(First posted on Aug. 1, 2014, on State of the Planet.)
Political leanings unquestionably influence how many people hear the conversation over climate change. The political polarization of the discussion has made it difficult to reach agreement on changes in environmental policy.
Might more people be persuaded to act if the issue was framed in terms of public health?
A new study by Earth Institute researchers suggests that talking about the human health impacts of air pollution related to burning fossil fuels might make a more convincing argument for action among conservatives, who are generally more skeptical of the scientific evidence for climate change.
In a series of surveys, the researchers asked people in the United States a series of questions about their beliefs and level of concern about the burning of fossil fuels, as well as air pollution more generally, and their willingness to take action to mitigate the effects. They tried to assess how political orientation – from very liberal to very conservative – affected the outcome.
The researchers found that people who identified themselves as conservative find public health to be a more compelling reason for supporting fossil fuel reduction compared to climate change.