Shaping the Narrative on Climate Change
For a long time, the dominant narrative about climate change was about polar bears, living far away, facing a threat in the future. Too many people deemed climate change a low priority or dismissed it as a threat that wasn’t relevant to our lives today. While activists have made progress in changing the narrative from one centered on the environment at a great distance (in miles and years), many Americans tuned out or dismissed the issues as a partisan issue. They didn’t understand how their lives were being affected by climate change.
In close partnership with The Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health, comprising 29 medical societies and dozens of affiliated groups, and leaders at the George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, our team is helping to shift the climate change narrative.
Our approach has been to advance a simple message: “Climate change is harming human health here and now,” through one of the most trusted and often unexpected messengers: health care providers. We have inserted the voices of doctors and medical professionals into national, state and local conversations, including in media stories, medical and health care meetings and policymakers’ offices.
We are communicating the harms of climate change—like more exacerbated asthma cases, growing rates of heat illness, the spread of diseases to new areas by ticks and mosquitos, more intense and frequent wildfires and extreme weather events—and making clear that while we are all experiencing these harms, some suffer first and worse, including children, people of color, the elderly, people with low incomes and those who work outside.
Results & Impact
We have found that journalists, policymakers and people living in every part of America are receptive audiences to medical professionals’ voices on climate change.
From local and national op-eds to statements to press around a range of climate and environmental policy rollbacks, we’ve helped to position doctors as go-to voices on climate discussions. Additionally, we helped write and support the release of “Medical Alert!: Climate Change is Harming Our Health” and worked with a coalition of organizations to release a Policy Action Agenda that outlines 11 priority actions for government, business, civil society leaders, elected officials and candidates for office as they recognize climate change as a health emergency.
Through support to the Consortium, its state affiliates and partners, we’ve successfully inserted climate change into the broader health conversation and made clear that action on climate pays great dividends—both immediately and in the long-term—for our health around the country.