Around the world, people are being urged to act now to reverse the effects of climate change, but Dr. Gene Likens says those in a position to implement large-scale change will take time to enact measures at a related scale.
At Trent University’s annual David Sheperd Family Lecture on Thursday, Dr. Likens, founding director and president emeritus of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, said prompting dramatic action by leaders and policymakers, though necessary, requires a certain quality of research.
“We have to do really impeccable science so that it stands up to criticism and the challenge that it’s going to get,” said Dr. Likens after his lecture at Market Hall in downtown Peterborough.
In his talk, Dr. Likens referenced key learnings from his decades-long research of ecosystems, in particular, the effects of man-made threats to those systems, and the change that research inspired.
At the Hubbard Brook experimental forest in New Hampshire, he discovered acid rain and pioneered extensive research on its adverse effects on natural areas and habitat. In the 1980s, he advised then American president Ronald Reagan on the urgency of the acid rain crisis, and in the 1990s, amendments to the 1963 Clean Air Act were passed and enforced.
“I don’t know how to speed up the process,” said Dr. Likens. “There’s so much vested interest. In the case of acid raid, there were big power plants that had so much money involved. They weren’t about to admit they were doing something to Massachusetts.”
Among those taking in Dr. Likens’ talk was Trent Environmental and Life Sciences student Greg Weiss.
“To be able to use his knowledge is critical, especially for natural resources management. He has seen the declines and has monitored them. He has unique knowledge and we should use it effectively.”
The David Sheperd Family Lecture was first presented in 2008, with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as the inaugural speaker. The Sheperd lecture is one of three endowed lectures at Trent University, established and funded by Peterborough business executive David Sheperd to introduce Trent students to leading speakers on global environmental issues.