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Climate change. Effects on small island states, and the view of the Australian Attorney-General

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

An article recently published in the Trinidad Express, a newspaper of a small Caribbean island state, deals with the latest climate assessment by the IPCC emphasizing the impact of climate change on food security, particulary in small island states:

“Climate change ……… has a direct bearing on food security……. the IPCC warned that all aspects of food security including availability of food, stability of food supply and utilisation of food, are potentially affected by climate change.”……. “our climate is warming at a pace unparalleled in the history of the planet and that we no longer have the luxury of pretending that climate change is not happening.”

“Small island developing states are particularly at risk because of their small size, their geographic location. Because of their low-lying nature, sea level rise will inundate coastal areas,”.

At the same time, George Brandis, the Australian Attorney General, has the following to say, in line with views expressed by several others in the Abbott government:

“George Brandis has compared himself to Voltaire and derided proponents of climate change action as “believers” who do not listen to opposing views and have reduced debate to a mediaeval and ignorant level.”

Full article here:

Barnaby Joyce, the leader of the Nationals and Minister for Agriculture in the Abbott government, has complained that the ABC does not give time (or sufficient time) to climate change “sceptics” (20 March 2014).

Future of the Earth

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

The pending climate change report will emphasize the choice we have, to face catastrophic climate change or take immediate action.

“The world’s leading climate scientists gathered in Japan on Tuesday to begin hashing out the final details of a “grim” climate report, which both leaked drafts and those familiar with its contents say will call on policy makers to take immediate action or face a climate future that will otherwise be marked by widespread ecological and human catastrophe.”

Any chance that the Australian government, which has consistently played down the effects of climate change, supports increased coal mining, dredging on the Great Barrier Reef, and wants to reduce renewable energy targets, will do anything substantial to reduce human induced climate change?

But there are of course other important issues: we now have Australian dames and knights! I would suggest to make Rupert Murdoch a knight; little chance that he will get a knighthood in Britain.

2nd book review of Klaus Rohde ed.: The Balance of Nature and Human Impact. Cambridge University Press 2013

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

The review, by Professor W.E.Williams, was published a few weeks ago by Choice Reviews, copyright American Library Association.

For copyright reasons only short extracts are included here. For a previous review see

……… specifically addressing two questions: the extent to which equilibrium processes, particularly competition,…..describe natural ecological systems, and whether ……..human disturbances–climate change, land-use change, introduction of invasive exotics, and so on–primarily upset existing equilibria or instead amplify disequilibria already present. Twenty-four papers and three concluding chapters examine these questions in widely different ecosystems, ….. plankton, coral-reef fishes, Australian birds, animal parasites, and many more. There are 29 contributors to the volume, ………Each chapter contains its own extensive list of references, and the book’s index is quite good……….. the book will appeal primarily to academic ecologists, although some essays are general enough to be useful to those more broadly interested in human ecological impacts. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, researchers/faculty, and professionals.

Climate change politics after the Australian elections

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

We now have a new government (for those from overseas:”Liberals” plus “Nationals”, i.e., right-wing) under Prime-Minister Tony Abbott, a practising Catholic and apparently friend of Cardinal George Pell, both climate change “sceptics” (see my post “On the road to fascism? Climate change and media concentration“). Abbott is on record as having earlier referred to climate change science as “crap”, although he now says that he believes in climate change and human contribution to it. Among the first actions of this new government was the dissolution of the Climate Council headed by Professor Flannery, a scientific body that had advised the previous government and the Australian public on climate change. Further actions were funding cuts to public services leading to the reduction by hundreds of staff of the CSIRO, the major Australian research organisation which – among many other projects of vital importance to the country – has done much work on climate change.

Miranda Devine in the Murdoch tabloid Sunday Telegraph November 10, 2013 illuminates the attitude of he new government on climate change politics very well. She writes in an article headed “Change is in the wind on climate”: “What a delicious decision of the Abbott government not to send a minister to the latest UN climate-change conference… Environment Minister Greg Hunt can’t go to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change talks in Poland. He’ll be too busy…repealing the carbon tax! Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at the other end of the RSVP.”……. “Howard’s” (an earlier liberal Prime Minister of Australia) “takeaway is that politicians should not allow themselves to be browbeaten by the alleged views of experts….laws affecting the daily lives, including sensitive social issues, should never be made other than by politicians.” (Devine’s comments are not meant to be sarcastic, they reflect what she has expressed in numerous earlier articles in the Murdoch press).

