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Ocean diversity and human impact: 49% decline in marine vertebrate populations between 1970 and 2012

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

According to an emergency edition of the WWF Living Blue Planet Report, there has been a 49% decline in marine vertebrate populations between 1970  and 2012. These estimates are based on tracking 5829 populations of 1234 species. For some fish species, the decline has been almost 75%. Overfishing, habitat destruction and climate change are held to be responsible.

Details here:

Concerning the importance of marine ecosystems more generally, a concise and up-to-date list of important aspects of ocean diversity and how it has been affected by human activities is given in the UNESCO  report:

Some important points from this report:

  • “By the year 2100, without significant changes, more than half of the world’s marine species may stand on the brink of extinction.
  • Today 60% of the world’s major marine ecosystems that underpin livelihoods have been degraded or are being used unsustainably.
  • If the concentration of atmospheric CO2 continues to increase at the current rate, the ocean will become corrosive to the shells of many marine organisms by the end of this century. How or if marine organisms may adapt is not known.
  • Ocean acidification may render most regions of the ocean inhospitable to coral reefs, affecting tourism, food security, shoreline protection, and biodiversity.
  • Commercial overexploitation of the world’s fish stocks is so severe that it has been estimated that up to 13 percent of global fisheries have ‘collapsed.’
  • There are now close to 500 dead zones covering more than 245,000 km² globally, equivalent to the surface of the United Kingdom.
  • Between 1980 and 2005, 35,000 square kilometers of mangroves were removed globally.
  • Between 30 and 35 percent of the global extent of critical marine habitats such as seagrasses, mangroves and coral reefs are estimated to have been destroyed.”


Causes of losses in marine biodiversity are discussed here, with some references:

Corrected sunspot history suggests climate change not due to natural solar trends

Monday, August 10th, 2015

According to the International Astronomical Union (7 August 2015), sunspot activity over the last 300 years has remained more or less stable and cannot, therefore, be responsible for global warming since the industrial revolution.


“The Sunspot Number is a crucial tool used to study the solar dynamo, space weather and climate change. It has now been recalibrated and shows a consistent history of solar activity over the past few centuries. The new record has no significant long-term upward trend in solar activity since 1700, as was previously indicated. This suggests that rising global temperatures since the industrial revolution cannot be attributed to increased solar activity.” 

“The Maunder Minimum, between 1645 and 1715, when sunspots were scarce and the winters harsh, strongly suggests a link between solar activity and climate change. Until now there was a general consensus that solar activity has been trending upwards over the past 300 years (since the end of the Maunder Minimum), peaking in the late 20th century — called the Modern Grand Maximum by some.”

“This trend has led some to conclude that the Sun has played a significant role in modern climate change.”

 “The apparent upward trend of solar activity between the 18th century and the late 20th century has now been identified as a major calibration error in the Group Sunspot Number. Now that this error has been corrected, solar activity appears to have remained relatively stable since the 1700s.”

Full article (Science Daily) here:



A new book on the history of climate change politics in Australia

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

A book on the history of climate change politics in Australia, describing the disastrous influence of the right wing media (particularly those controlled by Murdoch) and the big mining corporations has just been published. Author is Maria Taylor (“Global Warming and Climate Change. What Australia knew and buried….then framed a new reality for the public”). : A free copy can be downloaded at this address.

The book is based on Taylor’s research for a PhD at the National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science of The Australian National University. From the ANU site on her book: “Her multi-disciplinary investigation of the public record and the input of science, politics, economics, journalism and contemporary mass media has revealed for the first time how and why Australia buried a once good understanding of global warming and climate change — to arrive after 25 years at the confusion and stalemate we are still in today. “

An outline and discussion of he book is available here:


“In 1989 Hawke described a “growing consensus amongst scientists” showing there was a strong chance that major climate change was on its way, that this change was linked to human activity, and this could have “major ramifications for human survival” if nothing was done.”

‘The Howard government …….. cautious climate policy positions ……. to justify it through media articles. That modelling was supported financially by the likes of the Australian Coal Association, the oil giant Exxon Mobil and the mining majors BHP and Rio Tinto.”


” ……. by 1997, many political and economic reporters were “dutifully scribing the story established by the business and political elite”.

