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 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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2733. 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

WU is mentioned in the write up
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been gone 5 hours.. still on GW???
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2729. help4u
I heard alot of good preaching tonight.When do we pass the offering plate.AMEN!!APOCALYPSE-INDUCED MISANTHROPIC ENVIROMENTAL NERVOUSNESS!Got to love the UNIVERSAL CHURCH OF GLOBAL WARMING.
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2728. 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.
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Quoting sailingallover:
I just signed back on and I guess with all the negative posts about global warming everybodies posts are hidden except fro 2 people!! hahahahaha everyone musta been busy on the hide button today!!!



It was bloody!
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I just signed back on and I guess with all the negative posts about global warming everybodies posts are hidden except fro 2 people!! hahahahaha everyone musta been busy on the hide button today!!!
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2723. KYDan
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Quoting MrRight:
If the ice melted 14,000 years ago, who was pumping out all of the CO2?



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.

Quoting MrRight:


Dr. Masters, when you are willing to give up driving, electricity in your house, and everything made directly or indirectly by oil then I might listen to you.



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

Quoting MrRight:
Global warming and term like carbon foot print are nothing more than marketing terms use to squeeze money out of people.



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

Quoting MrRight:
You claim to be an objective scientist, if that is true then start doing some objective research.


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.

Quoting MrRight:
You can start by explaining why we are having record cold in the Antarctic this year, let's -100 today.



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
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2711. There is no doubt that he has done amazing things for his country and community.

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Quoting Patrap:


Any Man who stands tall next to me I will take as a brother.

The one's who slam me dont bother me one iota.,
Eagle101.

But..the light will always draw the dark as well.

"Faith without works ,,
is Dead".

Later..






So dramatic!
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Quoting pilotguy1:


That isn't to say that this kind of inflammatory post such as he made doesn't result in near anarchy on his blog. Maybe that's what he wants but IMHO it just brings out the worst in a lot of folks and isn't very positive for a tropical weather blog that I find should be mostly educational and informative, not people tearing each other limb from limb. Just my thoughts.


I can respect your opinion but still it is up to the people to be responsible and descent people. That is not Dr. Master responsibilities... Gotta own up Folks (not directed at anyone particular)
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Colin, Danielle, Earl and soon to be Fiona all on one map on the GFS map...lid is about to come off


Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114712
In the last 20 mins he has 3.
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2716. Patrap


Any Man who stands tall next to me I will take as a brother.

The one's who slam me dont bother me one iota.,
Eagle101.

But..the light will always draw the dark as well.

"Faith without works ,,
is Dead".

Later..



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Feel free to go to my blog if you're interested in speaking about the tropics.
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Quoting Snowlover123:


Mr. Caicos, have you been here so far today? I will ask you respectfully to stop this Global Warming nonsense. This is a Tropical Weather Blog, and will be. I have no idea why da Doc posted something about GW here, but no one really wants to talk about it, so with all due respect, could you please get on topic. We would sincerely appreciate it. ;)



You gonna ask Patrap the same thing?


If Pat brings it up, yes.
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Quoting Snowlover123:


Mr. Caicos, have you been here so far today? I will ask you respectfully to stop this Global Warming nonsense. This is a Tropical Weather Blog, and will be. I have no idea why da Doc posted something about GW here, but no one really wants to talk about it, so with all due respect, could you please get on topic. We would sincerely appreciate it. ;)



You gonna ask Patrap the same thing?
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Good Evening WU…

I see things have settled down…for the most part…good to see.

I hate to do this, but for NttyGrtty:
Not that Patrick needs anyone defending him, but I will any day. He does make valuable contributions to the board, and his character, reputation, and demeanor will stand any test. He has served his country, volunteers his time to worthy charities and organizations, and keeps his cool, even when some on this board are not so nice…and his quick quips are priceless. Feel free to use whatever pejoratives you think you need to, with regard to him and those on this board who happen to appreciate his presence here, but keep in mind that most are judged by their words and actions. Please take a moment and think about it…take care and do have a good evening…

Very Respectfully,

Jon
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Quoting Snowlover123:


Mr. Caicos, have you been here so far today? I will ask you respectfully to stop this Global Warming nonsense. This is a Tropical Weather Blog, and will be. I have no idea why da Doc posted something about GW here, but no one really wants to talk about it, so with all due respect, could you please get on topic. We would sincerely appreciate it. ;)


This is Dr. Master's blog. I'm under the impression he can post whatever he pleases and, as I read the rules directly above where I'm posting, they say "... please refrain from posting material not relevant... to the topic of the blog entry itself."
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Quoting thewindman:
Hey it's almost August. Still not much action. I think we will be saying the same thing August 27th except it will be "Hey almost September and still no action."


I hope you're right.
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2706. KYDan
Quoting plywoodstatenative:
kydan do you mind telling me what type of map that is, never seen one of its kind before


Which one? I posted two of them.

Dan
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Hey it's almost August. Still not much action. I think we will be saying the same thing August 27th except it will be "Hey almost September and still no action."
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2704. Patrap
The Planet could care less than I do as to what anyone thinks about the warming..

..it continues unabated.

And Man is well...relegated to being the observer..and one day.,well That will pass here on 3rd rock out.

And gaia will recover.

She's a tough Gal.


Rock on I say.
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Evening all

My blog
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2702. Relix
Quoting JLPR2:
bahh

I'll come back when a storm forms.


Haha was thinking the same. Seems like we will have something to watch if the models verify though
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Quoting btwntx08:

miami said so earlier hehe


Oh Ok... if he is begging it. then so be it... LOL
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2700. Patrap
Looks theirs one over there!!...cast near the Main Blog son..,you'll hook one easily.
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Are ya trying to get it going again Pat?

He might have me on ignore.
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2697. JLPR2
bahh

I'll come back when a storm forms.
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2696. Patrap
Im Fair and Balanced here..

Met Sen Inhofe here in 06.

He dont eat fish.

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anyone have a link that shows the MJO chart that represents the MJO positions
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Good night all! Not taking the bait.
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Quoting Patrap:
Best0fScience | May 23, 2010

NASA Global Warming Facts: 2009 - Second Warmest Year on Record; End of Warmest Decade



Sorry Pat but still "Donot Believe In GW"
Just another cycle....
But Thanks Anyway...

Taco :o)
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3237
Quoting Patrap:
Entry Denial-casters ?

O--k..........



I'm all argued out...
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Quoting MrRight:
If the ice melted 14,000 years ago, who was pumping out all of the CO2?



No one. The end of the Ice Age was due to other forcings. CO2 did act as a feedback several hundred years after the warming began.

Dr. Masters, when you are willing to give up driving, electricity in your house, and everything made directly or indirectly by oil then I might listen to you.



Why? Do you think that Dr. Masters' or anyone else's personal habits have any bearing on whether or not AGW is factual?

You claim to be an objective scientist, if that is true then start doing some objective research. You can start by explaining why we are having record cold in the Antarctic this year, let's -100 today.



I'm not Dr. Masters, of course, but I believe that that phenomenon is known as "winter." It is also weather not climate. And lastly, it is local, not global.

Globally, it has been a *very* warm year.
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Quoting btwntx08:
fallinstorms go to miamihurricanes blog ur comment is need there lol
Why why why???
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2685. Patrap
Best0fScience | May 23, 2010

NASA Global Warming Facts: 2009 - Second Warmest Year on Record; End of Warmest Decade


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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.