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: 2634 - 2584

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

2634. viman
Is it safe to venture out into the blog yet....or are conditions still hostile....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Diplomacy:
Hi, Catas! How's the fam?


fine and how are u and yours?
sheri
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Can you give me a link?
Not me. Don't know how. Ask xcool or btwntx. Sorry.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I've been reading this blog for six or seven years. It looks roughly the same to me as it always did.

Go fig.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting stormwatcherCI:
I could handle the GW talk but the nit picking back on forth gets om last nerve. Many regardless of age need to grow up.
Yep. Well the GW talk keep going on for hours and then political fights started and then back to GW talk and so on...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Don't take the CMC seriously.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23880
Quoting drj10526:


I have been reading this blog for 5+ years and I used to come to here for information but now it is useless. All I read is bickering and personal attacks. I think a group of people have caused the best contributors to post less frequent because they probably don't want to read this crap either. If you are here to talk weather than what is the point of the personal attacks? I don't get it. If you all want a blog of like minded opinions and backgrounds then got talk to the mirror because this blog is nosediving.

I come here to read about the tropics not to convert others to my way of thinking , give it a try.

+1
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
All the regulars had to go to my blog earlier because of the overwhelming amount of Global Warming talk.
I could handle the GW talk but the nit picking back on forth gets om last nerve. Many regardless of age need to grow up.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting stormwatcherCI:
CMC showing development in the Caribbean and east of the Antilles in 144 hrs.

Can you give me a link?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting drj10526:


I have been reading this blog for 5+ years and I used to come to here for information but now it is useless. All I read is bickering and personal attacks. I think a group of people have caused the best contributors to post less frequent because they probably don't want to read this crap either. If you are here to talk weather than what is the point of the personal attacks? I don't get it. If you all want a blog of like minded opinions and backgrounds then got talk to the mirror because this blog is nosediving.

I come here to read about the tropics not to convert others to my way of thinking , give it a try.

They say great minds think alike. I was typing my comment while you were typing yours. LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting catastropheadjuster:

You know it's awful you have to pick on Pat behind his back. He gives good hurricane prep info out on here to people that need it and he will try to answer any ones questions and yes he will ignore his version of the TROLLS. His blog will tell you about Hurricane preparedness and the things you need. And he has a heart of Gold. He is a very kind person. So you ought to be ashamed of yourselves for talking about him behind his back.
So do we have anything to watch for?
sheri
Ma'am, with all due respect, there is nothing that happens here behind Mr. Pearson's back. His heart may be kind to you, but if you pay attention here, he has a VERY vindictive side towards anyone who contradicts his mantra on this, Jeff Master's, blog. Patrick has his own blog, feel free to brag on him there. Here, he is one of many, and his heart is questioned daily, as is many other's. With respect, Ma'am...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Very significant development...looks like a category 1 hurricane to me.

O_O If it's in the Lesser Antilles (Which it is)
I need to watch it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting catastropheadjuster:


Thank you for answering my question, I was wondering cause today on here some of the regulars couldn't even hardly talk about the tropics with out someone trying to start trouble.
Sheri
I used to really enjoy coming on here since I live in the Caribbean and could get good info. Not liking it too much lately and not seeing the older bloggers on here very much now.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


I have been reading this blog for 5+ years and I used to come to here for information but now it is useless. All I read is bickering and personal attacks. I think a group of people have caused the best contributors to post less frequent because they probably don't want to read this crap either. If you are here to talk weather than what is the point of the personal attacks? I don't get it. If you all want a blog of like minded opinions and backgrounds then got talk to the mirror because this blog is nosediving.

I come here to read about the tropics not to convert others to my way of thinking , give it a try.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting catastropheadjuster:


Thank you for answering my question, I was wondering cause today on here some of the regulars couldn't even hardly talk about the tropics with out someone trying to start trouble.
Sheri
All the regulars had to go to my blog earlier because of the overwhelming amount of Global Warming talk.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting stormwatcherCI:
CMC showing development in the Caribbean and east of the Antilles in 144 hrs.