A point to make is the role of the media in Australia, which is so dominated by the Murdoch press. That played a key role, in a sense that as the 90s rolled on it was so much easier to get out a consistent narrative if you don’t have a really diverse press. From what I saw – and what the documentary evidence showed – the ABC did have a leadership role for a long time in informing the public about climate change, but it really drew back in the late 90s. There was no other story being told.

Free-market neoliberal thinktanks, including the Institute of Public Affairs, promoted climate science denialist views and industry talking points that were picked up by the media.”

Noam Chomsky über den Klimawandel und die Zukunft des intelligenten Lebens auf der Erde

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015



Noam Chomsky, der berühmte Wissenschaftler und Politik-Kommentator, in einem Interview mit dem ‘Freitag’ im MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).


“Noam Chomsky: Die USA sind ein Schurkenstaat, Europa ist extrem rassistisch”

“Hoffentlich gibt es endlich einen Volksaufstand gegen die vernichtende, zerstörerische Wirtschafts- und Sozialpolitik, die von den Bürokraten und den Banken kommt.”

“Die menschliche Spezies gibt es schon vielleicht seit 100.000 Jahren und sie steht jetzt vor einem einzigartigen Moment in ihrer Geschichte. Diese Spezies ist jetzt an einem Punkt, an dem sich sehr bald entscheiden wird, in den kommenden Generationen, ob das Experiment des sogenannten intelligenten Lebens weitergehen wird oder wir fest entschlossen sind, es zu zerstören. Überwiegend erkennen Wissenschaftler, dass fossile Energieträger im Boden bleiben müssen, damit unsere Enkel eine Zukunft haben. Aber die institutionellen Strukturen unserer Gesellschaft versuchen, jeden Tropfen aus der Erde zu pressen. Die Folgen, die Auswirkungen der vorhergesagten Effekte des Klimawandels für die Menschheit in nicht sehr ferner Zukunft sind katastrophal und wir rasen auf diesen Abgrund zu.”


Vollständiger Artikel hier:

Marching into the Past: Cutting down on Renewable Energies and the Freedom of the Press

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

From the Sun Herald ( a Fairfax weekend newspaper) 12.July 2015:

“Tony Abbott has been warned he is putting international investment at risk after ordering the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation not to finance new wind power projects.”

Both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have repeatedly claimed that wind farms are noisy and ugly. No such comments about a new open cut coal mine in fertile agricultural lands in NSW, just approved by the Federal government.

According to the ABC on 13.7.15, “small scale solar power” projects are also banned.


“Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been accused of unprecedented political interference in the ABC by demanding the broadcaster move panel program Q&A into its news division before he lifts a boycott of the program.

In a letter sent to ABC chairman Jim Spigelman on Friday, Mr Abbott said he would be happy to lift a ban on his frontbenchers appearing on Q&A if the ABC transferred the program from its television department to news and current affairs.”

Abbott had previously banned his ministers from appearing on the TV show, and the Minsiter for Communications Malcolm Turnbull, as well as the Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joice, who had agreed to appear on the show, complied.

Urgent action necessary: Contrasting futures for ocean and society from different anthropogenic CO2 emissions scenarios

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the Global Change Institute and Professor of Marine Science at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Deputy Director of James Cook University’s Centre for Excellence in Coral Reef Studies, and an ARC Laureate Fellow in 2013, is one of the authors of a paper just published in Science vol. 349, 3 July 2015, no. 6243, DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4722: in which the effects of climate change on the oceans are discussed under two scenarios, one if we continue as now, the other if we reduce temperature rise to 2 degrees.

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg has also published an article in Conversation accessible to the wider public, in which he emphasises the need for urgent action if we want to avoid disaster: “……..the ocean system could not be more important: it regulates the global temperature and atmosphere, feeds 3 billion people, and largely determines our weather. The ocean also has lots of “inertia” – which means that getting the ocean to change takes a lot of energy, but once it begins to change, slowing it down becomes more or less impossible…..” . Full article here:


4th book review of Klaus Rohde ed.: The Balance of Nature and Human Impact. Cambridge University Press 2013

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

The fourth review of the book edited by me has just been published in Quarterly Review of Biology, University of Chicago Press 90, pp. 211-212, June 2015. Reviewer is Professor Andrew Goudie, Professor of Geography, Oxford University, well known for his work on desert geomorphology, dust storms, weathering, and climatic change in the tropics, and his books on human impacts on the environment. For copyright reasons I include only two excerpts:

“There is more than ample evidence that humans are having an increasing impact on the environment through changes in land use and land cover, climate change, and globalization of organisms. A big question, which this book aims to answer is ‘what will be the ecological responses to such changes’? Will certain tipping points be passed for certain organisms and ecosystems?

