Structure and Operation of Systems, Models of the Global Earth System

  • Attila Kerényi
  • Richard William McIntosh
Part of the Sustainable Development Goals Series book series (SDGS)


This chapter gives the basis for systems thinking which approach is applied throughout the book. The term system, its general characteristics, structure and specifics together with the hierarchy of systems, the similarities and differences of mental and material systems are discussed plainly. The operation of systems is analysed in more detail: negative (stabilising) and positive (destabilising) feedbacks, behaviour of chaotic and adaptive systems on internal or external effects. The classification of environmental systems is also reviewed discussing abiotic, biotic (ecological) and human-made (artificial) systems. Topology of systems and the essence of network theory are presented. The types of system models and the most important general steps of model forming are given. Models simulating the operation of Earth as a planet are analysed in more detail: PREM model, new global geodynamic model, global climate simulation models, GAIA biosphere model, world models of Meadows, Mesarovic–Pestel world model, the social model of László. A simple (homomorphic) complex Earth model is presented and the issue of global threshold and planetary boundaries is discussed. Finally, it is proved that the basic working mechanisms of the global society (production, consumption, transport) inevitably result in environmental damage and risk for human health (basic problem of environmental protection), however, reducing these effects can be solved. Sustainable development means more: the operation of the global society has to be changed.


Feedbacks Chaos theory Adaptive systems Environmental systems Network theory PREM model Global geodynamic model Climate simulation models GAIA model World models 


