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Storms of my grandchildren by James Hansen

Storms of my grandchildren (2009)

by James Hansen

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3.5 stars

James Hansen was a scientist at NASA with a particular interest in climate change. This book explains what is happening with climate change and what needs to be done to stop the potentially devastating effects.

I was listening to the audio, and I think that made it a bit tougher for the science. I am interested, but listening to it was probably more dry than reading it, I'd guess. I've read a lot about it, anyway, but there were plenty of things I didn't know, either. I really didn't know much (anything?) about nuclear power, so that was an interesting chapter to me. What I really liked about the book, though, was the politics. Hansen was an insider, so it was especially interesting to read about that aspect. And he did talk about it quite a bit in the book. There are charts included in the book: with the audio came a pdf that you could open if you wanted to refer to those charts (and he would mention it in the audio when he was talking about one of those charts included in the pdf), which I thought was a good idea. Overall, I'll rate it good. ( )
  LibraryCin | May 30, 2014 |
This is the most important book of our time. Please read and take action to stop climate change. ( )
  supremumlimit | Oct 14, 2012 |
We could leave the coal in the ground, but will we? If we don't we could trigger a run-away green-house effect. Hansen is an atmospheric scientist and makes a compelling argument that we must phase out coal and leave the oil shale and tar sands alone. ( )
  jefware | Oct 17, 2011 |
It's over by the year 2525. By that year there will be nothing living on Earth larger than a bacteria. The oceans are now mist in the atmosphere. Aliens that left their far away worlds many years ago to visit Earth because they detected life here will arrive to find a mostly lifeless planet. They will leave in disgust- muttering, stupid earthlings. They ruined a perfectly good third rock from the sun. As far as doomsday scenarios go this one is as bleak as they come. No post apocalyptic survivors struggling against the odds. Everything's is toast, albeit soggy toast.

Storms is mainly a science book describing the science behind global warming. It can get detailed but Hansen is thorough. His career has been spent in developing and advancing the science. He is optimistic that changes can be made in time to prevent a lifeless Earth. He does believe that if every last hydrocarbon is burned for energy, including tar sands and shale oil, then the Earth will rebel and wipe us out. We might hold off the nuclear demons but fall to the greenhouse gas demons. 500 years at the most before this doomsday. ( )
  VisibleGhost | Feb 1, 2011 |
James Hansen is one of the scientists who first publicly spoke out about global warming in the late 80s. Hansen has done a lot of very important research that has been crucial to understanding the climate change issue. He's always been a quiet guy though, preferring to stick to science rather than publicly talk about global warming. But not anymore; as he says in the book, Hansen has been forced to speak out because of government greenwash and public misunderstanding of climate change. Not only that, the climate science has become much clearer in recent years; it is now clear that unless we, within a decade, change direction drastically, we are in danger of wiping ourselves off the planet. Hansen is not exaggerating. He decided to write the book for these reasons, and because he felt he owed it to his grandchildren. He didn't want them to wonder why he didn't speak out when he knew all of this.

Though Hansen does, of course, occasionally get into some really dense science in this book, overall it is very readable. He writes with an oddly casual tone, that makes the book feel rather personal- as if he is just sitting down and talking to you. He covers all the basics of climate change that people should know about; climate forcings, the exact difference between weather and climate, ice sheet collapse, feedback mechanisms that amplify climate change, sea level rise etc. But this book is also somewhat autobiographical; Hansen talks about his own personal experiences with the government and the increasingly political NASA under the Bush administration, as he refused to be censored. There is also, unsurprisingly, a lot about his grandchildren; this may be a scientific book, but it is also an intensely personal one, and it is Hansen's personal pleas for the world's grandchildren to be given a fair chance in life that are the most memorable part of the book.

One of the most haunting chapters is The Venus Syndrome, when Hansen discusses the possibility of runaway climate change ending life on Earth totally. He thinks that if we burn all fossil fuels, including things like the Canadian tar sands, this is a dead certainty. Hopefully other issues will get in the way of that occurring, and I'm pretty sure they will, but even the possibility of this occurring is a pretty frightening thought.

The most interesting chapter is An Effective Path- the solutions chapter. Here he explains what is so wrong with the cap-and-trade system that is touted around the world as being the best way to reduce emissions- it was this sort of scheme that was in the Kyoto Protocol and which Copenhagen was supposed to give us. Hansen's arguments against this are extremely compelling, as are his arguments for fee-and-dividend system, sometimes called a carbon tax- Hansen doesn't like this name as it implies that cap-and-trade isn't a tax, which it is, it's just a hidden one that gives no benefits to citizens.

Less compelling are his words on alternative energy. Well, only a little bit less; Hansen for the most part knows the facts about clean energy. He recognises that 'clean coal' is not a legitimate solution, and is being used by governments to make it look like their doing something, when in fact there are many technological issues with clean coal, and it will likely never get off the ground- or at earliest, 2040, which is rather late. He also recognises that renewable energy is generally not capable of providing baseload electricity needs, due to its intermittent nature. This is all good stuff, though much more can be found elsewhere explaining why clean coal and renewable energy are insufficient to run industrial civilisation in its current form.

The big problem is Hansen's bit on nuclear energy, which can be best described as cornucopian. He talks about the potential of the speculative fourth generation nuclear power plants, which are said to be able to use 99% of the energy from uranium (as opposed to current nuclear power plants, which use very little and the rest comes out as nuclear waste), to supply electricity for thousands of years with current supplies of uranium. I didn't know anything about this at the time of reading, so I was thoroughly absorbed by it all. Then I went away and read about 4th generation nuclear, or breeder reactors, more; turns out test ones have been made in some countries, and there are a hell of a lot of technological issues that have to be overcome for it to ever be possible, and we don't have time for those to be sorted out. Hansen is cautious in his support of nuclear energy, due to the fact that 4th generation nuclear power plants haven't been made yet, but I feel he gives too much of an impression that this is the answer to all of our problems, which it really isn't.

Aside from that, Hansen has written a very good book. It is an effective introduction to climate change, and is good for those looking for an update of the science too. Certainly worth reading. ( )
  BenDV | Sep 14, 2010 |
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To Sophie, Connor, Jake, and all the world's grandchildren
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A large police dog was led in to sniff around the room - we presumed that it was checking for bombs.
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A leading scientist on climate issues offers his views on the growing threat of human-caused climate change and looks at why the proposed solutions are not sufficient to stop a global meltdown.

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