Just before the delegates for the annual Conference of the Parties on climate change started meeting in Bonn this month, the Lancet, the leading British medical journal, published yet another major study showing that climate change is a growing health hazard.
The study revealed that hundreds of millions of people around the world are already suffering due to climate change. Infectious diseases are spreading faster due to warmer temperatures, hunger and malnourishment is worsening, allergy seasons are getting longer and sometimes it’s simply too hot for farmers to tend to their crops.
But what would happen if we treated climate change as a health problem rather than an environmental one?
As an expert in the political economy of climate change, I contend we can learn useful lessons from some relatively successful public health campaigns. Take smoking, for example.
We have successfully used advertising bans and warnings on cigarette packages to change perceptions about the dangers of burning tobacco, so perhaps a similar strategy will work to focus on the dangers of burning gasoline and diesel.
After all, most of climate change is caused because humans are burning fossil fuels at prodigious rates. This combustion generates carbon dioxide. It’s accumulating rapidly in the atmosphere, warming the planet and making storms, heatwaves and droughts an increasing problem for people in many places.