Majority of Marylanders Believe Climate Change Poses Public Health Threat

Survey Examined Attitudes about Climate Change and Public Health

BALTIMORE (July 17, 2013) – The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in conjunction with the Climate Communication Consortium of Maryland and George Mason University, today released the results of the first comprehensive survey of Maryland residents to find out what they think about the public health impacts of climate change.  The survey was conducted, in part, to help the Department understand public attitudes about health and the environment, and particularly about two important environmental changes occurring today: climate change and changes in the energy picture of the State and nation.

More than half of Marylanders (52 percent) believe people in the United States are being harmed by climate change. A majority of Marylanders believe respiratory problems, injuries from storms or other extreme weather events and heat stroke will become more common because of climate change.

“Marylanders understand that climate change is real, and that it is already impacting our communities and our families,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “The results of this survey make clear that the people of our state are ready to make the better choices necessary to reduce our carbon footprint, improve air quality, invest in clean technology, create green jobs and protect our health and the health of our children.”

The survey results provide insight for policy makers, public health officials, and the public about Maryland’s response to climate change and energy needs.  As described in the survey report, many people identify threats to health as one of the most important consequences of climate change.  Marylanders are already taking personal action to prepare for extreme weather events.

“The survey results help us understand how Marylanders perceive the impact that climate change will have on their health and the health of their communities,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of DHMH.

The survey also asked about attitudes related to health, extreme weather, and various energy sources. A large majority of respondents (79 percent) believe that over the past year, extreme weather posed a health risk to people in their community.

“A surprisingly large number of Marylanders understand that climate change, and the extreme weather that arises from it, are serious threats to people’s health” said Dr. Edward Maibach, a co-author on the report from George Mason University.  “Moreover, climate change also contributes to two of Marylanders’ other top health concerns, air pollution and insect-borne diseases.”

To read the full survey report, click here.

Funded by the Town Creek Foundation, the survey was mailed to 6,401 households in Maryland, randomly selected from within each of four regions. Conducted from March 28 to June 4, 2013, the survey had a response rate of 38 percent. The survey was developed, and results were analyzed, by researchers with the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University. An additional report from this survey – examining Marylanders’ attitudes, behaviors, and policy preferences regarding energy and climate change – will be released later this month.

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