Public Resource
How Americans Respond to Information About Global Warming's Health Impacts: Evidence From a National Survey Experiment
John Kotcher, Edward Maibach, and Marybeth Montoro, George Mason University; Susan Joy Hassol, Climate Communication. American Geophysical Union

Americans tend to see global warming as a distant threat, but a small body of previous research suggests that information about the health implications of global warming may enhance public engagement with the issue. This longitudinal study examined how Americans react to information about eight specific categories of health impacts from global warming according to a "two-wave" survey experiment that provided respondents with information about the impact of climate change on helath and then followed up 2-3 weeks later.

Notably, information about illnesses from contaminated food and water, and disease-carrying organisms were viewed as more worrisome and novel compared to other types of health impacts from global warming. Our findings provide the most definitive evidence to date about the importance of raising awareness about the health impacts of global warming. While participants believed all of the essays offered valuable information, educational efforts might most productively focus on impacts that are relatively less familiar and more emotionally engaging, such as food-, water-, and vector-borne illnesses.