Next Article in Journal / Special Issue
The Effect of High Ambient Temperature on the Elderly Population in Three Regions of Sweden
Previous Article in Journal
Common Mental Disorders and Risk Factors in Urban Tanzania
Previous Article in Special Issue
Satellite Derived Forest Phenology and Its Relation with Nephropathia Epidemica in Belgium
Article Menu

Export Article

Open AccessArticle

Public Perceptions of Climate Change as a Human Health Risk: Surveys of the United States, Canada and Malta

Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA
Department of Public Health, Ministry for Health, the Elderly and Community Care, Valletta, VLT 2000, Malta
Health Canada, Ottawa, K1A 0K9, Canada
Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA
School of Communication, American University, Washington, DC, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2010, 7(6), 2559-2606;
Received: 4 May 2010 / Revised: 3 June 2010 / Accepted: 9 June 2010 / Published: 14 June 2010
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Climate Change and Human Health Impacts and Adaptation)
PDF [609 KB, uploaded 19 June 2014]


We used data from nationally representative surveys conducted in the United States, Canada and Malta between 2008 and 2009 to answer three questions: Does the public believe that climate change poses human health risks, and if so, are they seen as current or future risks? Whose health does the public think will be harmed? In what specific ways does the public believe climate change will harm human health? When asked directly about the potential impacts of climate change on health and well-being, a majority of people in all three nations said that it poses significant risks; moreover, about one third of Americans, one half of Canadians, and two-thirds of Maltese said that people are already being harmed. About a third or more of people in the United States and Canada saw themselves (United States, 32%; Canada, 67%), their family (United States, 35%; Canada, 46%), and people in their community (United States, 39%; Canada, 76%) as being vulnerable to at least moderate harm from climate change. About one third of Maltese (31%) said they were most concerned about the risk to themselves and their families. Many Canadians said that the elderly (45%) and children (33%) are at heightened risk of harm, while Americans were more likely to see people in developing countries as being at risk than people in their own nation. When prompted, large numbers of Canadians and Maltese said that climate change can cause respiratory problems (78–91%), heat-related problems (75–84%), cancer (61–90%), and infectious diseases (49–62%). Canadians also named sunburn (79%) and injuries from extreme weather events (73%), and Maltese cited allergies (84%). However, climate change appears to lack salience as a health issue in all three countries: relatively few people answered open-ended questions in a manner that indicated clear top-of-mind associations between climate change and human health risks. We recommend mounting public health communication initiatives that increase the salience of the human health consequences associated with climate change. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; global warming; public health; opinion poll; survey; United States; Canada; Malta climate change; global warming; public health; opinion poll; survey; United States; Canada; Malta
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

Share & Cite This Article

MDPI and ACS Style

Akerlof, K.; DeBono, R.; Berry, P.; Leiserowitz, A.; Roser-Renouf, C.; Clarke, K.-L.; Rogaeva, A.; Nisbet, M.C.; Weathers, M.R.; Maibach, E.W. Public Perceptions of Climate Change as a Human Health Risk: Surveys of the United States, Canada and Malta. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2010, 7, 2559-2606.

Show more citation formats Show less citations formats

Related Articles

Article Metrics

Article Access Statistics



[Return to top]
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health EISSN 1660-4601 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
Back to Top