Storms of My Grandchildren by Dr. James Hansen

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

"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."

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 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 It is the most effective and responsible leadership in the public struggle for climate justice."

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 Dr. Hansen's web site is

Jeff Masters

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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Environmental Awareness

Stephen Hawking Worried That Global Warming Will Turn Earth Into Venus

by Dena Marie Kelly

Among Hawking's many other scientific investigations, included are the study of: quantum cosmology, cosmic inflation, helium production in anisotropic Big Bang universes, large N cosmology, the density matrix of the universe, topology and structure of the universe, baby universes, Yang-Mills instantons and the S matrix; anti de Sitter space, quantum entanglement and entropy; the nature of space and time, including the arrow of time; spacetime foam, string theory, supergravity, Euclidean quantum gravity, the gravitational Hamiltonian; Brans-Dicke and Hoyle-Narlikar theories of gravitation; gravitational radiation, and wormholes.(
Jan 24, 2007

'Stephen William Hawking is a British theoretical physicist. Hawking is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He is known for his contributions to the fields of cosmology and quantum gravity, especially in the context of black holes, and his popular works in which he discusses his own theories and cosmology in general. These include the runaway popular science bestseller A Brief History of Time, which stayed on the London Sunday Times bestseller list for a record-breaking 37 weeks.

His two most important scientific contributions up until now have been providing, with Roger Penrose, theorems regarding singularities in the framework of general relativity, and the theoretical discovery that black holes emit radiation, which is today known as Hawking radiation (or sometimes as Bekenstein-Hawking radiation).

His scientific career spans more than forty years. His books and public appearances have made him an academic celebrity and world renowned physical theorist.' ( )

When asked about the environment, Stephen Hawking said he was "very worried about global warming." He said he was afraid Earth "might end up like Venus , at 250 degrees centigrade [482 degrees Fahrenheit] and raining sulfuric acid."

China is the second-largest producer of the greenhouse gases that are causing global warming, after the United States. Experts warn that if emissions aren't reduced, the world's glaciers could melt (which they are right now), threatening cities and triggering droughts and other environmental disasters.

Hawking was in Beijing to attend a conference on string theory, a field of physics that attempts to explain and model the universe.

Some speakers at the seminar included David J. Gross, winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize for physics, EdwardWitten, winner of the Fields Medal in mathematics in 1990, and a few other prolific scientists in the field. (

--Now about that Dooms Day Clock....

'In 1947 the Bulletin introduced its clock to convey the perils posed by nuclear weapons through a simple design. The Doomsday Clock evoked both the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero).

In 1949 Bulletin leaders realised that movement of the minute hand would signal the organization’s assessment of world events.

The decision to move the minute hand is made by the Bulletin's Board of Directors in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:

How much should a coastal resident or someone living inland on a plain have to pay to move for sea level rise that was caused by global warming by emissions from other people?

First off, sea levels arent gonna rise... so the point is mute. Secondly why should i have to pay for you to move? I live in vabeach... but if i gotta move ill move. If this GW ever happens, you know how much fertile land will open up in Northern areas? millions of square miles.
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Quoting DestinJeff:

Instead of us having the maturity of a 13 year old ... it was sort of self-deprecating.
Oh, ok. Good night.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting DestinJeff:
I don't see how an opinion about climate can be despicable.

Hang out here long enough...We'll fix that!

| Ignore User

LOL, with that I'm really out.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
.."Planet Caravan"..

We sailed through endless skies
Stars shine like eyes
The black night sighs
The moon in silver trees
Falls down in tears

Light of the night
The earth, a purple blaze
Of sapphire haze in orbital ways

While down below the trees
Bathed in cool breeze
Silver starlight breaks dawn from night
And so we pass on by
The crimson eye of great god Mars
As we travel the universe

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Quoting DestinJeff:

Always knew you were mature for your age.
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Quoting Diplomacy:
How's everyone doing?

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Quoting DestinJeff:

Masters after posting the blog entry:


It's funny 'cause it's true!
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Quoting Surfcropper:
Nothing wrong with GW/AGW litterature in public libraries

Sure. Mine keeps it right in with the other "hard sciences" books.

Like "Dianetics".
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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
I don't see how an opinion about climate can be despicable.

Hang out here long enough...We'll fix that!
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Since I have no knowledge in Global Warming or Tax Dollars...I'm out...Good night everyone!

Seriously the only people that I understand are DestinJeff and Fldewey.
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402. Halyn
354. Ossqss 9:30 PM CDT on July 26, 2010
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:

People like me ossqss? What do you mean by that?

Obvious trouble makers with a history of such. Your email has been reported for action by Admin.


I want to make sure I am understanding your answer correctly .. Simons is despicable because he doesn't agree with you ??? Neither do I .. and I am not despicable. I don't see how an opinion about climate can be despicable.

"Function: adjective
Etymology: Late Latin despicabilis, from Latin despicari to despise
Date: 1553
: deserving to be despised : so worthless or obnoxious as to rouse moral indignation
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Quoting LoneStarWeather:

That would be $0.00. Why should any of us pay a dime in taxes to relocate anyone who choses to stay by a rising sea? Last time I checked, this was still a free society. Although there are obviously plenty of people here who are chomping at the bit to turn it socialist.

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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
My criticism is that the science fiction story Dr. Hansen wrote towards the end---well it was pretty bad. But the science throughout the book is logically argued and demonstrated. And makes sense.

Having a good editor makes all the difference!
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Quoting Jeff9641:

Use some of those tax dollars to buy a shirt.

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Quoting DestinJeff:
Anybody have any thoughts on Global Warming/Climate Change? Just wondering...

JFlorida has all his left-wing talking points ready for anyone who dares to disagree with him.
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Quoting DestinJeff:
Anybody have any thoughts on Global Warming/Climate Change? Just wondering...

Hi Jeff, Dontcha just luv Dr. Masters?!
What a hero!

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Interestingly though the increase in vector borne tropical diseases is in line with climate change warnings. Other disease filled in where malaria once was considered of course, but reality here is mirroring the disastrous predictions of the science.

Actually, these are diseases that used to be present in locations where they are now "entering." Through the use of various pesticides in the past, we removed things like malaria and dengue from, for instance, the United States. In the absence of adequate mosquito controls, the vectors and their diseases are returning.
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Quoting DestinJeff:
I think the comments section here tonight is one of the signs of the Apocalypse.

(BOT) a cumputer generated crystal ball for the follys of man on earth
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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