The book is composed of 27 chapters and has 30 authors from a range of countries, with a particularly strong contingent from Australia. It covers various taxonomic groups, including plants, nematodes, mammals and birds, and a range of marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments. It is very strong with respect to debates about equilibrium and non-equilibrium states at a variety of scales from populations to communities and to ecosystems of varying spatial extent. ”

“………… individual chapters have great merit and the overall message is a very important one. Parts I, II and III are valuable because of the light they throw on equilibrium concepts, while Part V includes useful case studies…….”


Earlier reviews here:



Free Markets and Free Trade, Ecology and Economics

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

(This article was first published as a Google knol and then transferred to I re-publish it here as a basis for discussion. © Klaus Rohde).


Comments RSS

  1. Marco Parigi

    December 2, 2008

    One implicit assumption of your knol here is that Ricardo’s principle is not legitimate for cases where the axioms are not reflected in reality. My view regarding these kind of principles is that what is important is that the dynamics predicted by the principle are reflected in reality, and that the mathematics behind the model based on these axioms is tenable and usable at the same time. The test to determine when to stop using Ricardo’s principle is when alternative models show better predictive value. Predictions of Malthusian catastrophes seem to be very unreliable at the least.From what I can tell, countries often behave as if those 7 assumptions were true, even if most of them are false.I am not really clear on the dependence of concepts on whether a system is in or not in equilibrium. When is an economy thought of as being in equilibrium? Are there tests independent of the economic models used?

    • Klaus Rohde

      December 2, 2008

      Concerning your question:”When is an economy thought of as being in equilibrium?”Below are some definitions for economic, genetic and ecological equilibrium. Economists would have to answer the question concerning relevant tests, but it seems to me that only an actual evaluation of data a posteriori could show whether equilibrium has existed or not.From Wikipedia (“In economics, economic equilibrium is simply a state of the world where economic forces are balanced and in the absence of external influences the (equilibrium) values of economic variables will not change. Market equilibrium, for example, refers to a condition where a market price is established through competition such that the amount of goods or services sought by buyers is equal to the amount of goods or services produced by sellers. This price is often called the equilibrium price or market clearing price and will tend not to change unless demand or supply change.”“A genetic equilibrium occurs when an allele within a gene pool is not changing in frequency (i.e. evolving). For this to be the case, evolutionary forces acting upon the allele must be equal and opposite. The only basic requirement is that the population be large enough that the effects of genetic drift are minimised. One example is Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium.” There is nothing in Wikipedia on ecological equilibrium, which I would define as follows: An equilibrium point in an ecological system is the population (or community) density to which the population (or community), which has temporarily deviated from it, will always return. Or: an ecological system is an equilibrium system when its density fluctuates around a midpoint. – One might be inclined to add that fluctuations around the midpoint should not be excessively large, although this introduces a subjective aspect to the definition: what is excessive?As pointed out above for economic equilibrium, it seems to me that only an evaluation of data a posteriori can distinguish equilibrium from nonequilibrium ecological systems. One might then make projections for the future development of the system on the basis of whether conditions are likely to change.

    • Klaus Rohde

      December 2, 2008

      Concerning the first part of your comment:”The test to determine when to stop using Ricardo’s principle is when alternative models show better predictive value.”I commented on this already in my knol: it is not so much another model that is needed, but”a careful analysis of local conditions permitting a decision on the benefits of free trade may often be useful, in particular when a powerful nation deals with a small developing one.”

