The Six Americas and the Health Risk of Global Warming

When you think of global warming, what is the first health risk you think of? Do you trust that information more coming from a health professional or a climate scientist? The Six Americas researchers find out in their latest update.


Health messaging is a key way to engage audiences who may disbelieve the scientific consensus on global warming, or may be disinterested in the science. It’s also an under-utilized messaging tool so far, so let’s see what the different segments of the Six Americas think.


The Six Americas have shifted over time. When Yale and George Mason started this research in 2008, 50% of the American population were either Alarmed or Concerned about global warming. With the fossil fuel industry funded denial campaign really taking off in 2009 this shifted to only 39% of the population. In 2014 this rose back to 44% of the population.

Shallow health risk knowledge. When asked to name a health impact from global warming, the majorities of the Cautious, Disengaged and Doubtful said they didn’t know or skipped the question. 40% of the Dismissive and 20% of the Doubtful said there are no health problems associated with global warming.

Of those that did name a health impact from global warming, lung diseases was most commonly cited. Fewer than 10% of any segment identified impacts like allergies, heat-related illness, infectious diseases or injuries from extreme weather events.

The messenger is important. Groups like the World Health Organization (WHO), and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are more highly trusted messengers on the health risks of global warming than climate scientists. The highest level of credibility was found in primary care physicians and family and friends.


image via flickr (cc) Alex Promios

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