Storms of My Grandchildren

Storms of my Grandchildren

James Hansen’s, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009), is a book that impinges directly upon the current same sex / ordination debate because it sets it in stark reality.  It sets Church priorities in equally stark reality.

The book is  well summarised on the Web.  This is a summary of one summary!!

James Hansen is one of the world’s most distinguished climate scientists.  His book deals with the threat posed by climate change.

The title, Storms of My Grandchildren, refers to the prediction of more powerful and more damaging storms in a warmer, future earth.

He highlights a number of key concerns including the Censorship of Climate Change Science by governments influenced by coal and oil. 

He first came to public attention in 1988, when he testified before Congress that he was “99% confident” that the earth was warming because of human-made greenhouse gases. He called for Congress to stop waffling on the issue. Less than a year later, he testified again, this time before then-Senator Al Gore’s committee. When the White House, under George H.W. Bush, altered Hansen’s written testimony in order to muffle his conclusions about the dangers of global warming, Hansen complained in public of the censorship, which resulted in an uproar.

He draws a chilling picture of  sea level rises. If sea level rise continues at the present rate, it will rise 34 cm (14 inches) in one century, although it could rise faster than the present rate as it has in the past: some 13,000 to 14,000 years ago, sea level rose at the rate of 3 to 5 meters (10 to 17 feet) per century for several centuries.  A sea level rise of 5 meters would submerge most of Florida, Bangladesh, and the European lowlands. If all the ice on the earth melted, the sea level would rise about 75 meters (almost 250 feet), flooding many coastal cities around the world.

He advocates a fourfold approach to the problems of a changing climate:

(1) a “fee and dividend” plan (or carbon tax, which rises every year),

(2) a resulting rapid phase-out of coal,

(3) reforestation

(4) rapid development of alternative energy sources, including fourth generation nuclear power.

Hansen writes that if the sea level rises 70 meters (250 feet), it would not extinguish all human life. After all, hominids have existed on earth for several million years, and homo sapiens more than a hundred thousand, surviving numerous ice ages, during which ice sheets a mile thick covered areas that came to be Boston and New York City. But the world population during the last ice age, ten thousand years ago, has been estimated at five million. It is now seven billion. It is human civilization that is unlikely to survive a flooding catastrophe.

However in the penultimate chapter, The Venus Syndrome, Hansen posits a possible future earth, in which a “runaway greenhouse effect” could eliminate all life on Earth.

The review concludes that Hansen’s book deserves to be widely read and discussed. His conclusions will be unwelcome to many people, even those who do not own coal companies. And, to many environmentalists, of course, nuclear power of any sort is anathema.

Hansen insists that the big changes needed cannot be expected to come only from government, even less from corporations. Instead, he ends his book with the statement: “Civil resistance may be our best hope.” ….  “it is crucial for all of us, especially young people, to get involved” in what “will be the most urgent fight of our lives. It is our last chance”

I think this is a book that every one of us should read because it sets in very stark focus one of the big picture aspects of the world in which we live.

The world about which the National Church seems to be strangely silent [and I pay tribute to the work done by Adrian Shaw – but he is one voice pigeon holed in a Council].

Last week [28th August 2011] the Lectionary passage was Matthew 16:21-28.  Verse 24 reads … If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget self, carry his cross, and follow me …

What environmental crosses are we leaving for our children  and grandchildren to carry?

Malcolm Rooney


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