  2. Ryan Faulk

    January 23, 2010

    Horrible — 1. “Since this knol was published, Paul Krugman was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics for work which clearly implies that Ricardo’s principle does not realistically describe what is actually happening.”- And Obama won a Nobel Peace prize, and Hayek also won a Nobel in economics. Do you even know who decides who wins a nobel prize in economics?2. You are treating freedom as some prescriptive model. It is not, it is what happens when you don’t threaten with imprisonment. These are not dueling prescriptions, but the violent imposition of rules vs. resistance to them.There is “free market dogma” in the same way there is “no murder dogma” and “anti violent theft dogma”. I’m also dogmatic in there not being a god.3. Your characterization of competition is hideously ham-fisted. Firms make deals with each other in supply lines, as do animals in nature. You clearly have not explored arguments for freedom in good faith.4. States control the money supply. See fiat currency and central banks, and in the US see the federal reserve system. The financial market is perhaps the most state-controlled market there is, and thus is chaotic because the false certainty of a state decree leads to chaos.5. Hysterical citizens voting for war is only an issue if there is a state. That’s a failure of your ideology, not freedom.6. The Oil lobby is powerful and does things to prevent alternative energy from coming on line. The state enables cartelization by creating a “web of difficulty” that large firms can bypass, or only apply to new firms entering an industry, or are fixed costs (like a license) which disproportionately hurt small firms. Again, this is a problem of the state.

    • Klaus Rohde

      January 22, 2010

      Thanks for the comment, it is always good to hear somebody who does not agree with you.1. I commented on earlier Nobel prizes in economics and Obama’s peace prize in my blog .Comments welcome;2. When I say free market dogma I mean (and I believe this is perfectly clear) that free markets are often but not always useful; an examination of local conditions may be important;3. Yes, to a degree, but unfortunately weaker economies are often forced into deals unfavourable to them because they have no other choice; and it is not always companies but governments which determine the rules;4. May be but perhaps not controlled enough;5. ????;6. Yes, indeed, this may well be the case, but wrong rules imposed by a state do not mean there should be no rules.

    • Peter Baskerville

      January 23, 2010

      Anonymous, now that you have taken the trouble to register, why not write a Knol that best outlines your view of the topic that Klaus has developed here. It would be great to read your views in an article rather than just responses to this one.

  3. Michael Pathak

    February 7, 2010

    Industrial Symbiosis as a way of meeting Ecological Economics needs — Industrial Symbiosis is a means of achieving continued growth in the economy whilst minimizing the impact on the environment. It is claimed that an industrial ecosystem in industrial symbiosis may behave similar to the natural ecosystem where everything gets recycled. Technological tools such as open source virtual globes like Google Earth can be used to determine that locations for optimizing symbiosis. A good resource is the following.W. Doyle and J. M. Pearce, “Utilization of Virtual Globes for OpenSource Industrial Symbiosis”, Open Environmental Sciences, 3, 88-96.The link to the article is here

  4. Seema Singh

    September 30, 2011

    nifty tips — Markets dramatically change they their flow and no one exactly produce or expect 100% from their profits . Choosing the right indicator or analyzing software blended with human aspect gives better results.regards:-

The Chief Business Adviser to the Prime Minister on Climate Change, and Continuing Rise in Global Carbon Dioxide Levels

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

According to the Sydney Morning Herald 9.5.2015, ”

“Climate change is a hoax led by the United Nations so that it can end democracy and impose authoritarian rule, according to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief business adviser.

Maurice Newman, the chairman of the Prime Minister’s business advisory council, has written in The Australian that scientific modelling showing the link between humans and climate change is wrong and the real agenda is a world takeover for the UN.

This is not about facts or logic. It’s about a new world order under the control of the UN “

Full article here:

Perhaps Maurice Newman can explain the following:

The Global Monitoring Division of NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory has published data which show that for the first time since measurements began, the global monthly mean carbon dioxide level has exceeded 400 parts per million in March 2015, a rise of more than 120 parts per million during the industrial age.





(Graph from Ed Dlugokencky and Pieter Tans, NOAA/ESRL (

For methods, interpretation and links to other relevant sites see:




An Ethical Basis for Nature Conservation: Arthur Schopenhauer

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

In the last chapter of  the book edited by me “The Balance of Nature and Human Impact, Cambridge University Press 2013″, we, i.e.  Klaus Rohde, Hugh Ford, Nigel R.Andrew and Harold Heatwole”  deal with “How to Conserve Biodiversity in a Nonequilibrium World”. The first section of the chapter discusses economic, esthetic and ethical arguments for conserving biodiversity. We conclude that in the modern world people are most impressed by economic arguments, whereas the ethics of the problem is very rarely considered. Are there ethical reasons for conserving biodiversity? We point out that there indeed are, convincingly demonstrated by the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. His philosophy is particularly suitable, because it appeals not only to philosophically educated Westerners, but also to all those who have a Buddhist or Hinduistic background, i.e. a very large proportion of mankind. Schopenhauer was the first Western philosopher who taught that ethical (moral) behaviour must be based on compassion with humans and animals. 

