2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 May 2013
I saw the hardback of this book in a charity shop in October 2010 and was surprised, because I remembered James Lovelock writing that Dr. Hansen was too busy doing the science to have time to write a book. When I got home and opened it I saw the photo of a child and understood: as he writes,he didn't want his grandchildren to say: "Opa understood what was happening, but he did not make it clear"(p.xii).
He conveys the science in a way that is broadly understandable to a non-scientist like myself, and makes clear his frustration with the political/ big business interests that he finds himself fighting against: 'Larry King... was sympathetic, but upon hearing that the major impacts of current bad policy would occur several decades in the future, he declared, "Nobody cares about fifty years from now."(p.131)
He warns in the book of destabilizing frozen methane on the tundra and continental shelves, and at present is working full-time against the development of tar sands oil, which he believes will be catastrophic for our futures. Scary stuff, I'm glad he went to the trouble of writing this book.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2010
A very honest plea from a man who knows probably better than most, the likely price the world will have to pay if we insist on 'business as usual'. If you want to understand the science, read this book. If you want to understand the unfortunacy of our 'democratic' system in action, read this book. If you are looking for an antidote to torpor and inaction, read this book.
If you prefer a quiet life without challenging questions and confronting dilemmas, DON'T read this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2015
A very-impressive thoroughly-comprehensive summarising of the nightmare-extinction scenario ahead for humankind from Planet Earth becoming a furnace like Planet Venus IF politicians and people fail to ACT on climate-change. For-SURE there will be NO ACTION to REDUCE the rate
of population increase (currently said to have already exceeded 200,000 a DAY!) !! And so the
view I take is that all the very-impressive books by scientists on this looming apocalypse imply
that we are all living on 'borrowed time' and post-WW2 politics and governance has FAILED THE
PLANET. Scientists say that living to the standard we take for granted in Europe that population
on this planet is only cyclically sustainable around two billions. SIX BILLIONS have been added
in my one lifetime so far and it seems that this is on-going until catastrophe does the reducing !! This is a very fine book by a distinguished scientist effectively exposing 'Human Nature' again !!
24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 26 March 2010
James Hansen's book is very easy to read even for the general public, except for some scientific parts he warns his readers for. Compared with other books about global warming, this book is written by an author with personal experience both in the top climate science and in the politics around climate change. The scientific details are very complete with references to even more detailed articles on his website. The books leaves me with a complete overview about all the dimensions of the science of global warming, and it further completes the picture of global warming for me. A new frightening dimension I learned about is the possibility, even on the short term, of severe storms due to an increasing air humidity and an increasing difference between warm and cold air systems.
It also scares me to read the how political appointees at the US president offices determine about the future of our grandchildren by controlling and censuring climate science. And even with the Obama there is not much hope......
The additional value of this book is in its very personal touch by the author.
However, to me there is still one essential piece of the climate puzzle missing. Even Hansen assumes that humanity will continue to live as we are doing now, he only addresses the population problem, in the same consumerism lifestyle and global economic system that are proving not to be sustainable. We are not only emitting greenhouse gasses but we are also depleting other resources and we live in system of intrinsic social injustice at a massive scale.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2013
The storms in this book's title refer to the extreme weather conditions the author's (and our) grandchildren will have to endure if business continues as usual. They might just as well refer to the political storms that brew up whenever anyone challenges the vested interests that keep business operating as usual, particularly in relation to energy production and use.
The further one gets into the book, the clearer it becomes why James Hansen is seen as a bit of a maverick by some of his colleagues, and why he has become such a thorn in the side of the US political and corporate establishment. As a scientist, he combines rigour with breadth in developing an understanding of the complexity of climate systems and how they might change. And, unusually for a scientist, he is prepared to to follow up on that understanding and get involved in policy debates. You get a real sense of someone who is committed not only to uncovering the truth, but also to getting involved in the political process of making sure that the truth is acted upon.
Confronted as we so often are with accusations that the predictions of climate models are unnecessarily alarmist, it is refreshing to read Hansen's assessment of their limitations. Far from being alarmist, he suggests, they systematically underestimate the risks of continued CO2 growth, by taking insufficient account of amplifying feedbacks and potential tipping points. He draws on palaeoclimatic evidence to identify areas where rapid climate change occurred in the past, and could recurr in the not too distant future - Greenland and Antarctica in particular. Here, Hansen argues, ice sheets could melt much faster, and produce much higher sea levels, than the linear trends suggested by the climate models on which IPCC projections have been based.
