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Title: Maltese public perceptions on climate change and health
Authors: Debono, Roberto
Keywords: Climatic changes
Public health -- Malta
Climate change mitigation -- Malta
Issue Date: 2009
Citation: Debono, R. (2009). