This chapter details one man’s journey over the past decade to find a way of making his skills - as a public health professional and as a communication scientist - helpful in the world’s efforts to limit global warming. The journey began in the Italian Alps with a chance encounter with two of the world’s leading climate change experts. It proceeded to unfold in the form of a public opinion polling project called Climate Change in the American Mind, which in turn led to the creation of a highly successful nationwide climate change reporting resources program for local TV weathercasters, and a collaboration with dozens of medical societies to inform the public and policy makers about the human health relevance of climate change. In the words of Jane Goodall, when it comes to helping the world rise to the challenge of climate change, “no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” The journey detailed here is inspired by that idea.
Connie Roser-Renouf, Edward Maibach and Anthony Leiserowitz
Within the field of climate change communication, a rapidly growing body of research seeks to identify the drivers of sustainable energy consumption, support for mitigation policies, and climate activism. Physical context and socio-economic status (SES) explain much of the variance in energy consumption, but research has identified five key beliefs that underlie policy support and activism: climate change is real, human-caused, harmful, solvable, and scientists agree on its reality and human-causation. Some studies find that issue engagement increases through personal experience with extreme weather and exposure to weather reports and messages on health impacts. Message frames consistent with conservatives’ values have been shown to reduce political polarization and increase conservatives’ acceptance of climate science. A useful method of targeting the diverse climate audiences in the U.S. is Global Warming’s Six Americas, which suggests the type of content that engages and activates different audiences, and the types of messages most likely to attract their attention.
Melinda R Weathers, Marceleen M Mosher and Edward Maibach
Climate change is creating a global public health crisis, with myriad serious health harms already occurring worldwide and near certainty that, if left unaddressed, these harms will become dramatically worse and more pervasive. These harms include illness, injuries and deaths from increasingly dangerous weather, the spread of infectious diseases, increases in food- and water-borne illnesses, reduced nutrition, mental health harms and worsening air pollution. Averting a sustained global public health catastrophe will require rapid mitigation efforts as well as local and regional adaptation actions to protect human health. If taken, these actions offer profound public health and economic benefits, both short- and long-term. As a result, there is an important need for public health professionals to engage the public on this issue, using various forms of civic education that motivate and enable more effective societal decision-making. With this goal in mind, we describe how framing theory, audience segmentation and message testing research can inform the development of communication resources and training workshops for public health professionals seeking to engage their communities in climate change.