Some articles by various commentators in other newspapers on recent events illuminating the government’s approach to climate change and related environmental issues in the following.

Southeastern Australia recently experienced particularly wide-spread and seasonally early bushfires that caused considerable damage. Christiana Figueres, head of the UN climate change negotiations, was in Australia at about that time. She drew a link between the strength of the bushfires and climate change. The Sydney Morning Herald (25.10.13), a Fairfax newspaper, reported about the reactions of the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Environment Minister Greg Hunt to this statement as follows: “Hunt taps Wikipedia for bushfire backing…Greg Hunt says” (in an interview with the BBC World Service)” Wikipedia, the online answer to everything, provides evidence that the unseasonal bushfires plaguing NSW are not linked to climate change…..Mr Hunt has been at the centre of a storm about climate change since Prime Minister Tony Abbott accused the head of the United Nations’ climate change negotiations, Christina Figueres, of talking “through her hat” on the issue.” “The fires are certainly not a function of climate change, they are a function of life in Australia, Mr.Abbott said.”…”The rebuke prompted Ms.Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, to release another statement in which she pointed out that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had already found a causal link between climate change and bushfires and its next report in 2014 would build on that.” … In the Sydney Morning Herald October 26-27: “Professor Will Steffen, who co-authored the soon-to-be-released bushfire report by the Climate Council, was responding to Mr. Abbott’s assertion in a newspaper interview with the leading climate sceptic Andrew Bolt that drawing a link between the savage bushfires now plaguing NSW and climate change was “complete hogwash”…”The Climate Council report, a summary of which was revealed by Fairfax Media on Friday, found a clear link between rising temperatures and a longer, more dangerous bushfire season in south-eastern Australia”….”The Climate Council, which was reformed as an independent body after Mr.Hunt abolished it on his second day in the job, will release the report in full next month”….

Interesting that Peter Hatcher, the international editor of the SMH, concluded in the same issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, that Tony Abbott really meant the same thing as Christina Figueres. (???? difficult to believe).

In the election campaign, Abbott made abolishment of the carbon tax, which was introduced by the previous Labour government, a key issue. He wants to replace it with a “direct action” policy, paying polluters to pollute less. The Sydney Morning Herald contacted 35 economists and found that 33 of them supported carbon pricing, rejecting the Direct Action policy. However, Abbott rejects any form of carbon pricing and will not make any binding commitments above a 5% reduction by direct action by 2020 “in he absence of very serious like-binding commitments in other countries….” (SMH 13.11.13).

Review of Klaus Rohde ed.: The Balance of Nature and Human Impact. Cambridge University Press 2013.

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

This review, by Aldina M.A. Franco, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, was published online (Advance Access) in “Integrative and Comparative Biology”, October 22, 2013, pp.1-3.
For copyright reasons, only short extracts are included here.

“Human impact on the natural environment has reached unprecedented levels. Humans are present on all continents; almost all ecosystems have been modified by human activities through habitat loss and fragmentation, overexploitation, pollution, and invasive species. More than 35% of the land area is used for agriculture and built-up areas, 40% of the terrestrial productivity is appropriated by humans, 50% of all coral reefs are lost or degraded, 70% of recognized marine fisheries are fully exploited, over- exploited or depleted; humans use more than 50% of the available runoff of fresh water. In addition, human emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants have been associated with global climatic changes. The scale of the human impact on the planet now has global consequences; thus, many scientists argue that the world has entered a new era designated the Anthropocene.
This book summarizes ecological responses to global environmental change; it is relevant to interested readers of different backgrounds trying to understand why scientists are worried about current environmental change. Evidence shows that in geological times species have appeared and disappeared as the climate and ecosystems changed. Ecosystems are dynamic and adapted to those changes, however, as clearly demonstrated in Chapter 13, past climatic changes have occurred over large temporal scales, while human-induced impacts are occurring at a much faster rate. The question then is: will populations, communities, and ecosystems be able to respond to these fast changes in the environment or will the earth lose a large part of its biological diversity? This is discussed in detail in Part V, which is particularly interesting to students and the general public; it gives an overview of the impacts of human activities for a range of taxonomic groups.”


“Part VII—The overall view
This section includes two last chapters that are written for a wide audience. Chapter 25 summarizes previous chapters and the main messages of the book. Chapter 26 presents a wide variety of facts on how the Australian press and TV have misrepresented the debate on climatic change. It is clearly argues that powerful individuals (corporations) dictate the general public’s views on important scientific debates that need a societal discussion (e.g., global climatic change and our ethical responsibility toward preventing other species’ extinction and the deterioration of ecosystem services). The main message of this book is that understanding equilibrium and disequilibrium conditions is fundamental to better predict the consequences of global environmental change on natural systems and, I think, this is ultimately needed to guarantee human long-term persistence on earth.”

