Storms of My Grandchildren by Dr. James Hansen

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 11:34 PM GMT on July 26, 2010

Share this Blog
9
+

"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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 2834 - 2784

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66 | 67 | 68 | 69 | 70 | 71 | 72 | 73 | 74 | 75 | 76 | 77 | 78 | 79 | 80 | 81 | 82 | 83 | 84 | 85 | 86 | 87 | 88 | 89 | 90 | 91 | 92 | 93 | 94 | 95 | 96 | 97 | 98 | 99 | 100 | 101 | 102 | 103 | 104 | 105 | 106 | 107 | 108 | 109 | 110 | 111 | 112 | 113 | 114 | 115 | 116 | 117 | 118 | 119 | 120 | 121 | 122 | 123 | 124 | 125 | 126 | 127 | 128 | 129 | 130 | 131 | 132 | 133 | 134 | 135 | 136 | 137 | 138 | 139 | 140 | 141 | 142 | 143 | 144 | 145 | 146 | 147Blog Index

Quoting KarenRei:


Not to mention that he goes and discredits his own point. Remember his examples of "ludicrous" things, like that if you could use 1,200 km, you could judge the weather in Monaco relative to that of Birmingham, or Death Valley and Portland? Check out his 250km (high resolution) smoothing chart. Notice anything? Both Monaco and Birmingham are right near the 1C anomaly color boundary. Both Portland and Death Valley are solidly in the 0.5-1C anomaly color. ;)

Seriously, who thinks a heat wave or cold snap affects just a couple miles? Yes, Portland and Death Valley have very different *temperatures*, but their *anomalies* are correlated. Although, to be fair, by using the full 1200km, he is straining the bounds of the correlation, and thus will average more variation. How well correlated different geographical sites' temperatures are is very well studied.


It's almost as though some set out to mislead and take advantage of the public, isn't it?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
sorry storm i guess your a dolphin fan
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
actually hippo i used to love the cowboys when landry was there.they were a class organization but i cant pull for a team owned by classles jerry jones.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Nice little wave brewing at 30W
Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StormW:


StormW If you dont mind; what is this chart telling me?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StormW:


Yeah...it's just running rampant.
Yep. Over the past 2 weeks the Nia 3.4 went down -0.3C. A good chunk of that decease was probably helped by the upwelling caused by the positive SOI.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
tampa bay storm lol raymond james stadium lol
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2823. KYDan
Quoting StormW:


Yeah...it's just running rampant.


I hope you don't mind a question. What does this portend and why?

Thanks

Dan
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Wow!! What's up with all the models? They are starting to pop with signs of development yet I still don't see much indicating it on the satellite images. I guess things are just going to pop out of the blue.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting SAINTHURRIFAN:
de boys you mean jerrys kids lol.


You just wait....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I love this! Change a few parameters to get a more current look and actual data and POOF!
All those gray areas show we don't have squat for data. That 1200km smoothing technique is like seeding storm models with a bogus center to get a track before the storm has even formed. Judging by comparison to the earlier maps it looks like a small hot spot can be extended a long ways. And since we have more temperature data from urban areas that get warmed more perhaps the "data" get skewed?

This is my issue with "global" warming. Urban/industrial heating is a given. No doubt we are adding heat. Green house effects from gases tentative yes. O MY GOD MY GRANDCHILDREN ARE DOOMED... you don't have the data you only have a cause and as always everyone is jumping on the band wagon. You would have to be crazy to try to publish a paper negating global warming right now..it would be like Galileo and the inquisition..look at this board and how insane it has gotten...really all very funny until they pass Cap and trade and destroy what little is left of Americas industry...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
and storm how about your bucs this year 5 wins maybe?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StormW:


Storm,

You're scaring me with that graph. You might as well write "Atlantic .... Doom Central."
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting clwstmchasr:


I noticed that. But look at the track, it takes it out to sea. That is contrary to what the experts are saying regarding steering currents taking everything west.

It is also 384 hours out.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
and miami what about your dolphins?Bill parcells is a master.Sean peyton sure learned a lot from him.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2813. Ossqss
Quoting tkeith:
and the beat goes on...


