What Americans Need to Know About Climate Change and Health
As this month’s CDC Grand Rounds made clear, health leaders are increasingly concerned about the health impacts of climate change. However, most Americans don’t yet share those concerns.
A recent study by Yale and George Mason University found that only one in three Americans think climate change is currently harming people, and only one in four could name a specific health issue. This may be because climate change often magnifies an existing threat like asthma or allergies, so people may not be aware of the cause. Once they understand the link between climate change and health, they are more likely to see the urgency of finding solutions.
The Yale study also found little awareness that certain groups (such as the poor, the elderly, and some communities of color) are more vulnerable to climate change. We can help raise that awareness, and where it already exists, we can work to amplify it. ecoAmerica’s research on ethnic groups discovered that some populations, particularly African Americans, are more likely to recognize the current effects of climate change. We can encourage them to raise their voices on this issue.
Climate communication is most effective when it comes from someone the audience trusts. According to the Yale study, people are most likely to trust their primary-care physician, their family and friends, and health organizations like CDC for information about health impacts. ecoAmerica’s new Climate for Health program helps capitalize on this influence by empowering health leaders to generate support for climate solutions.
For more tips on climate communication, download our new guide, Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication. To find out more about Climate for Health and our other leadership programs, visit momentus.org.
Thanks to our partner, The Energy Foundation, for helping to fund the insightful Yale study.
Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication
A new report, Public Perceptions of the Health Consequences of Global Warming, which analyzes results from our national survey conducted in October 2014, finds that Americans are generally unaware of the potential health consequences of global warming. Key findings include:
• Few Americans have thought much about the health consequences of global warming. Asked how often, if ever, before taking this survey they had thought about how global warming might affect people’s health, seven in 10 said they had given the issue little or no thought. Only one in 10 said they had given the issue a “great deal” of thought and only about two in 10 (22%) said they had thought about it a “moderate amount.”
• Few Americans are aware of any current health consequences of global warming. When asked “In your view, what health problems related to global warming are Americans experiencing, if any?” a majority either didn’t answer the question (43%) – which likely indicates they didn’t have an answer – or answered that they “don’t know” (14%). Only one in four (27%) named at least one health problem related to global warming, and 10% answered, incorrectly, that there are no health problems associated with global warming.