  1. Altman A (ed) (1998) Agricultural biotechnology. Marcel Dekker, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Barabási AL (2003) Behálózva.A hálózatok új tudománya (Linked: the new science of networks). Magyar Könyvklub, BudapestGoogle Scholar
  3. Baran P (1964) Introduction to distributed communication networks. Rand Corporation, Santa MonicaCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bennett RJ, Chorley RJ (1978) Environmental systems: philosophy, analysis and control. Methuen, LondonGoogle Scholar
  5. Courtillot V, Davaille A, Besse J et al (2003) Three distinct types of hotspots in the Earth’s mantle. Earth Planet Sci Lett 205:295–308. Scholar
  6. Diamond J (2005) Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed. Viking Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Dziewonski AM, Anderson DL (1981) Preliminary reference Earth model. Phys Earth Planet Inter 25:297–356. Scholar
  8. Ellis EC, Ramankutty N (2008) Putting people in the map: anthropogenic biomes of the world. Front Ecol Environ 6:439–447. Scholar
  9. Ellis EC, Goldewijk KK, Siebert S et al (2010) Anthropogenic transformation of the biomes, 1700 to 2000. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 19:589–606. Scholar
  10. Flannery T (2005) The weather makers: the history and future impact of climate change. Text Publishing, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  11. Forrester JW (1968) Principles of systems. Wright-Allen Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  12. Forrester JW (1971) World dynamics. Wright-Allen Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  13. Gleick J (1988) Chaos: making a new science. Penguin Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Goodwin B (2002) In the shadow of culture. In: Brockman J (ed) The next fifty years: science in the first half of the twenty-first century. Vintage Books, New York, pp 41–51Google Scholar
  15. Granovetter M (1983) The strength of weak ties: a network theory revisited. Sociol Theory 1:201–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Haggett P (2001) Geography: a global synthesis. Pearson Hall, HarlowGoogle Scholar
  17. Horváth F, Dombrádi E (2008) A Föld mélye a kéregtől a magig (The interior of the Earth from crust to core). Földrajzi Közlemények 132(4):385–400Google Scholar
  18. IPCC (1992) Climate change 1992: The supplementary report to the IPCC scientific assessment. Accessed 6 Oct 2019Google Scholar
  19. IPCC (1996) Climate change 1996: The science of climate change. Contribution of Working Group I. to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  20. IPCC (2002) Climate change 2001: synthesis report. Third assessment report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  21. IPCC (2008) Climate change 2007: synthesis report. Contribution of working groups I, II and III to the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Accessed 3 Oct 2018
  22. IPCC (2015) Climate change 2014: synthesis report. Contribution of working groups I, II and III to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Accessed 3 Oct 2018
  23. James C (1997) Global status of transgenic crops in 1997: ISAAA briefs 5. International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, IthacaGoogle Scholar
  24. Jellinek AM, Manga M (2004) Links between long-lived hot spots, mantle plumes, D″, and plate tectonics. Rev Geophys 42:1–35. Scholar
  25. Kerényi A (2010) Globális környezeti rendszerek (Global environmental systems). Szent István Egyetemi Kiadó, GödöllőGoogle Scholar
  26. László E (2008a) Világváltás (Qantum shift in the global brain). Nyitott Könyvműhely, BudapestGoogle Scholar
  27. László E (2008b) Quantum shift in the global brain: how the new scientific reality can change us and our world. Inner Traditions, RochesterGoogle Scholar
  28. Li TY, Yorke JA (1975) Period three implies chaos. Am Math Mon 82:985–992CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Liu J, Dietz T, Carpenter SR et al (2007) Complexity of coupled human and natural systems. Science 317:1513–1516CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lorenz E (1963) Deterministic nonperiodic flow. J Atmos Sci 20:130–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lorenz E (1964) The problem of deducing the climate from the governing equations. Tellus 16:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lovelock JE (1972) Gaia as seen through the atmosphere. Atmos Environ 6:579–580CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lovelock JE (1987) Gaia: a new look at life on Earth. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  34. Lovelock JE, Margulis L (1973) Atmospheric homeostasis by and for the biosphere: the Gaia hypothesis. Tellus 26:2–10Google Scholar
  35. Margulis L, Lovelock JE (1974) Biological modulation of the Earth’s atmosphere. Icarus 21:471–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. May RM (1976) Simple mathematical models with very complicated dynamics. Nature 261:459–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. May RM, Oster GF (1976) Bifurcations and dynamic complexity in simple ecological models. Am Nat 110:573–599CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Meadows DH, Meadows DL, Randers J et al (1972) The limits to growth. Universe Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  39. Meadows DH, Meadows DL, Randers J (1992) Beyond the limits: confronting global collapse, envisioning a sustainable future. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, White River JunctionGoogle Scholar
  40. Meadows D, Randers J, Meadows D (2004) Limits to growth: the 30-year update. White Chelsea Green Publishing Company, White River JunctionGoogle Scholar
  41. Mesarovič M, Pestel E (1974) Menschheit am wendepunkt. 2. Bericht an den Club of Rome zur Weltlage. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  42. Neumann J (1949) Recent theories of turbulence. In: Taub AH (ed) Collected works (1949–1963), vol 6. Pergamon Press, Oxford, p 437Google Scholar
  43. Paine RT (1969) A note on trophic complexity and community stabilitiy. Am Nat 103:91–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rockström J, Steffen W, Noone K et al (2009) Planetary boundaries: exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecol Soc 14(2):1–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Romanowicz B (2002) Global mantle tomography: present status and perspectives. Acta Geophys Pol 50:3–21Google Scholar
  46. Strogatz SH (2002) Fermi’s “little discovery” and the future of chaos and complexity theory. In: Brockman J (ed) The next fifty years: science in the first half of the twenty-first century. Vintage Books, New York, pp 114–125Google Scholar
  47. Tainter JA (1988) The collapse of complex societies. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  48. Tuchman BW (1984) The march of folly: from troy to Vietnam. Alfred A Knopf, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  49. UN World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: our common future. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  50. Wackernagel M, Rees WE (1996) Our ecological footprint: reducing human impact on the Earth. New Society Publishers, Gabriola IslandGoogle Scholar
  51. Watts DJ, Strogatz SH (1998) Collective dynamics of ‘small-world’ networks. Nature 393:440–442CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Attila Kerényi
    • 1
  • Richard William McIntosh
    • 2
  1. 1.Landscape Protection and Environmental GeographyUniversity of DebrecenDebrecenHungary
  2. 2.Mineralogy and GeologyUniversity of DebrecenDebrecenHungary

Personalised recommendations