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 Patrap:
And were the first city below sea Level CJ..to Win a Super Bowl.

Where was that..


O yeah.

Miami.

LOL

Where Floridicy Flourishes dey say here.


Eh?
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3710
2433. Patrap
..All the Young Dude's
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am forcasting 20 name storms



and i being nic
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Do you think Dr. Masters warned the admin's? :)

Some good pop up showers in TX today from that ULL. I think that the ULL that killed Bonnie dropped more rain than she ever did.
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2430. tkeith
smoke em if ya got em...
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2429. Patrap
Quoting tkeith:
I live in New Orleans...My house is above sea level by 11 feet...

This blog needs more Dudeism...


U betcha's..t..

LOL
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Quoting fallinstorms:
since, no one believes me, this is why i think this season is weak!

No major storms in July(=WEAK!)
the winter was very cold
high wind
alot of dust
low ssts

nothing proves this is an active season

even this season will have more storms

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1986_Atlantic_hurricane_season



lol
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2427. tkeith
I live in New Orleans...My house is above sea level by 11 feet...

This blog needs more Dudeism...
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2426. Patrap
Quoting CJ5:


Who are you trying to BS? About 48% of New Orleans is below sea level. Try to speak the truth.

I have visited NO many times, lovely place. But perhaps the French should have kept thier capital in Mobile.

Oh..and I don't need your history lesson from below. I am quite familair with the topic.





Go be all you can be,.




I certainly havent kept you from any Misguided posts.

Feel free to continue.


"Live Long and Prospa"..

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2424. CJ5
Quoting Patrap:
New Orleans is way above sea Level less Informend one..esp the Port areas.


....which have never flooded.

You should visit. Millions do.



Who are you trying to BS? About 48% of New Orleans is below sea level. Try to speak the truth.

I have visited NO many times, lovely place. But perhaps the French should have kept thier capital in Mobile.

Oh..and I don't need your history lesson from below. I am quite familair with the topic.
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Comment 2403 Was the most interesting and informative of any of the other 2400+ quotes so far! Have a nice day Pat.
New Orleans: A Geopolitical Prize

By George Friedman

http://www.stratfor.com/news/archive...cs_katrina.php
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2422. xcool
models are showing activity
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Quoting btwntx08:

i hope that u will survive 1000000 lbs of crow



LMAO that was funny
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Quoting gator23:

a cat two and a tropical storm with 9 invests by July is not what I would call a weak season.


A huge Cat 2, with a central pressure more like a Cat 3, at that.
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2419. gator23
Quoting hydrus:
When things start to fire up out in the tropics this time, we probably wont have a break in the action at least 2 months.,,.jmo

i agree that guy is trollish
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2417. Patrap
New Orleans is not optional for the United States' commercial
infrastructure. It is a terrible place for a city to be located, but
exactly the place where a city must exist. With that as a given, a
city will return there because the alternatives are too devastating.
The harvest is coming, and that means that the port will have to be
opened soon. As in Iraq, premiums will be paid to people prepared to
endure the hardships of working in New Orleans. But in the end, the
city will return because it has to.

Geopolitics is the stuff of permanent geographical realities and the
way they interact with political life. Geopolitics created New
Orleans. Geopolitics caused American presidents to obsess over its
safety. And geopolitics will force the city's resurrection, even if
it is in the worst imaginable place.


..End O line.

Carry on.

.."Your doing a Fine,no heck of a Job on the subject matta"..
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2415. gator23
Quoting CJ5:


See your quick to wit reply's leave nothing to the discussion. No one is talking about Ports, we are talking about city's being built below sea level. Something you know all about. Yet you try to deflect it to mean ports. Well, kiddo, most all ports are built above sea level as all ports are part of cities that are above sea level.

My post was in reference to your city, which is most below sea level and we all know what a disaster that can be. Right?

I am pretty well traveled. I don't need an education on cities and ports.