That is so accurate :)

The beat goes on, yep!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Birthmark:


If Goddard is correct, all he needs do is write up as a formal paper and submit it to a reputable journal. I don't think that that's going to happen. ;)

However, the answer in your question is contained in Goddard's first paragraph: "It uses 1200 km smoothing, a technique which allows them to generate data where they have none %u2013 based on the idea that temperatures don%u2019t vary much over 1200 km. It seems %u201Creasonable enough%u201D to use the Monaco weather forecast to make picnic plans in Birmingham, England. Similarly we could assume that the weather and climate in Portland, Oregon can be inferred from that of Death Valley."

GISS is not formulated for the purpose of predicting weather. And it doesn't measure "climate" per se. It generates climate data. Over time, changes appear in that data.

Btw, the trend GISS shows is duplicated by satellite data to a very high degree.

So, no, I don't suspect that Goddard'll be writing this one up for any reputable science journal.


Not to mention that he goes and discredits his own point. Remember his examples of "ludicrous" things, like that if you could use 1,200 km, you could judge the weather in Monaco relative to that of Birmingham, or Death Valley and Portland? Check out his 250km (high resolution) smoothing chart. Notice anything? Both Monaco and Birmingham are right near the 1C anomaly color boundary. Both Portland and Death Valley are solidly in the 0.5-1C anomaly color. ;)

Seriously, who thinks a heat wave or cold snap affects just a couple miles? Yes, Portland and Death Valley have very different *temperatures*, but their *anomalies* are correlated. Although, to be fair, by using the full 1200km, he is straining the bounds of the correlation, and thus will average more variation. How well correlated different geographical sites' temperatures are is very well studied.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
de boys you mean jerrys kids lol.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StormW:
Goodnight Storm.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StormW:
Hoping it's safe to come back in...

SOI is just skyrocketing, not a good sign.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
We could use nash roberts as a met for this blog he would take all these so called phd mets to the woodshed and he did not even need models lol
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting SAINTHURRIFAN:
where are you ike this blog is more comical than harlem nights lol.WHOOOOOWEEEE 2 days to training camp.Americas game is back soon whhhhoodatttt world champs got to love it.
D'Boys gonna stomp them down this year!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
agree kat Archie still has not said anything complimentary about the saints .The Mannings have become egomaniacs lol.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Re: Giant Hail

Back in his "meteorology" days, David Letterman liked to predict/report hail "the size of canned hams". Who knew it could actually happen.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hey toby thank GOD its football season soon lots to talk about now.Youknow us ms, coastians love our football.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Blog Update!

July 27, 2010 - 9:00 PM EDT - Tropics Not Active...Yet...But Ready To Explode

Thanks MH09! We should watch the African wave, it is pretty healthy and dry air is waning.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2799. tkeith
and the beat goes on...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2797. Ossqss
Leave ya'll with this stuff, so logic has a chance :)

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/07/070705-oldest-dna.html

http://cires.colorado.edu/events/lectures/dahljensen/

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1157707

That big ball in the sky is quite the key, is it not? L8R

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
hey hurrikat last year you said the saints would win 5 game well i hope this year you predict they will win two lol.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2795. tkeith
Quoting FLdewey:
Doctors say that Nordberg has a 50/50 chance of living, though there's only a 10 percent chance of that.
what are the odds of that happening
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting sailingallover:

I do like the way that by picking the base period you can show any kind of trend you like with the temperature anomaly tool...


That is correct. However, whether the trend you create is quite a different matter. That is statistically significant and representative of reality is where science and statistics come into play. They are governed by rules which tell you what is valid and what is not and what is ambiguous.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
where are you ike this blog is more comical than harlem nights lol.WHOOOOOWEEEE 2 days to training camp.Americas game is back soon whhhhoodatttt world champs got to love it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2787. tkeith
Quoting Surfcropper:


??? So my prediction of Kansas being hit by a cat 3 hurricane is an out and out lie? Hey, at least I'm never wrong though.
<10%...yellow
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting mikatnight:
Maybe old news for here, but made the news today...

Most hail that falls is pea to golf ball sized. But the stones that fell in the Dakotas on Friday was some of the largest ever seen. Preliminary reports indicated hail over 4” in diameter. But after the National Weather Service posted these pics, there needs to be a close examination whether any of these stones are a record breaker.

