‘Storms of My Grandchildren’

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Book review by Richard Douse

“Storms of My Grandchildren”
By James Hansen
Published by Bloomsbury USA 2009

James Hansen is a scientist.  He has been all his life.  He is generally regarded as the world’s foremost authority on global warming and climate change.  Indeed, he has been called the father of global warming.  But he is also a grandfather who sees a train coming down the tracks, and his grandkids are on that train.  There’s a bridge out up ahead.  Nobody seems to see it – what do you do?

Scientists are generally reluctant to state anything with 100% certainty.  Unless, of course, you are in the pocket of the tobacco industry, the pesticide industry, or big coal.  That kind of scientist does not hesitate.  Their paycheck depends on speaking out aggressively and with certainty.

Dr. Hansen is not that kind of scientist.   Never has been.  Now however, in addition to being a scientist, he is also a grandfather who loves his grandkids and, based on a lifetime study on climate forcing and feedback loops, he knows full well what is in store for them.   He has decided not to remain silent.  He is speaking out, not for money, but for his grandchildren.

As he points out in “Storms of My Grandchildren,” climate change deniers (he calls them “contrarians”), as few as they may be, seem to get equal time to ridicule conclusions held by the vast majority of scientists throughout the world who are convinced we are headed for trouble.  Indeed, perhaps the most well known contrarian, Richard Lindzen, takes a rather unique position for a scientist.  As Hansen writes, “Lindzen’s perspective on climate sensitivity, as he told Richard Kerr, stems from an idea of the theological or philosophical perspective that he doggedly adheres to. Lindzen is convinced that nature will find ways to cool itself.”  Politicians from both parties seem eager to listen to the deniers: following their view requires no action.  Politicians don’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation we are in.  “On the contrary,” Hansen writes, “they are pursuing policies to get every last drop of fossil fuel, including coal, by whatever means necessary, regardless of environmental damage.”   Well, Dr. Hansen has had enough.  He is speaking of the dire consequences of business as usual.

hansen-bioIn this work Hansen speaks of efforts to silence him.  Some years ago, all NASA press releases were being funneled to the White House for approval or changes.  Under the influence of Vice President Dick Cheney, political appointees such as former NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, with no scientific background, were put in charge of NASA and, Hansen notes, “by 2005, I was well aware that the NASA Office of Public Affairs had become an office of propaganda.”

In “Storms of My Grandchildren,” you will learn to understand the mechanisms of climate change.  As the author says, “This is not difficult!”  He shows the importance of understanding climate-related feedback loops that show how loss of ice cover in the arctic works to speed the release of methane gas locked in the frozen tundra.  The release of methane from the tundra adds to the greenhouse effect in a way that will be totally out of our control once the tundra begins to thaw.  He stresses the importance of getting the current level of CO² down from the present 387 parts per million (and climbing) in our atmosphere, to 350 ppm and below.  This is a change for him, one that is based on new and disturbing data.  Formerly he believed that civilization could handle and adapt to 450 ppm of CO² in our atmosphere.  No longer.

“Storms of My Grandchildren” has a sub-title.  It reads: “The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and our Last Chance to Save Humanity.”  We have one last window of opportunity to save our civilization, but as Dr. Hansen shows, it will not remain open for long.

This is a book for those who are genuinely concerned about the health of our planet and our children and grandchildren, and can deal with hearing unvarnished truth about what is in store for them if we hold the course we are on.  Hansen, with this book, also wishes to show his own grandchildren that he did everything he could to inform people of the dire consequences of their failure to keep coal in the ground, unused, and develop another, different, non CO²  producing base load energy source immediately.

We must stop entirely all burning of coal.  “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 (boiling away of our oceans) is a dead certainty.”  He continues, “. . . the large ice sheets are just beginning to be softened up . . . once ice sheet disintegration begins in earnest, our grandchildren will live the rest of their lives in a chaotic transition period.”  Further, “Business as usual greenhouse gas emissions, without any doubt, will commit the planet to global warming of a magnitude that will lead eventually to an ice free planet.  An ice free planet means a sea level rise of about 75 meters (almost 250 feet).”

I would urge the reader to pay particular attention to what Dr. Hansen has to say about nuclear power plants.  I must say that his argument turned my position 180 degrees.  From someone entirely opposed,  I now urge my elected representatives to support their construction.  His reasons are compelling.

Hansen tells us we cannot depend on politicians in either party to act.  Corporations hold sway over them with money and the power to decide elections.  Our future depends upon citizens learning the truth, and then acting on that truth.  Dr. Hansen put his reputation on the line in speaking out in this work.  He has also placed his own personal freedom in jeopardy when he, along with thirty others, were recently arrested at Coal River Mountain in West Virginia for, “obstructing, impeding flow of traffic.”  At the time of his arrest he was “… reading a statement in front of a Massey Energy facility, the statement being a demand that Massey (1) withdraw its plans to build a coal silo, which would emit tons of coal dust within 300 feet of Marsh Fork Elementary School; (2) fund the building of a new school to replace the one sitting 400 yards downstream of a three-billion-gallon sludge dam; (3) withdraw its permits to blow up Coal River Mountain, which would destroy the mountain’s potential for a proposed wind energy project that would provide permanent clean energy and jobs; and (4) halt mountaintop-removal operations, which are destroying the mountains, poisoning water supplies, and increasing the risk of devastating floods.”  For speaking out and telling the truth,  this grandfather is looking at a one year prison sentence if found guilty.

Images reprinted with author permission.

Richard Douse lives with his two favorite ladies, Tammy, his wife, and Ann Margret, his cat.  They live off the grid in a home they built themselves.  They grow their own food because they don’t trust corporations doing it for them.  Douse thinks himself a liberal.  He believes liberals are blue collar folk who know how to work and think for themselves.  He believes that what we do, individually and collectively, in the next 10 years will determine whether civilization continues – or goes away.

