If the human health impacts of climate change were explained in more detail to people they might be more willing to accept tougher action to reduce its impact, according to a US study.
A survey of US adults found they reacted more positively to information about the health impacts of climate change, such as allergies, asthma, vulnerability to extreme heat and a rise in infectious diseases.
Perhaps even more importantly, they were receptive to information about the health benefits associated with mitigation-related policy actions, to which they might previously have been opposed.
The researchers from George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication (4C), whose study was recently published in the BMC public health journal, said the health impacts of climate change had been 'dramatically under-represented' in discussions by scientists, policy-makers and NGOs who instead focused on 'geographically remote' impacts like melting ice caps in the Arctic.
'Re-defining climate change in public health terms should help people make connection to already familiar problems such as asthma, allergies and infectious diseases, while shifting the visualisation of the issue away from remote Arctic regions and distant peoples and animals,' said co-author Edward Maibach.
Links with health community
The study says the climate scientists and environmental NGO's should work more closely with health specialists to get across the health impacts of climate change and also work on the health benefits of policies to tackle it.
'The public health perspective offers a vision of a better, healthier future—not just a vision of an environmental disaster averted,' said Maibach.
'We believe this survey is one step in shaping a way to talk about climate change that will reach all segments of the public—not just those who already are making behavioural changes,' he added.
Reframing climate change as a public health issue: an exploratory study of public reactions
|HOW TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
10 groups campaigning for a healthier environment
How can we be healthy on a sick planet? Especially when many still believe that health is unaffected by what is in the environment. These organisations could save your life
|HOW TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Is social marketing our last chance to change people?
Worldwatch's influential State of the World 2010 report tells us why we need more stories addressing climate change and fewer shocking facts
How should environmentalists deal with an onslaught of bad news?
It's easy to close your eyes and turn away, but facing problems and thinking about them can, in the long run, make us happier individuals
Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming
Is the entire global ecosystem on the verge of collapse? Anthony D. Barnosky explores the threats facing the natural world and outlines some solutions
Why we should grow and eat more seaweed
It's one of the healthiest, most versatile 'weeds' around. Asian countries have enjoyed the benefits for centuries. So where is the market for homegrown UK seaweed?