In 2003, the largest hail stone in US history was reported in Nebraska. The stone was 7’ in diameter, 18.75 in circumference and weighed just under one pound. Although not the heaviest ice rock from the sky, it is the largest and considered the record holder in the US.

In Friday’s storm, the large hail storm struck near the town of Vivian, SD, which is just south of Pierre in central South Dakota. You can see in these pictures the stones were flat out big. Hopefully continued information is being collected on these images. But in the meantime, we just need to thank our lucky starts we’ve never seen ice chunks like this anywhere in Iowa.






Link
Link
Link

All three of these news stories about the hail event quote Leslie Scott (the man who found the hailstone) saying,
Quoting News Article:
"If I knew it might be a record, I would have looked for a bigger one. There was lots bigger ones than the one I got," he said. "My mother seen one as big as a football, she claims."" Also they say that, "The hailstone retrieved by Scott was bigger before he got it safely secured in a working freezer. He figures it lost about 3 inches before electricity was restored several hours later."
And:
Quoting News Article:
"I just happened to see this one fall and the only reason I went out and got it is because it has all these fingers sticking out of it and I thought, 'Oh, that's weird.' So I thought I'd go get that one," Scott said.
Additionally, the second article mentions that, "There have been reports of hailstones 10 or more inches in diameter."

AND THE 1.8 POUND MEASUREMENT IS NOT LESLIE SCOTT'S HAILSTONE. That is a hailstone from Punk Storm.

The second link says:
Quoting News Article:
The massive chunk of ice in Punk Strom’s deep freeze weighed 1.8 pounds when he put it on the scale at the Vivian post office Monday. It would fill a gallon can, Strom said.

“It melted a lot,” he said. “It laid outside for an hour and a half before I found it,” he said.

“There were millions of softball-sized ones,” Strom said.

Strom said he doesn’t plan to take his hailstone in for measurement, though, since he has a funeral to attend Tuesday. If its 1.8-pound weight were confirmed, it would smash the current U.S. record hailstone weight of 1.65 pounds.

Besides, I hear Leslie Scott’s got a lot bigger one,” Strom said. “I’ll probably just leave it in the deep freeze and brag about it.”

The fourth link provides the official weight of Leslie Scott's hailstone:
Quoting News Article:
They carefully took the stone from the freezer and placed it in a cooler with dry ice. The next stop was at the post office where the hail hade a date with the federally certified scale. Moments later, the hail stone weighed in at 1.9375 pounds.


This article (http://www.keloland.com/News/NewsDetail6371.cfm?Id=102949) says:
Quoting News Article:
As impressive as the size and weight are, it may have topped two pounds when it fell from the sky. While Scott placed it in the freezer, the power was out for six hours following the storm, and it likely melted a bit in that time.



So, had someone retrieved one of the bigger hailstones, and accurately measured it sooner, we could of had a hail record that passed the world record for the heaviest hailstone ever (2.25 pounds, 1.02 kg in Bangladesh on April of 1986). Tis unfortunate.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting wunderkidcayman:
you are right we are going to have 4 or 5 storms



all at one time
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114924

Viewing: 2834 - 2784

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66 | 67 | 68 | 69 | 70 | 71 | 72 | 73 | 74 | 75 | 76 | 77 | 78 | 79 | 80 | 81 | 82 | 83 | 84 | 85 | 86 | 87 | 88 | 89 | 90 | 91 | 92 | 93 | 94 | 95 | 96 | 97 | 98 | 99 | 100 | 101 | 102 | 103 | 104 | 105 | 106 | 107 | 108 | 109 | 110 | 111 | 112 | 113 | 114 | 115 | 116 | 117 | 118 | 119 | 120 | 121 | 122 | 123 | 124 | 125 | 126 | 127 | 128 | 129 | 130 | 131 | 132 | 133 | 134 | 135 | 136 | 137 | 138 | 139 | 140 | 141 | 142 | 143 | 144 | 145 | 146 | 147Blog Index

Top of Page

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.

Local Weather

Mostly Cloudy
80 °F
Mostly Cloudy