Climate Science is a Hoax

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

A just published scientific article examines the mind of so-called climate change sceptics.

NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax

An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science
1. Stephan Lewandowsky1
2. Klaus Oberauer1,2
3. Gilles E. Gignac1
1. 1University of Western Australia
2. 2University of Zurich
1. Stephan Lewandowsky, School of Psychology, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Western Australia 6009, Australia E-mail:
Psychological Science March 26, 2013, 0956797612457686

Although nearly all domain experts agree that carbon dioxide emissions are altering the world’s climate, segments of the public remain unconvinced by the scientific evidence. Internet blogs have become a platform for denial of climate change, and bloggers have taken a prominent role in questioning climate science. We report a survey of climate-blog visitors to identify the variables underlying acceptance and rejection of climate science. Our findings parallel those of previous work and show that endorsement of free-market economics predicted rejection of climate science. Endorsement of free markets also predicted the rejection of other established scientific findings, such as the facts that HIV causes AIDS and that smoking causes lung cancer. We additionally show that, above and beyond endorsement of free markets, endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that the Federal Bureau of Investigation killed Martin Luther King, Jr.) predicted rejection of climate science as well as other scientific findings. Our results provide empirical support for previous suggestions that conspiratorial thinking contributes to the rejection of science. Acceptance of science, by contrast, was strongly associated with the perception of a consensus among scientists.”

(Cited from

The Balance of Nature and Human Impact: Book Launch

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

I have drawn attention to this book in an earlier post (see here:

Details of the book (contents, contributors, excerpts) can be found here:

The book has now been published (Cambridge University Press, February 2013) and the Vice-Chancellor and Head of the School of Environmental and Rural Sciences will launch it on March 11 from 1-2 p.m. in the C.J. Hawkins Homestead foyer – W47.

Homeopathy justified? The Placebo Effect

Friday, January 25th, 2013

There seems to be no scientific justification for homeopathy. How can medications that do not contain any or hardly any active molecules have a curative effect? If so, why do insurance companies which are not known for their benevolence and free-spending activities cover the costs of homeopathy in some countries?

Can the placebo-effect give an explanation? Is it possible that, if people strongly believe in something, they may feel relieved and the insurance companies have to pay less for a relatively cheap homeotherapeutic treatment than for a “proper” one? After all, even in generally accepted treatments based on well established, scientifically “approved” procedures a placebo effect may be at least partly involved.

See this article, which describes experiments to find the physiological basis for the placebo effect:

some excerpts here:

.”…….. researchers have found that placebo treatments—interventions with no active drug ingredients—can stimulate real physiological responses, from changes in heart rate and blood pressure to chemical activity in the brain, in cases involving pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and even some symptoms of Parkinson’s.”

“The study’s results shocked the investigators themselves: even patients who knew they were taking placebos described real improvement, reporting twice as much symptom relief as the no-treatment group. That’s a difference so significant, says Kaptchuk, it’s comparable to the improvement seen in trials for the best real IBS drugs.”

“This suggested that placebo treatments spurred chemical responses in the brain that are similar to those of active drugs, a theory borne out two decades later by brain-scan technology. ”

Homeopathic treatment has also been shown to be effective for domestic animals, in particular horses. See here: This effect is explained by “placebo by proxy”: the owner is aware of the treatment and slight behavioural changes of the owner affect the animal.

Why are the Chinese so clever, and why will they become even cleverer? A perhaps astonishing aspect of Communist politics. And 100 other problems that might and should worry or inspire students and others

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Chinese have had a long history of “eugenic” selection, by putting those in positions of influence who had passed rigorous state examinations. It seems that this policy has now been brought up to date by incorporating findings of modern science. How has the “West” responded?

See this very interesting article by an evolutionary psychologist. And see many other responses to the question of what one should worry about most.

Can science explain everything?

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

Among many scientists and the general public the view is widespread that the only justifiable approach to solving problems in nature is the scientific one. Is there a role for philosophy? What is the evidence for the multiverse approach to cosmology and for evolutionary explanations of why our universe seems to be fine tuned to the evolution of life? Can questions of ethics be resolved by science alone? Professor Austin L. Hughes, a distinguished biologist at South Carolina University, has given a penetrating analysis of the problems. See here: