3056. xcool
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Quoting cirrocumulus:
Time to get back to the tropics. We can talk about Mars and global warming later. There's a wave around 34W that is probably going to develop.


that's what i've been watching too, but i recall storm saying possible, but lots of dry air to contend with
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00z Operational (albeit not for long) GFS thru 72 hours shows nothing of real significance, but does show some interesting activity (a few weak lows) in the EATL.
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
00z GFS Para thru 54 hours shows nothing, at least yet anyway.
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
Quoting Torgen:
Glad to see no bad weather for the last couple days, dropped in to see if there were any survivors here on the blog, or if you'd all eaten each other in rabid frenzy with no tropical weather to talk about!

Deadly hot here in the Tampa area, heat index locally was still at 111F at 5:45pm today. Mow the yard? Hell, I'm letting nature reclaim it!

It's been the same here in Flagler county and probably the driest June-July I've seen.
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Time to get back to the tropics. We can talk about Mars and global warming later. There's a wave around 34W that is probably going to develop.
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3050. Skyepony (Mod)
The wave at 32west has a decent chance. May see something begin to pull together in the EPAC first.

Russia is having a horrid grow season.

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3049. xcool
SouthALWX:
WHY
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Quoting Skyepony:
Wow Greenland..


wow its summer...
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yes true thats the one.
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soooo slow blog
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Quoting SouthALWX:
to those looking for atmo... he banned WU from his machines for three months.


was he the one who said he was joining another weather blog due to all teh GW discussion on this one?
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Quoting Orcasystems:


cute.
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to those looking for atmo... he banned WU from his machines for three months.
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3042. Skyepony (Mod)
Wow Greenland..
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Quoting Skyepony:
Spacequakes Rumble Near Earth

Rumbles without sound
Auroras rain down
Magnetic fields shake
Beware the spacequake

July 27, 2010: Researchers using NASA's fleet of five THEMIS spacecraft have discovered a form of space weather that packs the punch of an earthquake and plays a key role in sparking bright Northern Lights. They call it "the spacequake." more here


reminds us how small we are.
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3040. Torgen
Glad to see no bad weather for the last couple days, dropped in to see if there were any survivors here on the blog, or if you'd all eaten each other in rabid frenzy with no tropical weather to talk about!

Deadly hot here in the Tampa area, heat index locally was still at 111F at 5:45pm today. Mow the yard? Hell, I'm letting nature reclaim it!
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Wow what is going on this blog:0 From crazy delusional rants from a person that is having an argument with someone personally that 95% of us on this blog really don't care to hear about, talking about sports (go to a sports blog for that, there are hundreds out there), to a leftist to rightist fight about global warming (sorry folks the earth goes through natural warming cycles which we are in one now. But the question is whether us polluting the earth, something we didn't do through other natural warming cycles in the past millenia, is exasperating the situation causing). Please,people who are having personal problems with others on this blog should refrain from bringing personal problems out in public on this blog. I am going back to lurker status now, but on hurricanes blog this time.

I've said my two cents now
au revoir:)
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hey everyone. anything to watch at 32ish 5?
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3037. Skyepony (Mod)
Spacequakes Rumble Near Earth

Rumbles without sound
Auroras rain down
Magnetic fields shake
Beware the spacequake

July 27, 2010: Researchers using NASA's fleet of five THEMIS spacecraft have discovered a form of space weather that packs the punch of an earthquake and plays a key role in sparking bright Northern Lights. They call it "the spacequake." more here
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They updated the position every hour. SATPRODUCTS/TC/tc10/ATL/20L.PGI20L/ir/geo/1km_bw
20100728.0315.goes13.x.ir1km_bw.

20LPGI20L.15kts-1010mb-141N-385W.100pc.jpg |
Link
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3035. Seastep
Drive by warning. Sorry, just been too busy lately, but can't help it on this one.

Fully expect all those concerned to replace their current vehicles. Let me know when you do. Better yet, lets have a counter. I'll look into it.

Link
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3034. xcool
tomorrow is GFS NEW UPDATE
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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.