CJ dont argue with Pat it is useless. He thinks he is the blog god. He knocks every other state that isnt Louisiana and he gets very defensive when you talk about anything that ISNT Louisiana.Like you said he makes these off hand quick witted comments that add nothing to discourse.
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not submitted because no changes were made to the album it says that when i click send all to photo approval queue someone whisper me and help me please
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Quoting Patrap:
Show me a Port above sea Level and Ill sell ya a Bank in Bangkok.



LOL


Duisburg. Handles an average of 70 million tonnes of goods and over 20,000 ships per year, with 21 docks and 40 km of wharf -- all at ~30m altitude.

There are many more examples, but they're the world's busiest inland port. :)

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2408. hydrus
Quoting gator23:

a cat two and a tropical storm with 9 invests by July is not what I would call a weak season.
When things start to fire up out in the tropics this time, we probably wont have a break in the action at least 2 months.,,.jmo
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2402. xcool
go to MiamiHurricanes09 page .tropical talk
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2401. Patrap
New Orleans is way above sea Level less Informend one..esp the Port areas.


....which have never flooded.

You should visit. Millions do.

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Here in Fort Myers FL and we are having a Bad storm now compared to Bonnie..lol

just felt like sharing that :)
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2397. CJ5
Quoting Patrap:


Nothing to say...

Where the water meets the Land in any port is sea Level.

But I digress.

Carl.


When you get some travel under your belt..you may notice it.


See your quick to wit reply's leave nothing to the discussion. No one is talking about Ports, we are talking about city's being built below sea level. Something you know all about. Yet you try to deflect it to mean ports. Well, kiddo, most all ports are built above sea level as all ports are part of cities that are above sea level.

My post was in reference to your city, which is most below sea level and we all know what a disaster that can be. Right?

I am pretty well traveled. I don't need an education on cities and ports.
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2396. gator23
Quoting fallinstorms:
GW has made this blog fall apart

maybe the topic should of been about this weak hurricane season

RIP Blog :(

Couldn't keep them on the tropics

a cat two and a tropical storm with 9 invests by July is not what I would call a weak season.
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Quoting CJ5:


You have been given hundreds, you just chose to ignore them. Sorry.


Hundreds of such peer-reviewed papers? Not likely! lol
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Anyone tired about the GW debate?

Lets talk about the economics of using fossil fuels. They are a finite resource that will get more scarce over time because of increased energy demands. This will lead to them becoming increasingly expensive. There is very little competition between fossil fuels and renewable energy. This near monopoly will cost us trillions of dollars in the 21st century.

More competition between renewable energy and fossile fuels will help keep the price of the later in check. China and countries in the Eurozone are ahead of the U.S. in renewable energy technology so we are now at a competitive disadvantage. We must invest in these new technologies in order to gain more "green" jobs. We can't afford to be a "Do Nothing" country on renewable energy.
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Quoting FLdewey:
Come now, we're over the whole climate discussion. :-)


It's the topic of the blog!!!.. if you dont like it, dont read or at the very least come back tomorrow.. LOL
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Quoting Patrap:
Stop Global Whining


Now that was funny!
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hey guys I was just checking some models and the CMC model has something that you should see and yes I know that sometimes it is allways making storms and sometimes it come true but just hear me out that wave near 30-40W has got some convection even thou it is small and the environment ahead of it is good to some extent this is what the model has to say about it


and
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Quoting sebastianflorida:
If I remeber correctly the last time the current set of names was used was in 2004. Colin replaces Charley, Fiona replaces Frances, Julia replaces Jeanne, and Igor replaces Ivan. Charley didn't become a tropical storm until August 10th, and Bonnie became a Tropical storm on August 9th in 2004.


Quoting sebastianflorida:
Don't know how to spell remember
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2385. Patrap
Quoting CJ5:
Port Elizabeth...right off the top of my head but I could probably name of many, many more if need be. In fact, there are probably more ports above sea level than not.

What are you saying? LOL


Nothing to say...

Where the water meets the Land in any port is sea Level.

But I digress.

Carl.


When you get some travel under your belt..you may notice it.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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