Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Yale Study Finds Americans Ignorant of Health Impacts From Global Warming

Climate
Yale Study Finds Americans Ignorant of Health Impacts From Global Warming

When the average American thinks about how climate change-caused global warming could affect their health, what do they think of? Not much, apparently, according to a new study, Public Perceptions of the Health Impacts of Global Warming, just released by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. The study is based on the results of a survey, Climate Change in the American Mind. The researchers found that Americans largely haven't thought about the health impacts of global warming at all.

Americans are mostly unaware that climate change has vast global health impacts. Photo credit: Yale Project on Climate Change Communication/George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication

"Few Americans have thought much about the health consequences of global warming," they said. "Asked how often, if at all, before taking this survey they had thought about how global warming might affect people’s health, six 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 percent) said they had thought about it a 'moderate amount.'"

Asked "In your view, what health problems related to global warming are Americans experiencing, if any?," 43 percent offered no answer and 14 percent said they didn't know. Ten percent answered incorrectly that there are no problems, while 27 percent named one. The respondents who correctly identified at least one health problem primarily mentioned either asthma and other lung diseases (14 percent) or the impacts of extreme weather events (6 percent). Fewer than 5 percent were able to name anything else, such as diseases carried by tainted water, food and ticks.

The study found on question after question that large numbers of respondents didn't know or were wrong. Only one in three respondents (31 percent) thought global warming was impacting the health of Americans now, and only 17 percent thought it was affecting their own health or that of members of their household. Only one in three respondents knew that some groups of people—including the elderly, children and the poor—were more likely to suffer health impacts than others (32 percent); most were not sure (43 percent).

Needless to say, they were equally unaware of the health impacts of global warming worldwide. Most said they weren't sure how many people are impacted around the globe, and a third thought people would suffer no health consequences now or in the future. Only 12-15 percent thought thousands or millions of people around the world are sickened, injured or die because of global warming. And only slightly more than a third thought smog, pollen-related allergies, asthma and other lung diseases, heat stroke and injuries from storms would become more common in their community in the next decade.

Still, almost half of Americans felt government agencies should do more to address such health-related issues, including federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Congress or their state government. More support than oppose more funding for government agencies to deal with public health problems arising from global warming but about three in ten had no opinion.

The survey suggests an avenue for increasing public awareness. Nearly half (49 percent) said they are likely to trust their primary care doctor's opinion on the matter, while forty-one percent said they would trust family or friends with a similar number saying they would trust the CDC. They were least likely to trust the opinion of religious leaders and the military on the topic.

In an editorial published yesterday in Bristol, Virginia's TriCities.com, as well as the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Virginia pediatrician Jerome A. Paulson, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health, wrote, "As a pediatrician who cares for children from the tri-state area, I have witnessed the harmful effects of air pollution on children in our local communities, especially in the form of exacerbated or new asthma symptoms. Without action, these cases will only become more frequent and more severe."

He strongly advocated for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed carbon emission reduction rule, saying, "Despite these alarming statistics and the imminent health effects of climate change, the public health perspective has been notably absent from discussions of the EPA’s new rule to reduce carbon emission. Ignoring the impact of air pollution on public health is leaving out an important piece of the puzzle."

"Public health actions, especially preparedness and prevention, can do much to protect people from some of the impacts of climate change," said the Yale/George Mason University researchers. "Early action provides the largest health benefits. As threats increase, our ability to adapt to future changes may be limited."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Fighting Global Warming Will Improve Health of People Everywhere

Climate Change Bigger Health Emergency Than Ebola

How Climate Change Could Increase Pollen Levels by 200%

Anika Chebrolu of Frisco, Texas has been named "America's Top Young Scientist" for identifying a molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Anika Chebrolu / YouTube

Scientists at top universities searching for a coronavirus cure have just gotten help from an unexpected source: a 14-year-old from Texas.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Fish exposed to endocrine-disrupting compounds, like this inland silverside fish, can pass on health problems to future generations. Bill Stagnaro / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

By Brian Bienkowski

Fish exposed to endocrine-disrupting compounds pass on health problems to future generations, including deformities, reduced survival, and reproductive problems, according to a new study.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Poor eating habits, lack of exercise, genetics, and a bunch of other things are known to be behind excessive weight gain. But, did you know that how much sleep you get each night can also determine how much weight you gain or lose?

Read More Show Less
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declares victory during the Labor Party Election Night Function at Auckland Town Hall on Oct. 17, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. Hannah Peters / Getty Images

Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister who has emerged as a leader on the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, has won a second term in office.

Read More Show Less
A woman holds a handful of vitamin C. VO IMAGES / Getty Images

By Laura Beil

Consumers have long turned to vitamins and herbs to try to protect themselves from disease. This pandemic is no different — especially with headlines that scream "This supplement could save you from coronavirus."

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch