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Inspire Hope, Not Fear: Communicating Effectively About Climate Change and Health

Inspire Hope, Not Fear: Communicating Effectively About
Climate Change and Health
Wendy Ring, MD, MPH
Bayside, CA
Why Now, Why Us? When I rst learned about cli-
mate change 15 years ago, I was the medical director
of a rural community health center in northern Cal-
ifornia. I was too busy to do anything more than
click on climate change action alerts, but I assumed
activists and experts would take care of the problem
and we still had plenty of time. When our rivers
started to dry up and wildres lled the sky with
smoke, I did more clicking, increased my donations
to environmental groups, and waited for a leader to
issue instructions. By the time dust storms raised
valley fever rates 8-fold
and Aedes aegypti mosqui-
toesdthe most effective vectors for dengue, yellow
fever, and chikungunyadfound a new home in
I realized we were running out of time
and that leadership had to come from people like
you and me.
The window of opportunity to prevent cata-
strophic climate change is closing. The year 2015
will mark either a historic global accord aimed at
dramatically lowering greenhouse gas emissions or
our last, lost opportunity to preserve a livable planet
for future generations. Our current emissions path,
including the proffered international commitments
to date, will cause average global temperature to
rise more than 2C above preindustrial tempera-
tures, possibly as soon as mid-century.
Health professionals have untapped power to
inuence what happens at this critical juncture:
We are trusted messengers.
We have experience
translating scientic information into plain language
for individuals and communities. We have a grow-
ing base of evidence documenting the negative
health consequences of climate change and the pos-
itive health (and therefore economic) benets of
And, in a health landscape dominated
by chronic disease, we have experience from our
daily clinical practice in motivating behavior change.
This is a call to action. With international nego-
tiations showing little cause for us to be optimistic
about closing the gap between political expedience
and necessity, it is time we as health care professio-
nals step forward to put these powerful assets to use.
Leading From Below. I was never a comfortable or
condent speaker, but in 2012 my husband and I
set off across the country by bicycle on a speaking
tour about climate change and health. Since that
time I have given hundreds of talks to groups ranging
from small-town Rotary Clubs to grand rounds at
major medical centers. My initial nervousness
resolved as I discovered that my high standard for
polished presentations was self-imposed. Audiences
value sincerity and reliable information delivered in
terms they can understand. I found that people want
to hear what health professionals have to say about
climate change and our colleagues want to know how
they can help. The most important thing we can do is
stand up and tell them because political pressure
applied by active citizens is the only force that can
divert us from our crash course with disaster.
In my travels as an itinerant climate preacher, I
met many colleagues and students who also wanted
to take action but felt isolated and unsure of what to
do. Together we formed Climate 911, a national
network to mobilize and support health professio-
nals calling for climate action. Our activities include
workshops on best practices in climate/health com-
munication, lobbying, op-ed writing, and monthly
collective action in support of a healthy climate
The author declares she has no conict of interest.
From Family Medicine, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Climate 911,Bayside, CA. Address correspondence to W.R . (
Annals of Global Health
ª2015 The Author. Published by Elsevier Inc.
on behalf of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
VOL. 81, NO. 3, 2015
ISSN 2214-9996
solution such as clean energy, active transportation,
and sustainable agriculture. Please join us by signing
up at
The following information is a distillation of best
practices in communicating about climate and
health gleaned from personal experience and the
growing body of published literature on climate
Fear Doesnt Work. The rst attempts by public
health professionals and environmentalists to edu-
cate about climate and health were inspired by cli-
mate communication research demonstrating the
benet of framing climate change as a health issue.
The central message deployed in response to this
nding, which remains the dominant narrative, is a
depressing litany of all the ways that climate change
can make us sick. The intended purpose of these
scare talks was to prove to nonbelievers that climate
change is real and serious. This strategy was based
on 3 erroneous assumptions: (1) people need to be
convinced that climate change is real and serious;
(2) fear motivates action; and (3) we all have to
agree on the problem before we can agree on
As some of us suspected from our experience in
clinical practice, fear tactics do not promote acti-
vism, but instead provoke denial, passivity, and
fatalism. My early climate presentations in this
vein were quite successful at generating concern
but produced little in the way of action.
We Have a Silent Majority. In our politically polar-
ized society, opinion about climate change is deter-
mined more by group allegiance than scientic
Fortunately, agreement is not a prerequisite
for action. Communication aimed at reversing cli-
mate denial is at best a waste of time and at worst can
alienate and silence potential allies. If we skip over the
climate catechism and its ideological battleground
and look directly at public support for climate policy,
there is a surprising amount of agreement. Even in the
United States, where public opinion lags behind other
nations, polls repeatedly indicate that a majority of
Americans in both major political parties and in red
and blue districts believe our government should do
more about climate change and support a broad
spectrum of policies to lower greenhouse gas emis-
When questions about belief in the human
causation of climate change are added to polls,
majority support goes away.
If lack of public support for climate policy is not
the problem, then the sticking point must be else-
where. Further examination of US polling data con-
rms a theme I heard repeatedly in conversations
across the country: People dont believe they can
get government to act and therefore do not bother
to demand it. We suffer from an endemic lack of
political efcacy. This widespread belief that voters
have no power partly arises from the common mis-
conception among supporters of climate policy that
they are in the minority, but it is also due to the very
real observation that large campaign contributions
from the fossil fuel industry subvert democracy
and induce politicians to act against the wishes
and interests of their constituents.
Given that time is limited, we should stop trying
to scare people out of denial, stop trying to convince
deniers that climate change is real, and focus our
efforts on empowering the rest of us to stand up
and demand climate solutions.
Identify the Target and Focus. Effective messaging
about climate change is communication that results
in action. Governments have proven they will not
act without strong and sustained pressure from their
citizenry. Polls indicate that as much as one third of
Americans are willing to use their votes and/or join
a political campaign to make elected ofcials to act
on climate change,
but this is not happening.
What we need to tap into this potential energy are
the voices and leadership of respected members of
our communities. This dictates a change in our
communication strategy from top down (ie, experts
testify before politicians who ignore the facts and
serve the interests of their industrial benefactors) to
bottom up (ie, we all educate and mobilize the
people around us to exert pressure on politicians and
to replace those who persist in climate inaction). We
should choose who we talk to, what we say to them,
and how we say it with this specic goal in mind.
Establish a Connection. Get personal. Although our
titles and education give us some credibility, what
listeners need to make the move from angst to
action is to connect with us as human beings. Lis-
tening to expertscan reinforce passivity. For an
audience to begin seeing themselves as actors, they
have to see themselves in us. The depersonalized,
passive voice of the scientic lecture will not serve
this purpose. We must set it aside and let people
Annals of Global Health, VOL. 81, NO. 3, 2015 Ring
MayeJune 2015: 410415 Communicating About Climate Change and Health
see beyond our credentials to who we are, how we
feel, and why we care. Introduce yourself, name
the common ground you have with your audience,
and share a brief story about a personal experience
or a deeply held moral value that prompted you to
stand up for climate action.
Know your audience. It is equally important to
acknowledge to listeners that you know who they
are by tailoring your presentation to their commun-
ity, locale, values, and concerns. Be sure to select
images of people who mirror the age and ethnic
mix of your audience. When discussing the health
impacts of climate change, fossil fuels, and climate
solutions, bring them as close to home as possible.
Information at county, state, and regional levels bro-
ken down by demographic group can often be found
online with a little searching. These are the things
people will go home and talk about, so conducting
the research to tailor your presentation is well worth
the effort.
Acknowledge Emotions. Contemplation of climate
change provokes strong negative emotions such as
fear, sadness, anger, and anxiety in almost everyone.
Eco-psychologists caution that emphasizing the
dangers of climate change and warning of a future
dystopia activates psychological defenses as a way to
escape emotional discomfort.
If people are in
denial, more facts only fortify their resistance. Nor is
it helpful to swing the pendulum too far in the other
direction and paint a rosy picture of a low-carbon
future. Ignoring the losses we inevitably face on a
changing planet leaves us unable to work through
our guilt and grief and keeps us trapped in denial.
Attention to feelings is important because
research indicates that strong negative emotions
correlate with low levels of support for climate pol-
icy, whereas positive emotions like interest and hope
are associated with increased support of climate
Joanna Macy, eco-philosopher and Bud-
dhist scholar, believes we must rst acknowledge
and accept our painful emotions around climate
change before we can have hope and think clearly
about solutions.
Therefore, we cannot be in denial
about being in denial. We have to help people move
through this stage by acknowledging the negative
feelings we all have about climate change, thanking
listeners for being willing to make themselves
uncomfortable, and reassuring them that there are
solutions and actions they can take.
Be Aware of Cognitive Processing and Biases. Balance
emotional and intellectual content. The elds of cog-
nitive psychology and neurobiology provide useful
insights into how people process information, which
can inform our climate communication. Experiential
processing, centered in the amygdala, is emotional,
visual, rapid, intuitive, automatic, and based on past
experiences. Analytic processing, located in the ante-
rior cingulate cortex, is intellectual, abstract, rational,
and deliberative. Survival responses occur in response
to experiential processing cognition, which may
explain why scientic appeals to reason fail to galva-
nize public action.
To generate passionate and
thoughtful advocacy, we need to address the heart as
well as the head.
Focus on the here and now. We are also prone to
perceptual distortions that predispose us to irra-
tional responses to climate change. We accept the
status quo as our moral baseline and view any sacri-
ce or loss in the service of improvement as an
unjust theft of something to which we are entitled.
We abhor the loss more than we appreciate gain.
We discount the importance of events that are dis-
tant in space or time and lend more importance to
small effects with high probability than to large
impacts with more uncertainty.
Things that
may happen at the end of the century are mean-
ingless to the average person. Harms and benets
are only compelling if they happen here and now.
Tell stories. We are not cognitively wired to
respond appropriately to slow-onset threats like
climate change that require current and sustained
sacrice to avoid future risk.
We are superbly
wired for stories. Functional magnetic resonance
imaging studies performed while participants read
or listen to stories show activation of sensorimotor
regions corresponding to the actions and experi-
ences of story characters and increased connectivity
that lasts for days afterward.
We are so naturally
receptive to this form of communication that the
cortical activity of a story listener mirrors that of the
Stories about people and places where cli-
mate solutions are working provide vision, inspira-
tion, and a sense of positive momentum toward a
sustainable future.
Emphasize Solutions and Benets. Be positive. If
dire predictions dont motivate action, the solution
is not to make them scarier. Repeated exposure to
stressful stimuli creates psychic numbing and we
learn to sleep through the alarm.
Vision, sol-
utions, and a sense of momentum are positive
motivators for change.
Although some mention of
the health harms is necessary to build a sense of
urgency, our main emphasis must be on solutions
and their benets.
Our message must be one of hope. Successful
climate solutions are happening all around us.
Ring AnnalsofGlobalHealth,VOL.81,NO.3,2015
Communicating About Climate Change and Health MayeJune 2015: 410415
They come with a bonus of improved health and
well-being. We need only generate the political
will to rapidly scale up these successes to state,
national, and international levels to prevent cata-
strophic global warming. If we act now, we can
transition to 100% clean energy by 2050. We can
get 80% of the way with existing commercially avail-
able technology.
We can afford to do this
because the decreased health spending and eco-
nomic losses averted by preventing premature mor-
tality are equal to or exceed the cost of switching to
clean energy.
The hold of Big Oil on govern-
ment can be broken by an active, engaged citizenry.
Please join us.
Emphasize health benets. The health benets of
climate solutions are substantial because fossil-fuel
dependence really does make us sick. Our own
health professions are victims of status quo bias in
their near-exclusive focus on technological cures for
diseases of environmental origin. There is solid
evidence that air pollution, physical inactivity, and
consumption of sweetened beverages and processed
foodsdwhich are themselves products of our fossil-
fueleintensive systems of energy, transportation,
and agriculturedcontribute signicantly to car-
diovascular disease, chronic lung disease, obesity,
diabetes, and cancer
The effects are not small.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers
estimate that in 2005, air pollution from fossil fuel
killed 200,000 Americans.
Unlike climate change,
these environmental effects of fossil fuel are rapidly
reversible and result in prompt improvements in
population health. The benets of action are here,
now, and relevant to almost everyone in our society.
Explain the Difference Between Policy and Individ-
ual Action. It is essential to make it clear that the
solutions we advocate are policies rather than
changes in individual behavior. Global emissions
reductions sufcient to stabilize the climate can
only be accomplished by government action and
international cooperation, but this is not what
most people think of when they think about climate
action. In the face of corporate dominance of the
political process, many people feel the only power
they have is to vote with their dollars by greening
their personal lifestyles.
Those who subscribe to this view of environmen-
tal action by consumer choice may feel guilty if their
options are constrained by income or circumstance
or become defensive if they think they are being
told what to do. Acknowledge the difculty of
swimming upstream against the main current of
society and ask for support of policies that make
healthy choices easy and available to everyone.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, those who
factor environmental concerns into their purchasing
are not more likely to become climate activists.
Token or single environmental actions relieve moral
tension and absolve the actor, in his or her mind, of
the responsibility to engage politically as a citizen.
Educate to Empower. Because our goal is to build
political efcacy, the way we deliver information is
as important as the content. Successful education
starts from where people are and builds on their
life experience, using analogies, anecdotes, and
common sense to construct a bridge between the
known and the new. Use accessible language that
is clear and straightforward. Avoid jargon and the
use of big words if small ones will do. Use numbers
sparingly, round off, and translate units of measure
to those in common use. Describe solutions in terms
of what matters most to your audiencedthat is,
stop air pollutioninstead of lower greenhouse
gas emissions.Describe events in terms of their
effect on people rather than the planet. For example,
say oodinstead of heavy rain.
Employ interactive learning such as group partici-
pation in scenarios and problem solving, and use ques-
tions and comments as springboards for discussion.
Encouraging members of your audience to talk and
respecting what they say increases condence, under-
lines the richness of community assets, and provides
opportunities to practice talking about climate issues.
Keeping silent on climate change is not an option for
health professionals because climate change is a major
health justice issue. Climate change magnies the
burdens of poverty, injustice, and unfavorable social
determinants of health, increasing vulnerability to
climate-related disease and disasters. It also offers an
unprecedented opportunity to improve public health
and promote equality by targeting investment in ef-
cient housing, public and active transportation, walk-
able neighborhoods, distributed clean energy, and
local food production to neighborhoods whose resi-
dents have the greatest needs. As professionals whose
mission is to promote health, this is clearly our
Most health professionals personally want cli-
mate action but hesitate to speak out publicly
because they do not consider themselves experts.
A frontline health workers knowledge about climate
change may not be as detailed as a researcher in
academia, but we are all experts in our own
Annals of Global Health, VOL. 81, NO. 3, 2015 Ring
MayeJune 2015: 410415 Communicating About Climate Change and Health
communities. Grounded in science and providing
care for societys most vulnerable members, we are
best placed to understand and explain the local
harms of inaction and the here and nowbenets
of tapering off fossil fuels. Everyone wants good
health for themselves and their loved ones, and
this common aspiration can be a powerful incentive
to demand that our governments do more to lower
greenhouse gas emissions. As trusted messengers,
skilled communicators, and local experts, health
professionals have a critical role to play in building
public pressure for climate solutions.
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©2015 The Author. Published by Elsevier Inc. on behalf of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. This is an open
access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (
Annals of Global Health, VOL. 81, NO. 3, 2015 Ring
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... These studies strongly addressed that health frame can be used to complement other strategies in order to enhance the public engagement towards mitigation and adaptation behaviors [12,29,34,35,41]. Such a frame promotes health as a co-benefit among other benefits (environmental, economic and social) of actions that address climate change [12,24,28,29,34,35,39]. The literature we reviewed linked different benefits mainly health benefits attainable through climate change mitigation. ...
... The literature we reviewed linked different benefits mainly health benefits attainable through climate change mitigation. Three studies described the significance of positive messages while communicating climate change [14,24,39]. Effectively communicating climate change requires positive messages that promotes "constructive engagement" of public towards climate change [15,44]. ...
... Alarming messages such as promoting fear and despair might not be effective. Two papers focused on further strategies to make communication effective including consideration of individual values and motivation and use of emotions [14,39]. ...
Full-text available
The negative implications of climate change for human health are now well established. Yet these have not been fully considered into climate change communication strategies. Research suggests that reorienting climate change communication with a health frame could be a useful communication strategy. We conducted a long-term and broad overview of existing scientific literature in order to summarize the state of research activity in this area. The methodology is based on a scoping review of scientific articles published on climate change communication and health between 1990 and mid-2016 indexed in the PubMed, ScienceDirect, and Web of Science databases. The screened citations were reviewed for inclusion and data were extracted in order to conduct quantitative (e.g. frequencies) and qualitative (i.e. content analysis) analyses. Out of 2,866 identified published papers, only 24 articles were eligible for analyses. The main categories identified were reframing climate change as a health issue (n=10, 41.7%), the role of health professionals (n=10, 41.7%) and the perception of climate change (n=4, 16.6%). We identified a large proportion of secondary research articles (n= 15, 62.5%) including reviews (n=5, 20.8%) and opinion articles (n=10, 41.7%). A significant share-37.57% (n=9)-of the identified articles were classified as original research articles, suggesting that the number of publications in this area-particularly original research-has not grown rapidly. This scoping review identified several categories including reframing climate change as a health issue, the role of health professionals, and the perception of climate change in the selected articles on the subject. The research literature on the communication of climate change and health is relatively recent and emerging.
... For those with a strong white racial identity, climate change communications may also be more effective when using images or stories of people who are seen as similar to them in race and ethnicity or cultural values [76]. Presenting stories that activate other intersecting identities (e.g., Christian stewards or loving grandparents, for instance) might also move them towards pro-environmental and pro-climate action. ...
Full-text available
Prior research has found that white people are more likely to be climate change skeptics. In much of this prior work, white identity is treated as a categorical label, limiting the theoretical and empirical understanding of this relationship. Drawing on survey data from a US national sample of 933 white young adults, we theorize that white identity is a developmental process where people explore the meanings of their racial identity and commit to a white identity marked by enhanced levels of social dominance orientation and conspiratorial ideation, two social-psychological constructs consistently associated with climate change skepticism. Using regression analyses, we tested a mediation model that a strong white identity would increase climate change skepticism by enhancing one’s social dominance orientation and conspiratorial ideation. We found partial support for our model. While a strong white identity was positively associated with social dominance orientation and conspiratorial ideation, only social dominance orientation increased climate change skepticism. Conspiratorial ideation reduced climate change skepticism. We discuss the implications of our findings for the climate change literature as well as how our findings can inform policies that could reduce climate change skepticism among white people.
... The use of such scientific information with positive emotion inducing triggers like hope-instead of fear inducing ones-were found to be another strategy used by the climate change supporters. This is in line with the research suggesting that positive emotions are more likely to generate prosocial behaviours than negative emotions (Haltinner et al., 2021;Ring, 2015;O'Neill and Nicholson-Cole, 2009). Research further showed that "fear is generally an ineffective tool for motivating genuine personal engagement. ...
Full-text available
The increasing popularity of Twitter as a medium for sharing and debating scientific information brings forth questions about the type of narratives emerging around environmental/climate change and global warming. This article maps the landscape of narratives of how Twitter is used to communicate about environmental issues in Turkey. It displays how these actors can play a crucial role in constructing and/or de-constructing such crisis. I show how Twitter users in Turkey, use such medium to strengthen their own and the public’s awareness on global warming or to deny all together create a counter narrative and how certain frames that promote scepticism about environmental change are broadly disseminated by using certain emotional context. The analyses of the 1295 tweets collected using a random week sample displayed users who are sceptical about the Turkish government taking a more active stance toward climate change whereas the users supporting the government in general where more preoccupied with hoax arguments that in return may compromise trust in scientific authorities. The analysis combines thematic analysis of tweets and coding. I conclude the paper by conversing the significance of studying Twitter as a communicative platform that provides rich information displaying the existing dynamics.
... The framing or the way of presenting messages influences audience responses and problem views and promotes the importance of information among people [68]. People experience different emotions, such as hope, worry, fear, anxiety, and humor, while exposed to information about climate change [15,69,70]. Fear arises when an individual perceives a personal physical threat and is supposed to be a useful motivational tool toward his/her pro-environmental behaviors [71]. ...
