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When climate change becomes a health issue, are people more likely to listen?
Date:7/19/2010

FAIRFAX, Va., July 16, 2010Framing climate change as a public health problem seems to make the issue more relevant, significant and understandable to members of the publiceven some who don't generally believe climate change is happening, according to preliminary research by George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication (4C).

The center recently conducted an exploratory study in the United States of people's reactions to a public health-framed short essay on climate change. They found that on the whole, people who read the essay reacted positively to the information.

Previous research conducted by Mason investigators and others, using people's beliefs, behaviors and policy preferences about global warming as assessed in a national survey, identified six distinct segments of Americans, termed Global Warming's Six Americas.

In the current research, 4C director Edward Maibach interviewed approximately one dozen people in each of the Six Americas after they read the brief essay on the human health implications of global warming. As expected, he found that members of the audience segments who already believe strongly that climate change is happening had a strong positive response to the new information, while people who are less sure if climate change is happening also found value in the information. Nearly half of the comments made by members of the "Disengaged" segment, for example, indicated that the essay reflected their personal point of view, was informative or thought-provoking or offered valuable prescriptive information on how to take action relative to climate change. Moreover, about 40 percent of those people in the "Doubtful" segment had similar positive reactions to the essay.

"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 visualization of the issue away from remote
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Contact: Tara Laskowski
tlaskows@gmu.edu
703-993-8815
George Mason University
Source:Eurekalert

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