Despite a long history of engagement in various political and social and issues, for example, from the nuclear test ban treaty to the global AIDS epidemic, healthcare professionals have been largely absent in addressing the climate crisis. This helps explain why the health care industry has been, in sum, absent from addressing what the World Health Organization has defined as the greatest threat to human health in the 21st century or what Nobel Price economist William Nordhaus (noted for his work on the carbon tax) has termed the "colossus that threatens our world." As listeners of this podcast may recall the US healthcare industry’s own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions account for 10% of total US GHG emissions, 25% of global healthcare GHG emissions and 4.5% of total global GHG emission. Recently, however, a letter drafted by U. of Washington's Dr. Howard Frumkin and APHA’s Dr. Georges Benjamin addressed to DHHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, outlining in detail regulatory policy measures the Secretary should take to address the climate crisis, was co-signed by 65 medical professional associations including, for example, the Alliance for Nurses for Healthy Environments, Medical Students for a Sustainable Future and Mason's Center for Climate Change Communication.
Professor Kotcher begins the 30 minute conversation by briefly describing his Center's work. He moreover describes the survey's methodology and the survey's findings including respondents understanding of the climate crisis and more specifically health risks associated with the crisis, respondents understanding of their responsibility as healthcare professionals to address the crisis, what barriers prevent or inhibit them from addressing the crisis and what products or tools would help healthcare professionals more successfully or productively engage in advocating/lobbying for solutions.
Dr. John Kotcher is a Research Assistant Professor at George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication where he conducts research on science, environmental, and risk communication. His work focuses on how people respond to public engagement by scientists, how to effectively communicate about the public health implications of climate change and air pollution, and how civic organizations can most effectively recruit, organize, and mobilize citizens—especially political conservatives—to demand action on climate change. Professor Kotcher also works on the Climate Change in the American Mind project, a series of national public opinion surveys carried out in partnership with the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication to investigate and track public attitudes toward climate change and support for climate policies in the United States.
Professor Kotcher and colleagues' article, "Views of Health Professionals on Climate Change and Health: a Multinational Survey Study," was published in the May issue of Lancet Planetary Health and is at: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(21)00053-X/fulltext.