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 wunderkidcayman:
you are right we are going to have 4 or 5 storms



all at one time
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Quoting tkeith:
I knew it!



mail for you
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you are right we are going to have 4 or 5 storms
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Quoting Birthmark:


My experience is it's the uninformed opinions that are largely the problem.
Well, I am uninformed and do not have an opinion but arguing about it is not going to change the facts.
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2779. tkeith
Quoting auburn:


Nope...LOL...dont post here at all...you know that!!!Gezzz
I knew it!
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Quoting FLdewey:
Jus' hang loose, blood. She gonna catch ya up on da' rebound on da' med side.
LOL, you ain't right...however, you in charge, good luck, I have a cigar calling me...
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2777. auburn (Mod)
Quoting tkeith:
2758. auburn 7:53 PM CDT on July 27, 2010

auburn is that really you?


Nope...LOL...dont post here at all...you know that!!!Gezzz
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You know im curious?People on here bash joe bastardi, they bash the nhc forecasters.,They bash the local meterologist.But if you say anything against masters they act if hes perfect.I am also curious to why people are so niave to notice that he is a bias gw supporter.You know he is wrong i have found in the last as much or more on his statements are predictions as any of the above mentioned.Just because this blog bares his name we should kiss his behind?if we are going to critisize lets not be selective lets spread the wealth.And the man has a phd do you no think he gets a kick out of posting this gw agenda and sit back and watch the fun.
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Quoting KarenRei:


You're referring to the cycles of glaciation brought about by Milankovitch cycles. Milankovitch cycles are related to Earth's orbit and precession. However, the magnitude of the forcing is much lower than the observed change; the forcing leads to CO2 feedback. On long time scales, CO2 is a feedback; while CO2's atmospheric residency time may seem long to us, it's nothing compared to tens of thousands of years. On short timescales (say, relative to human lifespans), it's forcing.

The issue with AGW is not *that* the temperature and CO2 levels are changing. It's the *rate* that they're changing -- orders of magnitude faster than any time since the PETM.



Why should he do that? Is that really what you think it takes to reach 350ppm?



Global warming is a verifiable fact, both forecast and observed. "Carbon footprint" is a marketing term, albeit a well-meaning one.



You don't get a Ph.D without papers to your name. But that's a rather silly argument; the state of science is defined by what passes peer-review, not what you conduct yourself. The speed of light doesn't change simply because I refuse to measure it myself.



First off, is it your impression that global warming means that everywhere on the planet warms evenly, all at once, and that weather (random variations in temperature, precipitation, etc) ceases to exist? Really? If so, you've totally missed the boat on this one. Weather dominates the climate signal on a year-to-year basis. The climate signal dominates in the multi-decadal and beyond ranges.

Secondly, regional weather change != global climate change.

Third, your premise is erroneous. You can generate temperature anomaly charts here.

December - February:


March to May:


June:


So as you can see, Antarctica was warmer than average this winter and this spring. It was only just recently below average, in June -- and was the only place a relevant amount below average on the planet, with most of the planet well above average. Note that Antarctica's size is artifically magnified due to the map projection.

In case you're curious, with the exception of the Antarctic peninsula, the climate models call for only slow warming of Antarctica -- and a lot more precipitation. This is partly due to the Antarctic Circumpolar Current

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...
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2774. tkeith
Quoting Surfcropper:


a ghost that's sweating..
;)
auburns here to see if anyone is forecasting a cold front movin thru Alabama...
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Hey Auburn, it's not his opinion that is causing problems. It is all the arguing back and forth about it and so many other opinions.