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Climate change poses a huge threat. Social networking sites (SNSs) have become sources of human-environment interactions and shaped the societal perception of climate change and its effect on society. This study, based on the extended parallel process model, aims to examine the effect of exposure to climate change-related information on SNSs on the pro-environmental behaviors of individuals. The study examines the mediation effect of fear of victimization from climate change between the exposure to climate change-related information on SNSs and pro-environmental behaviors, including the moderation effect of attention deficit and decision making self-efficacy with the help of appropriate instruments. A total sample of 406 reliable questionnaires were collected from students using SNSs in China, and data were analyzed through SPSS and AMOS. Results indicate that the exposure to climate change-related information on SNSs has a direct positive effect on users' pro-environmental behaviors (β = 0.299, p < 0.01). Fear of victimization from climate change also mediates the relationship between exposure to climate change-related information on SNSs and pro-environmental behaviors (β = 0.149, SE = 0.029, p < 0.01). In addition, attention deficit moderates the relationship of exposure to climate change-related information on SNSs with fear of victimization from climate change (β = −0.090, p ≤ 0.01) and pro-environmental behaviors (β = −0.090, p ≤ 0.05). Similarly, the relationship between fear of victimization from climate change and pro-environmental behaviors is moderated by decision making self-efficacy (β = 0.267, p ≤ 0.01). The findings offer implications for media organizations and government policy makers, who should post or spread environmental information through the most trustworthy media, with trustworthy sources, in an effective manner, and without exaggerated adverse impacts.
Climate change skepticism presents an opportunity to examine the role of media, information, and trust on views about controversial scientific topics. Building on extant work on predictors of skepticism and the role of information and trust in shaping skeptical attitudes, in this paper, we examine the relationship between climate change skeptics’ access of media/information sources, trust, and the strength of their skepticism. Specifically, we use data gathered from 1,000 surveys with skeptics in the U.S. Pacific Northwest to present an analysis of how trust in institutions and institutional leaders affect the relationship between skeptics’ information sources and their type/strength of skepticism along a “continuum” of skeptical thought. Results reveal that the reliance on conservative/rightwing media and trust in actors steeped within the climate change denial countermovement is associated with a higher degree of denial of anthropogenic climate change as opposed to doubt of the phenomenon. Further, skeptics’ reliance on non-scientific sources for climate change information is partly explained by their distrust in climate scientists.
Emotions about climate change are the subject of a growing area of interdisciplinary scholarship. But so far scholars have not studied the emotions expressed by self-declared climate change skeptics; nor have social scientists turned to affect studies to develop nuanced understandings of the constellation of emotions related to fear. Our team conducted 33 interviews and 1000 surveys with self-identified skeptics living in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. The data demonstrates the variability in perspectives, ideologies, and behaviors among skeptics themselves in new and unique ways, including tracking skeptics’ emotions about climate change. This article focuses on worry and dread. We find that those who believe climate change is a hoax, and skeptics who are politically conservative, tend to express less of these two emotions, as do men who identify as skeptics. Religiosity, as measured by frequency of religious attendance, does not significantly correlate with worry and dread; however, specific religious beliefs related to climate change (e.g. “Climate change is punishment for our sins”) do seem to increase those two feelings. Negative firsthand environmental experiences are also associated with higher degrees of worry and dread. Perhaps most significantly, our data suggests that worry and dread correlate strongly with environmental concern and policy support. Our interdisciplinary approach has several methodological advantages. First, affect studies encourages more nuance in emotion language, including more detailed definitions of emotions like worry and dread, which simmer over time, as opposed to discrete emotions like fear, which are shorter-lived. Second, sociological approaches remind us that emotions function within particular political, historical, and cultural contexts, which are fundamentally shaped by power structures. Finally, humanities scholars can provide useful input both in research design and the interpretation of results by helping craft survey questions and data codes, and by providing close attention to the language of the survey and interview responses. Combined with quantitative data, this multi-pronged methodology brings together forms of knowledge from the humanities and social sciences. Our approach serves as a model for new work in the growing field of empirical ecocriticism and expands the boundaries of the environmental humanities.
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Though the scientific community largely agrees that climate change is underway, debates about this issue remain fiercely polarized. These conversations have become a rhetorical contest, one where opposing sides try to achieve victory through playing on fear, distrust, and intolerance. At its heart, this split no longer concerns carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases, or climate modeling; rather, it is the product of contrasting, deeply entrenched worldviews. This brief examines what causes people to reject or accept the scientific consensus on climate change. Synthesizing evidence from sociology, psychology, and political science, Andrew J. Hoffman lays bare the opposing cultural lenses through which science is interpreted. He then extracts lessons from major cultural shifts in the past to engender a better understanding of the problem and motivate the public to take action. How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate makes a powerful case for a more scientifically literate public, a more socially engaged scientific community, and a more thoughtful mode of public discourse.
