Leading climatologist spoke to WKU audience about climate change


Climatologist Kenrick Leslie spoke with WKU students and faculty on Tuesday on the importance of collaboration in responding to climate change.

“We work with an increased sense of urgency,” Leslie said. “My colleagues and I have been considering since we’ve been here how what WKU is studying here are applicable to the Caribbean can use.”

Leslie, executive director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), spoke to a group of around 100 students and faculty in Snell Hall. His presentation was followed by a brief question-and-answer period.

Leslie’s presentation focused on the Caribbean’s regional climate change, as well as international impacts of climate change.

“Climate change requires negotiating that involves every country in the world,” Leslie said.

He also stressed that despite challenging “geographic and anthropogenic” challenges facing the Caribbean nations, they are still able to limit a majority of pollution and emissions. The major problem, according to Leslie, is small countries’ inabilities to overcome economic barriers after natural disasters, such as hurricanes, have destroyed their infrastructures.

“When Grenada’s economy was hit [by a 2004 hurricane]…it lost over 200 percent of its GDP,” Leslie said.

He then compared Grenada’s devastation to the U.S.’s ability to remain virtually unaffected by the same hurricane and spoke of how the U.S. could help restore smaller nations in order to rebuild their climate change policies.

Leslie also expanded the responsibilities of climate change to all countries, not just the U.S. or developing nations.

“It’s not India that will suffer, but the entire world,” he said.

Leslie said he came to WKU in order to “build capacity” to address the growing international problems associated with climate change, needing financial support as well as man-power in the form of WKU researchers.

Leslie Baylis, assistant director of the Honors College, said she’s enjoyed seeing the connections between the CCCCC and WKU grow during Leslie’s visit.

“It’s so exciting,” Baylis said. “There’s a beautiful synergy between all of the departments. We keep on seeing collaborations with student research.”

Freshman Will Lyle, a pre-pharmacy student, found the presentation “informative.”

“I find it astounding that countries so closely involved with the U.S. are in such a bad place economically and technologically,” Lyle said. “They’re able to accomplish so much, though.”

Bernie Strenecky, scholar-in-residence at WKU, has been connected with Leslie since 2004.

“We’ve had an extremely good working relationship ever since,” Leslie said.

Strenecky said that the biggest highlight of Leslie’s WKU visit are the connections made through collaboration.

“It’s the classical win-win situation,” Strenecky said. “They get information on climate change and we provide students with unique opportunities that are seldom available.”

Tomorrow, Leslie and his companions — Ulric Trotz, a science adviser from the CCCCC, and Mark Bynoe, an environmental economist — will travel to Bowling Green High School. There they will visit with students in a community development effort to increase awareness of climate change.

“We’re investing interest in the most important constituency, teenagers, and out of that group something magical will happen,” Strenecky said. “Students will understand, will act, and guaranteed, some will think ‘my career path should change.’ Isn’t that what education is all about? Giving them these opportunities?”