My experience is it's the uninformed opinions that are largely the problem.
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well stillwaiting I think that we may have 2 invest to track soon
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Here we go...sorry Mrs....you din'nt pre declare...so all Mr's please declare now and all Mrs"s declare after...and all Ms's declare ther after...and all..oh hell, now what
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2767. tkeith
Quoting Tazmanian:



if not your seeing a ghost
I think it's a ghost Taz...
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2766. OneDrop
Need a good campaign manager?
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Quoting tkeith:
2758. auburn 7:53 PM CDT on July 27, 2010

auburns is that really you?



if not your seeing a ghost
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2761. tkeith
2758. auburn 7:53 PM CDT on July 27, 2010

auburn is that really you?
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Quoting auburn:
GW...or no GW...this is Doctor Masters Blog and his site for that matter..if ya don't respect his opinion ...don't post here...its not that hard!all I have to say
Hey Auburn, it's not his opinion that is causing problems. It is all the arguing back and forth about it and so many other opinions.
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2759. tkeith
Quoting stillwaiting:
I would put zero faith in a forecast model 384hrs out,purely for entertainment purposes only!!!!,lol...we'll have a invest this weekend to track IMO....
...and hopefully a new blog *sighs*
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2758. auburn (Mod)
GW...or no GW...this is Doctor Masters Blog and his site for that matter..if ya don't respect his opinion ...don't post here...its not that hard!all I have to say
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I would put zero faith in a forecast model 384hrs out,purely for entertainment purposes only!!!!,lol...we'll have a invest this weekend to track IMO....
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What bothers me is there are people on here who have never been on before and are only on in order to argue GW. I only want to talk tropics. If you want to argue GW and politics than get off!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Quoting Relix:
Stop the freaking GW debate please. It's going nowhere. Preach about your truth through messages or something, most here don't really care about your opinion. I just want some tropical chat in a tropical blog. Yes things are warmer bla bla bla, some say CO is to blame, the sun.. etc etc. Let's just talk that the models are showing a few systems coming.
Member Since: September 7, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 703
Quoting NttyGrtty:
Mr. Storm Watch...watch is your point, couse I'm missing it?
Actually, it's Mrs. and if he is Mr. Pearson I am sure you are Mr/Mrs someone too.
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2754. palmpt
Quoting Tazmanian:
am planing too run for President in 2016





One day I will tell you who I am... I can help you! Taz for president! Has a ring to it... And you will know when to do evacuations!
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Quoting Ossqss:
2722. KarenRei 8:30 PM EDT on July 27, 2010

Well, I will ask one more time for someone to show me where Steve Goddard is wrong in this evaluation. Perhaps you can help me understand the impact on accuracy and why I should trust it via the current methodology. TIA


GISS Swiss Cheese


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 – based on the idea that temperatures don’t vary much over 1200 km. It seems “reasonable enough” 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.
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Mr. Storm Watch...what is your point?
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2750. Patrap
Well that's one less screw I'll have to tighten obviously.



LOL.

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new wind shear map not that bad out there other then a few 20 too 30kt or then that wind shear is this low

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2746. tkeith
Quoting Surfcropper:
This post has a 90% chance to be given a minus rating for obvious reasons.

:)
Quoting Tazmanian:
am planing too run for President in 2016



Taz for Prez...
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Quoting NttyGrtty:
Mr. Pearson, challenge accepted. Jeff Masters, the good PatRap has accepted my challenge that you have accepted PatRap as Mr. Pearson. Having seen it it your previous blogs, I assume we are in agreement...Pat Pearson is, in fact, PATRAP on the blog
What is your point because I am missing it ?
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Nobody's fighting....but it's still early!
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Mr. Pearson, challenge accepted. Jeff Masters, the good PatRap has accepted my challenge that you have accepted PatRap as Mr. Pearson. Having seen it it your previous blogs, I assume we are in agreement...Pat Pearson is, in fact, PATRAP on the blog
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Sorry bout the misquote. I meant GFS
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Quoting btwntx08:

well no it took a break for an hr then its starting to return



shhhhhh dont say any thing
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Quoting Tazmanian:
am planing too run for President in 2016





I'll vote for ya Taz!
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but cast a lot of $ i here
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Quoting HouGalv08:
Good evening all.
Taz, does the NOGAPS have support from other models?


not sure
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am planing too run for President in 2016



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Quoting Tazmanian:
Colin, Danielle, Earl and soon to be Fiona all on one map on the GFS map...lid is about to come off


Good evening all.
Taz, does the NOGAPS have support from other models?
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About JeffMasters

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