Thank you for answering my question, I was wondering cause today on here some of the regulars couldn't even hardly talk about the tropics with out someone trying to start trouble.
Sheri
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FLdewey:


Vorticity is gone.

You should be thinking about my dog climatology. He's not looking good.
Oh man. Hope he feels better.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
there was a wave showing in the Central atlantic this morning, and showing well. Whether its in the ITCZ I do not know, but I can tell you that it was impressive looking.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting stormwatcherCI:
CMC showing development in the Caribbean and east of the Antilles in 144 hrs.
Very significant development...looks like a category 1 hurricane to me.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
*Watching Jeopardy...thinking about FLdewey's cat Vorticity...*
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting catastropheadjuster:

I DID READ
well i have read many things u write and u love to start crap. but you have been egging it on. your not mr innocent.
Movin on your not worth getting in trouble for I said my 2 cents worth.
Is the tropics gonna heat up anytime soon?
Sheri
CMC showing development in the Caribbean and east of the Antilles in 144 hrs.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FLdewey:


I'm not the one picking on Pat. REALLY pay a little more attention before you accuse the wrong ones!

I DID READ
well i have read many things u write and u love to start crap. but you have been egging it on. your not mr innocent.
Movin on your not worth getting in trouble for I said my 2 cents worth.
Is the tropics gonna heat up anytime soon?
Sheri
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2601KARe: ???
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AussieStorm:
Oh would you people in here just grow up. It's like kindergarten in here sometimes.


Hey Aussie,
Hope all's well.
Another one from, The World Explained With Cows:
AUSTRALIANISM: You have two cows. You take one to the beach and teach it to surf, then you bung the other one on the barbie, drink some VB, and laugh at the idea of a surfing cow.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
You can head over to my blog, it's only about the tropics. Might be a little slow right now though.

i think i'll come back in a few days when the little kiddies decide to do up there shoe laces by themselves. a lot of people tripping over there own egos in here.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15935
Quoting MechEngMet:
Anyone else loose it?


Pet peeve...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
#2592...hang in there Gramps, it's been an interensting day. Seeing the wrinkles on your avatar, you must be at least a million years old. So, as someone who was there, lets settle this once and for all, please tell us: is glogal warming real or a hoax?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Wow! I stepped out last night because the AGW promoters were getting out of hand. I check in again and they're still at it.

I'm gone until some sanity returns. Oh I see JFLorida caught a ban. hmmm...

Anyone else loose it?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2597. Ossqss
Something new learned today from NASA's fleet of five THEMIS spacecraft :)

Spacequakes Rumble Near Earth


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The GOM sure looks busy.....This isn't suppose to do anything though right?

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FLdewey:


Son of a...

So obvious.

You know it's awful you have to pick on Pat behind his back. He gives go info out on here to people that need it and he will try to answer any ones questions and yes he will ignore the TROLLS. His blog will tell you about Hurricane prepared ness and the things you need. And he has a heart of Gold. He is a very kind person. So you ought to be ashamed of yourselves for talking about him behind his back.
So do we have anything to watch for?
sheri
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AussieStorm:
Oh would you people in here just grow up. It's like kindergarten in here sometimes.
You can head over to my blog, it's only about the tropics. Might be a little slow right now though.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FLdewey:


Son of a...

So obvious.
what's obvious?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AussieStorm:
Oh would you people in here just grow up. It's like kindergarten in here sometimes.
+1
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FLdewey:


I'm offended that you guys can't recognize a REALLY bad Photoshop job.
Oh, I thought he was for real...lol. It isn't a bad photoshop, I swear there are like 100 of them here.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Oh would you people in here just grow up. It's like kindergarten in here sometimes.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15935
Quoting FLdewey:


I'm offended that you guys can't recognize a REALLY bad Photoshop job.


No photoshop, they just ran a story on the evening news. It's actually different kinds of rice which have different color leaves.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 11053
the CMC model is showing the wave between 30-40W to develop let me repost a small part of what I posted earler




Member Since: Posts: Comments:
offended?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 2634 - 2584

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.