I have given a concise outline of Schopenhauer’s philosophy of ethics and justice earlier:

Here I mention a few important points in excerpts taken from my earlier essay:

Schopenhauer’s ethics and theory of justice follow from his epistemology, according to which the world as it appears to us, as we perceive it, is to a large degree shaped by our mental apparatus. Following Immanuel Kant, he assumes that time, space and causality are not characteristics of the thing-in-itself (“Ding an sich”) but categories of our mind. All distinctions between individuals disappear once these categories are taken away. In other words, all beings are in essence One.

Schopenhauer’s ethics has had a deep influence on many philosophers and writers after him. Albert Einstein, for example, mentions Schopenhauer as an important influence on his views. Schopenhauer was the first who arrived at conclusions similar to those in Eastern philosophy, in particular Hinduism and Buddhism. And he was the first in Western philosophy who based ethics on compassion with man and animals.

………  Schopenhauer develops a theory of ownership, of natural justice and law in general. Injustice is the original and positive, justice the derived and negative concept. “The only purpose of law is determent from encroaching on others’ rights”. Schopenhauer considers Kant’s thesis that humans should always be considered to be the end (“Zweck”) and never as means, as vague and problematic, because “a murderer sentenced to death must with full justification be used as means”, as a determent and for the re-establishment of public security. However, this applies only to justice in time (“zeitliche Gerechtigkeit”), eternal justice which applies to the entire world (that is, lies in its essence) and does not depend on human constructions (“Einrichtungen”), cannot be retaliatory, because it lies not in time unlike justice in time which is based on retaliation. “Punishment must here (in eternal justice) be connected with the crime in such a way that both are one.” If one wants to know what humans as a whole and in general are worth from a moral perspective, one only has to look at their fate as a whole and in general. This is indigence (“Mangel”), misery, agony and death. Eternal justice at work…..”. However, the “crude individual” has a different view, since he knows only the temporally and spatially separate appearances: he sees tormentors and murderers on the one side and sufferers and victims on the other, who are really only One. Nevertheless, in the depth of his consciousness he sometimes has the “somewhat dark hunch” that “all this is not entirely foreign to him”. Horror (“Grausen”) is founded on this sometimes appearing hunch. All evil in the world derives from the Will which is the real essence of each single person. Hence (Schopenhauer quotes Calderon’s “Life as Dream”, in which the Christian dogma of original sin is expressed: “Since the greatest guilt of man is that he was born”). – Esoterically depicted in the Vedas and especially in the Upanishads, the myth of transmigration expresses the cognition of eternal justice in an easily understandable form for the people. You must not kill an animal, because at a time in eternity you will be born as such an animal and suffer the same death”. This is the meaning of “tat twam asi” (This is you), which is the foundation of Hindu teaching. – In the same sense Christian ethics forbids retaliation of evil with evil and submits to eternal justice (“Revenge is mine, I shall retaliate, says the Lord”).

Our discussion to this point permits a description of the ethical significance of action. According to Schopenhauer, genuine virtue can come only from the insight which recognizes in a foreign being the same being as one’s own. “In principle (“an sich”) all deeds…. are just empty images, and only the attitude (ethos, “Gesinnung”) that leads to them, lends them moral significance.” The principle of justice (based on the negation of evil) commands that one must not hurt others.” Genuine goodness goes much further and leads to love of mankind  (“Menschenliebe”): one distinguishes much less than usually between oneself and others, one sacrifices one’s property and even oneself to one’s neighbour (“Nächster”) and one does not torture an animal. Love is based on the recognition of foreign suffering and pure love is therefore by its nature compassion. All this is in direct contradiction to Kant’s view that any truly good and virtuous deed is based on abstract reflection, on the concept of duty and the categorical imperative.

In Schopenhauer’s time (the first half of the 19th century), destruction of the environment had not become the important issue it is today. Hence, he does not deal with conserving the environment as such. However, his conclusion that moral behaviour of humans must be based on compassion with fellow humans and animals should be interpreted as meaning that animals must be protected and therefore also their habitats and the environment in general. In other words, we must not preserve organisms and the environment as a whole because they are of economic benefit to us, we must conserve them because we have an ethical responsibility towards nature, i.e., not only to the next generations of humans, but also to other living beings.