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WHO Editorial Discusses Public Perceptions of Climate Change

31 March 2010: The Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO) features an editorial titled “Science, media and public perception: implications for climate and health policies.”

Authored by Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum and Roberto Bertollini, the editorial starts by noting that public perception of international climate policy has been affected by the failure to achieve a strong and legally binding agreement at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, as well as by the “acknowledged error (and other alleged errors)” in the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In this regard, the authors argue that the conclusion that climate change is happening, and is due mainly to human activities, is based on well-established physics and on expert consensus. They then note that, notwithstanding uncertainties as to the potential magnitude of, and risks posed by, climate change, and as to the effectiveness, costs and risks of any proposed responses, “best bets” for improving health, in both the short- and the long-term, are clear. These responses include: strengthened disease surveillance programmes; control of vector-borne diseases; greater and more resilient coverage of water and sanitation resources; and improvements in climate-risk management, to protect health both from extreme weather events, and any long-term degradation in the environmental determinants of health, such as air quality, the availability of freshwater and food security. [The Editorial]