Climate change

Climate change

Climate change means the difference in the Earth’s global climate or in regional climates over time. Climate change is now a major concern especially in colder countries. Climate change can be warmer or colder. This includes global warming and global cooling.

It describes changes in the state of the atmosphere over time scales ranging from decades to millions of years. These changes can be caused by processes inside the Earth, forces from outside (e.g. variations in sunlight intensity) or, more recently, human activities. Ice ages are prominent examples.

Climate change is any significant long-term change in the weather of a region (or the whole Earth) over a significant period of time. Climate change is about abnormal variations to the climate, additionally the ramifications of these variations on other parts of the Earth. Examples include the melting of ice caps at the South Pole and North Pole. These changes may take tens, hundreds or perhaps millions of years.

In recent use, especially in environmental policy, climate change usually refers to changes in modern climate (see global warming).

Some people have suggested trying to keep Earth’s temperature increase below 2 °C (36 °F). On February 7, 2018, The Washington Post reported on a study by scientists in Germany. The study said that if the world built all of the coal plants that were currently planned, carbon dioxide levels would rise so much that the world would not be able to keep the temperature increase below this limit[1].

Overall Sample Response and Between-Group Differences

The results of non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis tests indicate that there are significant between-group differences for both dependent measures: valence (p = .001)and the composite sentence-specific score (p < .0001). For the overall sample, the Wilcoxon signed rank tests indicated a positive response on the sentence-specific composite score (p < .001) but not on the valence score (p = .12). The average valence scores – on a scale of 1 to -1 – spanned from .55 (Alarmed) to -.7 (Dismissive) (see Figure 2). The average sentence-specific composite scores – on a scale of 18 to -18 – ranged from 9.27 (Alarmed) to -4.64 (Dismissive) (see Figure 3).

Hypothesis Test

The Wilcoxon signed rank tests indicated only partial support for our hypothesis. Using valence due to the fact dependent measure, the null hypothesis can be rejected only for the Alarmed (p = .04) and Concerned (p = .02) segments, but not for the Cautious (p = .50), Disengaged (p = .36) or Doubtful segments (p = .50). Utilizing the composite sentence-specific score as the dependent measure, the null hypothesis can be rejected for the Alarmed (p = .001), Concerned (p < .01) and Cautious (p = .01) segments, and marginally rejected for the Disengaged segment (p = .06), but not for the Doubtful segment (p = .61) segment.

In sum, there was clear evidence that the Alarmed and Concerned segments responded positively to the public health essay, and mixed evidence that the Cautious and Disengaged responded positively. There was no evidence that the Doubtful responded positively. It is worthy of note, however, that all six segments agreed with the essay’s opening frame device (O1) that ”good health is a great blessing,” suggesting that human health and wellbeing is a widely shared value.

Table 3 summarizes the thematic content of the statements made by respondents when they were asked to discuss their general reactions to the public health essay. Across segments, not surprisingly, a substantial proportion of comments focused on the presentation of evidence or the stylistic tone of the essay. For the Alarmed and Concerned segments, roughly a third of their statements reflected personal agreement with the essay. In contrast, among the Dismissive, roughly a third of their statements characterized the essay as biased or alarmist. Relative to other possible reactions, substantial proportions of the statements made by the Concerned (18%), Cautious (19%), Disengaged (13%); and Doubtful (16%) indicated that the essay was informative and/or thought provoking.

Table 3 Distribution of Themes Expressed in Reaction to the Public Health Essay.
Full size table

Benefit versus Threat Statements

The Wilcoxon signed rank tests used to compare segments on the perceived clarity and helpfulness of the threat statements in the first part of the essay from the health benefits of mitigation-related policy actions in the second part of the essay showed a significant main effect (p ≤ .05) for all segments except the Alarmed (p = .17). The Dismissive segment showed the largest difference between the sections of the essay (6.10), followed by the Doubtful (3.69), the Cautious (3.57), the Concerned (3.13), while the Disengaged (2.12). Using a weighted t-test, the estimated gain from the Threat to Benefits sections across all segments was 3.17 (p < .0001), with a 95% confidence interval of 1.85 to 4.49. In short, the health benefits associated with mitigation-related policy actions were seen as clearer and more useful than the preceding threat statements in the essay.