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Importance Health is inextricably linked to climate change. It is important for clinicians to understand this relationship in order to discuss associated health risks with their patients and to inform public policy.Objectives To provide new US-based temperature projections from downscaled climate modeling and to review recent studies on health risks related to climate change and the cobenefits of efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.Data Sources, Study Selection, and Data Synthesis We searched PubMed and Google Scholar from 2009 to 2014 for articles related to climate change and health, focused on governmental reports, predictive models, and empirical epidemiological studies. Of the more than 250 abstracts reviewed, 56 articles were selected. In addition, we analyzed climate data averaged over 13 climate models and based future projections on downscaled probability distributions of the daily maximum temperature for 2046-2065. We also compared maximum daily 8-hour average ozone with air temperature data taken from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Climate Data Center.Results By 2050, many US cities may experience more frequent extreme heat days. For example, New York and Milwaukee may have 3 times their current average number of days hotter than 32°C (90°F). High temperatures are also strongly associated with ozone exceedance days, for example, in Chicago, Illinois. The adverse health aspects related to climate change may include heat-related disorders, such as heat stress and economic consequences of reduced work capacity; respiratory disorders, including those exacerbated by air pollution and aeroallergens, such as asthma; infectious diseases, including vectorborne diseases and waterborne diseases, such as childhood gastrointestinal diseases; food insecurity, including reduced crop yields and an increase in plant diseases; and mental health disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder and depression, that are associated with natural disasters. Substantial health and economic cobenefits could be associated with reductions in fossil fuel combustion. For example, greenhouse gas emission policies may yield net economic benefit, with health benefits from air quality improvements potentially offsetting the cost of US and international carbon policies.Conclusions and Relevance Evidence over the past 20 years indicates that climate change can be associated with adverse health outcomes. Health care professionals have an important role in understanding and communicating the related potential health concerns and the cobenefits from policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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Expertise is a prerequisite for communicator credibility, entailing the knowledge and ability to be accurate. Trust also is essential to communicator credibility. Audiences view trustworthiness as the motivation to be truthful. Identifying whom to trust follows systematic principles. People decide quickly another's apparent intent: Who is friend or foe, on their side or not, or a cooperator or competitor. Those seemingly on their side are deemed warm (friendly, trustworthy). People then decide whether the other is competent to enact those intents. Perception of scientists, like other social perceptions, involves inferring both their apparent intent (warmth) and capability (competence). To illustrate, we polled adults online about typical American jobs, rated as American society views them, on warmth and competence dimensions, as well as relevant emotions. Ambivalently perceived high-competence but low-warmth, "envied" professions included lawyers, chief executive officers, engineers, accountants, scientists, and researchers. Being seen as competent but cold might not seem problematic until one recalls that communicator credibility requires not just status and expertise but also trustworthiness (warmth). Other research indicates the risk from being enviable. Turning to a case study of scientific communication, another online sample of adults described public attitudes toward climate scientists specifically. Although distrust is low, the apparent motive to gain research money is distrusted. The literature on climate science communicators agrees that the public trusts impartiality, not persuasive agendas. Overall, communicator credibility needs to address both expertise and trustworthiness. Scientists have earned audiences' respect, but not necessarily their trust. Discussing, teaching, and sharing information can earn trust to show scientists' trustworthy intentions.
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Actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions often reduce co-emitted air pollutants, bringing co-benefits for air quality and human health. Past studies[1–6] typically evaluated near-term and local co-benefits, neglecting the long-range transport of air pollutants[7–9], long-term demographic changes, and the influence of climate change on air quality[10–12]. Here we simulate the co-benefits of global GHG reductions on air quality and human health using a global atmospheric model and consistent future scenarios, via two mechanisms: reducing co-emitted air pollutants, and slowing climate change and its effect on air quality.We use new relationships between chronic mortality and exposure to fine particulate matter[13] and ozone[14], global modelling methods[15] and new future scenarios[16]. Relative to a reference scenario, global GHG mitigation avoids 0.5+/-�0.2, 1.3+/-�0.5 and 2.2+/-�0.8 million premature deaths in 2030, 2050 and 2100. Global average marginal co-benefits of avoided mortality are US$50–380 per tonne of CO2, which exceed previous estimates, exceed marginal abatement costs in 2030 and 2050, and are within the low range of costs in 2100. East Asian co-benefits are 10–70 times the marginal cost in 2030. Air quality and health co-benefits, especially as they are mainly local and near-term, provide strong additional motivation for transitioning to a low-carbon future.
