The skies are crowded with planes, our sclerotic roads clogged with millions of cars – when will we wake up to the urgency of climate change?
Spreading the word about the effect climate change will have on human health. That could be the key.
A group of Swedish psychologists asked 621 participants aged from 18 to 75 whether 44 statements about climate change were true or false. These were arranged into several domains: facts about the state of the climate, the causes of climate change, and the consequences for the weather, sea, glaciers and human health.
For example, a true statement about human health consequences stated: “It is probable that mortality by lung oedema and heart problems during heat waves in Sweden will increase in the next 50 years.”
It was specifically the participants' knowledge about the consequences for human health that most strongly predicted how worried they were about climate change, and how likely they thought it was that serious negative consequences would affect Sweden and other countries in the future. Knowledge of the causes of climate change had a weak association with the participants' perception of risk, but not their concern about that risk.
“A practical implication is that in order to change people's behaviour, more research and focused educational programmes about health consequences should be beneficial,” Eva-Lotta Sundblad and colleagues wrote.
To the researchers' surprise, although women were more worried than men, most demographic factors did not predict participants' worry or sense of risk surrounding climate change. For example, parents were no more concerned than non-parents.
Sundblad, E-L., Biel, A. & Garling, T. (2007). Cognitive and affective risk judgements related to climate change. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 97-106.