Also worthy of note, as Figures 4 and 5 indicate, is that all six segments reacted positively to the following statements focusing on specific mitigation-related policy actions that lead to human health benefits:

”Taking actions to limit global warming – by making our energy sources cleaner and our cars and appliances more efficient, by making our cities and towns friendlier to trains, buses, and bikers and walkers, and by improving the quality and safety of our food – will improve the health of almost every American.”

”Cleaner energy sources and more efficient use of energy will lead to healthier air for children and adults to breathe.”

”Improving the design of our cities and towns in ways that make it simpler to get around on foot, by bike and on mass transit will reduce the number of cars and help people are more physically active, shed weight.”

Conversely, respondents in all segments responded less positively to the statement:

”Increasing our consumption of vegetables and fruit, and reducing our intake of meat – especially beef – will help people maintain a wholesome weight, will help prevent heart disease and cancer, and will play an important role in limiting global warming.”

Opening versus Concluding Framing Statements

The Wilcoxon signed rank test used to compare segments on their reactions to the opening versus concluding framing statements for each segment showed a significant or marginally significant main effect in the Alarmed (p = .07), Concerned (p < .01), Cautious (p = .05), Disengaged (p = .03) and Dismissive (p < .01) segments; the trend was not significant in the Doubtful (p = .14) segment. The largest differences were seen in the Concerned segment (4.31), followed by the Dismissive (4.09), Disengaged (3.8), Cautious (2.54) additionally the Alarmed segment (2.45). Again using a weighted t-test, the estimated increase from the Opening to Concluding sections across all segments was 3.30 (p < .0001), with a 95% confidence interval of 2.14 to 4.47.

Discussion

On the whole, people who read our public health-framed essay about climate change reacted positively to the information. People in the Alarmed plus the Concerned segments demonstrated consistent positive response to the information, while people in the Cautious, Disengaged, and Doubtful segments were less consistent. Although we did not treat it as a dependent measure per se, many of the respondents in all five segments made open-ended comments about the essay that demonstrated a positive engagement with the material. For example, nearly half (44%) of the comments made by the Disengaged segment indicated that the essay reflected their personal point of view, was informative or thought-provoking, or offered valuable prescriptive info on how to take action relative to the climate problem. Similarly, 39% of the comments made by respondents in the Doubtful segment reflected one of these three themes. Moreover, the ascending sentence-specific evaluations between the opening and concluding sections of the essay, for the sample overall and for all of the segments (excluding the Dismissive), suggest that the value of the public health frame may not be immediate, but rather may manifest more fully after people have had time to consider the evidence, especially when this evidence is presented with specific mitigation-related policy actions that are prone to have human health benefits.

One of the most intriguing findings in the study – albeit not definitive due to the order effect of the information in the essay – is the robustness of the response across all six segments to information about the health benefits of taking action to address global warming.

Overall, we interpret these collective findings as providing partial support for our hypothesis that information about exemplification essay about climate change climate change framed in ways that encourage people to consider its human health context provides many Americans with a useful and engaging new frame of reference and that this new interpretation may broaden the personal significance and relevance of the issue. Our methods were exploratory, however, and additional research on this question is needed. To that end, we are further analyzing the data already collected to determine more systematically which specific ideas are most and also least resonant with members of each segment. We are also planning an experimental test of climate education material framed in various ways, including a public health frame. Additional research is needed to determine if these findings generalize across nations and other populations.

In the U.S., these findings are especially relevant given the ”issue fatigue” that appears to be developing with regard to climate change among at least certain segments of the American public [26]. Recent public opinion polls in the U.S. have shown a marked decline in the proportion of adults who are worried about global warming, and even relative to the proportion who are convinced that global warming is happening [27–29]. The public health voice may offer an important hedge against such issue fatigue.