Richard Douse
Richard Douse lives with his two favorite ladies: Tammy, his wife, and Ann Margret, his cat.  They live off the grid in a home they built themselves.  They grow their own food because they don’t trust corporations doing it for them.  Douse thinks of himself as a liberal.  He believes liberals are blue-collar folk who know how to work and think for themselves.  He believes that what we do, individually and collectively, in the next 10 years will determine whether civilization continues - or goes away.
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4 Responses

  1. Avatar Cedric Woods says:

    DRAFT: A fair review – based on other reviews and several years of avidly following Hansen and the Climate Change debate. I will read the book soon! Meantime, the Norwich emails have thrown a useful spanner in the works. I accepted statements of facts (eg graphs of temperature trends) by leading scientists as well intentioned; that is, I assumed they would be worth considering. I took them at face value and understood global warming in that way. Finding that the Director of the Norwich Climate Unit was one of a high-level team of long-term fraudsters was a revelation to me. It helped me make sense of uncertainties I had with the conventional Warmists view. It enabled me to give credit to scientists who denied the Warmist view – Lintzen in particular. Suddenly, but with anger that I had been deceived, the conventional Carbon dioxise-based model of anthropogenic Global Warming disappeared and Climate Change took on a tolerable realism. Now we know that Google cannot produce data or opinions on Climate Change that is reliable. Now we must look to areas other than Physics (Climate Change science) for evidence – Nature. The movements of Animals and Plants to new areas and the extinctions (both local and total) of many can indicate Climate Change – and these data cannot be fraudulent. The fast-approaching demise of the IPCC brand of science means we have limited useful returns on $50Bn worth of Climate Change research. This could spell the end of public support for all science. This far from unlikely turn of events could usher in a Millennium of religion in place of rational ideas. Instead of the Warmists threats (based on falsified data) of run-away climate causing the extinction of our flawed Civilization – and much along with it in an uncontrolled cataclysm, the Earth would have to endure an uncontrolled cataclysm fostered by ignorance. To avoid the worst that is in prospect, we need science – not the weak sham that we have now, but with scientists worthy of respect because they have a mission to save society and for society to accord then the responsibility to promote the necessary enlightenment. James Hansen has been accused of being one of the worst Warmists, one who might have invented the Alarmist camp for revenue gathering for research funds, but his leadership and qualities of sincerity mean he might manage to cross the thin line from cheated Warmist to being a useful Climate pragmatist. Climate pragmatists will need to show a new respect for Nature within the new Climate Change science. The first task will be to find the origin of the erratic recent (and non-exponential) temperature rise in Global Warming because, as Lintzen shows (his climate sensitivity measures), it has nothing to do with the current rise in atmospheric concentrations of Carbon dioxide. Where do we look for the cause – the Water cycles in Nature as affected by Agriculture.

  2. Avatar Art McBride says:

    Interesting stuff Richard and I agree that the peoples of the earth, (particularly those in the industrialized parts of the earth), need to act now to protect our home. Not that I think it will happen because we both know that our world does not work that way.

    And Mr. Woods thank you for your contribution. It is always reassuring to hear that it is water vapor that is the cause of global warming and that if we just have faith in nature the earth will adapt and life as we know it will be fine. I am sure our grandchildren will be glad to hear it. Because if it is true then we can go along just as we are with no harmful result. It is much easier for everyone that way.

    But, just as something to think about, why does the earth need people? It seems that people have become something like the earth's virus intent on destroying their host. People are not only fouling the air but much of the potable water. People use up the earth's resources with little thought of conservation mostly to satisfy wants rather than need. And people are producing more and more people which just compounding the problem . What is it about people that the earth needs? Might the earth be better off without them. And if people are not able to curb the destruction of their host could it be that Mr. Hansen and Mr. Woods are both right. Regardless of the cause, nature or man, is the earth about to renew itself? Is man the new dinosaur?

  3. Avatar Cedric Woods says:

    Art, I'm glad you know about the massive influence on climate of the Water Cycles. But many more people will need to become aware of this before I'll be reassured to the point of complacency, as you suggest (tongue in cheek?). I'm living in one of the most complacent countries on Earth, New Zealand, but as an ecologist I know that Nature, our environment, will need a great deal of help to even begin to stabilize the climate and many related problems. Nature needs help. So that's why I said our future depends on good science, and especially on a new scientific breed of popular Natural History. This will need support from new Information Technology skills to make it easy for anyone to identify, learn from and pass on information about the living beings in their vicinity and compare notes widely. There is enough Nature in cities for everyone to take an interest. Then we can learn about climate change, for example, by observing changes over time made by weeds, insects and other common species. At times we may misunderstand what we see – but Nature will not lie. A locally informed public, assisting and assisted by scientists, would then be able to tell the politicians what's what. We would never again be browbeaten by Alarmists, fraudulent or otherwise. But, just to be on the safe side – hurry!

    You mention population as a big problem and ask “why does the earth need people?”. I only know of one definite answer, as above – because the Earth needs science. Without people and civilisation there will be no science; without science we will not develop the skills to solve the climate and biodiversity problems faster than Nature could. But are there too many people; is that the problem? The main problem is people-times-consumption, and especially people living in affluence. Then, as you say, we are like a destructive virus. People without affluence can be happy and no problem to others. Please see news from Survival International. And, may I suggest, since you ask – Society, and the Biosphere, like never before, are about to renew themselves and each other. It will be our fault if we become extinct in the process – much as Richard Douse has said above.

  4. Avatar Kathy says:

    Great review. Hanssen is to be commended not just for his scientific work, but, more importantly, for his moral courage.

    Spread the word!