Hansen's political journey started with attempts to convince US politicians of the urgency of the climate crisis, and he describes a number of high level presentations and discussions to which he contributed. What he came to realise was that the politicians would listen selectively - the more he emphasised the overwhelming importance of the link between fossil fuel consumption and climate instability, the more they would focus on some other aspect of his evidence, like the need for methane capture. Disillusion with the corrupting power of fossil fuel lobbyists soon set in, and he turned his attention to raising popular awareness, and getting involved with direct action against coal extraction.
The book's policy proposals are often controversial, and always thought-provoking. Hansen's argument that fee-and-dividend is a better basis for carbon emission controls than cap-and-trade is a compelling one. More problematic, in my view, is his reluctance to consider measures to reduce energy demand (other than via efficiency improvements), or to manage demand in such a way as to balance the intermittency of most renewables. What he doesn't challenge is energy-intensive Western lifestyles. It is in this context that his pro-nuclear stance can be understood - if renewables are incapable of meeting the needs of those lifestyles, then, he argues, nuclear would be less damaging than coal or gas in filling the gap.
I was also inspired by what the book revealed about James Hansen the human being. His commitment to the scientific process, and to ensuring the implications of its discoveries are heeded. The effort he puts into meeting the challenges of communicating complex ideas to an unresponsive and often suspicious public (including, towards the end of the book, a brief but illuminating sci-fi tale). The quiet pleasure he experiences, returning home from an operation for prostate cancer, to discover that the habitat he has created, with his grandchildren, to help Monarch butterflies on their long migration journey has been successful. And, above all, the responsibility he feels to do what he can to ensure that the environment his grandchildren will inherit as adults will be a livable one.
'Storms of my grandchildren' was published 4 years ago, and climate science is a fast moving field, so some of the material can seem a bit dated now. But Hansen has set up a website, referenced at the end of the book, which regularly updates the key material. Taken together, book plus internet updates, this is definitely a 5-star package.
on 16 November 2014
This is simply the most important book anyone can read. If you want to do something to prevent catastrophic climate change before it's too late (you have about 16 years), then you need to tell your politicians to stop coal being burnt by the energy industry. This is the only way and there is a proven alternative. This book explains how. If enough people demand this change, politicians will listen. Their careers depend on it. And your grandchildren's lives depend on it.
on 22 July 2014
An extraordinary man and life. This book was a difficult, terrifying read but anyone who cares about the future, who has children they want to have a life for, then this book is required reading.
Everyone I know is too tired, busy and overworked, chasing small economies and big luxuries, to care about the impending climate disaster. This book is a call to action.
on 21 April 2014
James Hansen has devoted his life to the study of climate change, and this book tells to a lot of useful science that we don't hear much about, especially the concepts of energy imbalances and climate forcing. We must leave the coal in the ground by putting a fee on carbon and share out the proceeds. His proposals are simple and doable. Well woth a read and share.
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 1 January 2010
Impressive overview of what the huge global scientific effort has learnt us on climate change over the past years. Strong wake-up call from one of the top scientists in the field. Must read!
17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2010
After the huge anticlimactic (so to speak) disappointment of Copenhagen, politicians worldwide should be locked in a room with James Hansen's inspiring book and not allowed out until they've (a) read it and (b) promised solemnly to instigate its recommendations immediately. There are other thought-provoking books out there, like George Mombiot's 'Heat' and Mark Lynas's '6 Degrees', but 'Storms of My Grandchildren' has the extra authority of authorship by a real climate scientist; one whose message this reviewer, anyway, can trust.
A professor and director of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, Dr Hansen is one of those almost legendary figures in environmentalism (but not of the hippy persuasion) like Rachel Carson ('Silent Spring') before him. Full of scientific detail gleaned from his long career, the book is occasionally heavy going, but it's message is horrifically fascinating. Although it's basically a simple one: the climate clearly is warming, the biggest fossil fuel culprit is coal, burning it must stop now, before we pass a 'tipping point' after which uncontrollable runaway warming will kick in, and the world's politicians, in spite of much 'greenwashing', have so far done very little about it.
But it's not (quite) too late, Dr Hansen says, to rescue the situation, and he suggests ways in which future disaster can be averted, given a sea change by policy makers demanded by all of us. James Hansen is not a scintillating writer - he's more at home writing scientific papers - and he often apologises for the fact, but he leavens things a bit at one point by switching to science-fiction mode and imagining a world utterly ruined, a passage that I found quite moving. And a short, beautiful passage at the end is quite heartbreaking.
This should be compulsory reading, particularly for young people. After all, it'll be their children who could reap a bitter harvest. A frightening, compelling but ultimately hopeful book.