Suggesting a novel frame for climate change – i.e., a frame that people had not previously considered – is potentially useful when it helps people understand the issue more clearly by providing additional personal and societal relevance [30, 31]. Re-defining climate change in public health terms should help people make connections to already familiar problems such as asthma, allergies, and infectious diseases experienced in their communities, while shifting the visualization of the issue away from remote Arctic regions as you like it plot summary brief, and distant peoples and animals. In the process, giving climate change a public health focus suggests that there is a need to both mitigate (i.e. reduce greenhouse gas emissions) and adapt to the problem (i.e. protect communities and people from current and future health related impacts). The frame also presents the opportunity to involve additional trusted communication partners on the issue, notably public health experts and local community leaders [13].

Conclusions

In conclusion, we believe that the public health community has an important perspective to talk about about climate change, a perspective that potentially offers the public a more salient way to comprehend an issue that features proven deeply difficult for many people to fully comprehend. Moreover, the public health perspective offers a vision of a much better, healthier future – not just a vision of environmental disaster averted, and it focuses on a range of possible policy actions that offer local as well as global benefits. Many leading experts in climate change communication, including the present authors, have suggested that a positive vision for the future and a localization of the issue is precisely what has been missing from the public dialogue on climate change thus far [13, 22, 32].

Only a few aspects of the public health implications, however, may be engaging. Certain key recommendations, such as eating less meat, tended to elicit counter-arguments among people in many of the segments in our research. Our research provides clues about specific public health messages that might not be helpful, and suggests the need in future research to look carefully for examples or associations that trigger counter-arguments and negative reactions.

There is an urgent requirement for the public health community to successfully educate the public and policy makers about the serious human health implications of climate change, and to engage those publics in appropriate preventive and adaptive responses. As a point of strategy, however, our findings may suggest that continuing to communicate about the problem of climate change is not prone to generate wider public engagement. Instead public health voices may be wise to focus their communication on the solutions additionally the many co-benefits that matter most to people.

Appendix 1

Global Warming is a Threat to Peoples’ Health & Wellbeing

Most people agree with the sentiment that ”good health is a great blessing.” Although not yet widely known, global warming poses a really real threat to the health and wellbeing of Americans and other people around the globe. Experts at the World Health Organization say that global warming is already leading to an increase in the rate of some diseases and is causing many deaths. If our government and other governments around the globe do not soon take steps to limit global warming, a growing number of people in the United States will likely be harmed and killed. Conversely, if our government does take steps to limit global warming, our health and wellbeing will likely improve in a number of important ways.

Our health will suffer if we don’t take action

Global warming can harm people both directly and indirectly. Directly, global warming causes more extreme weather patterns including more frequent heat waves, more violent storms, and rising sea-levels – all of which can lead to people being harmed or killed. Indirectly, global warming harms the quality of our water, air and food, and our ecosystems, all of which can lead to increasing rates of disease and death. If we do not act now to limit global warming, experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that global warming will harm people in most region of the United States. As a result of the poor air quality caused by global warming, children will become more prone to develop asthma, while the asthma they suffer from will be more severe; adults who have heart and lung diseases will become more prone to be hospitalized or die from their illness. An increasing number of extreme heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts caused by the changes in our climate will lead to more and more people being injured or killed. New infectious diseases (such as West Nile Virus) and old infectious diseases that we had previously eradicated from the United States (such as malaria and Dengue Fever) are likely to become an increasing problem for us as our climate warms.

Our health will benefit if we do take action

According to a recent study published in the medical journal Lancet, taking actions to limit global warming – by making our energy sources cleaner and our cars and appliances more efficient, by making our cities and towns friendlier to trains, buses, and bikers and walkers, and by improving the quality and safety of our food – will improve the health of almost every American. Cleaner energy sources and more efficient use of energy will lead to healthier air for children and adults to breathe. Improving the design of our cities and towns in ways that make it easier and safer to get around on foot, by bike and on mass transit will reduce the number of cars on our roads and will help people are more physically active and shed weight. Increasing our consumption of vegetables and fruit, and reducing our intake of meat – especially beef – will help people maintain a wholesome weight, will help prevent heart disease and cancer, and will play an important role in limiting global warming.

Conclusion

Peoples’ health is dependent on the health of the environment in which we live. Global warming offers America an opportunity to make choices that are healthier for us, and for our climate.

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