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Prior research has found that affect and affective imagery strongly influence public support for global warming. This article extends this literature by exploring the separate influence of discrete emotions. Utilizing a nationally representative survey in the United States, this study found that discrete emotions were stronger predictors of global warming policy support than cultural worldviews, negative affect, image associations, or sociodemographic variables. In particular, worry, interest, and hope were strongly associated with increased policy support. The results contribute to experiential theories of risk information processing and suggest that discrete emotions play a significant role in public support for climate change policy. Implications for climate change communication are also discussed.
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We sought to determine whether reading a novel causes measurable changes in resting-state connectivity of the brain and how long these changes persist. Incorporating a within-subjects design, participants received resting-state fMRI scans on 19 consecutive days. First, baseline resting state data for a "wash-in" period was taken for each participant for five days. For the next nine days participants read 1/9th of a novel during the evening and resting state data was taken the following morning. Finally, resting state data for a "wash-out" period was taken for five days after the conclusion of the novel. On the days following the reading, significant increases in connectivity were centered on hubs in the left angular/supramarginal gyri and right posterior temporal gyri. These hubs corresponded to regions previously associated with perspective taking and story comprehension, and the changes exhibited a timecourse that decayed rapidly after the completion of the novel. Longterm changes in connectivity, which persisted for several days after the reading, were observed in bilateral somatosensory cortex, suggesting a potential mechanism for "embodied semantics."
An analysis of why people with knowledge about climate change often fail to translate that knowledge into action. © 2011 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. All rights reserved.
Because human activities emit greenhouse gases (GHGs) and conventional air pollutants from common sources, policy designed to reduce GHGs can have co-benefits for air quality that may offset some or all of the near-term costs of GHG mitigation.We present a systems approach to quantify air quality co-benefits of US policies to reduce GHG (carbon) emissions. We assess health-related benefits from reduced ozone and particulate matter (PM2.5) by linking three advanced models, representing the full pathway from policy to pollutant damages. We also examine the sensitivity of co-benefits to key policyrelevant sources of uncertainty and variability. We find that monetized human health benefits associated with air quality improvements can offset 26-1,050% of the cost of US carbon policies. More flexible policies that minimize costs, such as cap-and-trade standards, have larger net co-benefits than policies that target specific sectors (electricity and transportation). Although air quality co-benefits can be comparable to policy costs for present-day air quality and near-term US carbon policies, potential co-benefits rapidly diminish as carbon policies become more stringent.
Combustion emissions adversely impact air quality and human health. A multiscale air quality model is applied to assess the health impacts of major emissions sectors in United States. Emissions are classified according to six different sources: electric power generation, industry, commercial and residential sources, road transportation, marine transportation and rail transportation. Epidemiological evidence is used to relate long-term population exposure to sector-induced changes in the concentrations of PM2.5 and ozone to incidences of premature death. Total combustion emissions in the U.S. account for about 200,000 (90% CI: 90,000-362,000) premature deaths per year in the U.S. due to changes in PM2.5 concentrations, and about 10,000 (90% CI: -1000 to 21,000) deaths due to changes in ozone concentrations. The largest contributors for both pollutant-related mortalities are road transportation, causing ˜53,000 (90% CI: 24,000-95,000) PM2.5-related deaths and ˜5000 (90% CI: -900 to 11,000) ozone-related early deaths per year, and power generation, causing ˜52,000 (90% CI: 23,000-94,000) PM2.5-related and ˜2000 (90% CI: -300 to 4000) ozone-related premature mortalities per year. Industrial emissions contribute to ˜41,000 (90% CI: 18,000-74,000) early deaths from PM2.5 and ˜2000 (90% CI: 0-4000) early deaths from ozone. The results are indicative of the extent to which policy measures could be undertaken in order to mitigate the impact of specific emissions from different sectors — in particular black carbon emissions from road transportation and sulfur dioxide emissions from power generation.