by Pedro Ureña
The negative effect that climate change has on the well-being of our planet is well known and agreed upon throughout the science community. Gradual increases in global temperature have led to severe changes in weather patterns– including excessive rainfall in some areas and devastating drought in others– that are growing increasingly difficult to ignore due to their negative effects on public health. Some of these effects include injuries, fatalities and an increased vulnerability to certain waterborne and foodborne illnesses. Despite this common understanding of the direct and indirect negative effects of climate change, the general public does not often view climate change as a threat to public health. According to Maibach et al. (2008), properly influencing climate change-related behaviors amongst the population needs to be done through mass communication and marketing–in other words, spreading pertinent information to those who lack it.
Today, a disproportionately modest amount of government funds are devoted to campaigns designed to inform the general public about their health. However, research shows that, unsurprisingly, assertive marketing campaigns can shift societal norms and beliefs when sustained over a long period of time. Thus, public health outreach efforts need to improve on both an individual and community level. At the individual level, argue the professors, marketing campaigns need to target separate audiences to account for differences in views and background opinions on climate change. The campaigns should have a main goal of improving the availability of products (and information) that make it easier to reduce fossil fuel usage and sensible to act with our ecological footprint in mind. At the community or societal level, social norm campaigns, especially when they explicitly speak to a group’s collective efficacy, have proven to be an effective way to influence population behavior at a relatively low cost. Thus, social norm campaigns must be launched to condemn and, at the very least, moderate the everyday actions that directly lead to global warming, like the excessive burning of fossil fuels through unnecessary driving, for example.
Maibach, Edward, Roser-Renouf, Connie, Leiserowitz, Anthony. 2008. Communication and Marketing As Climate Change-Intervention Assets. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 1-13.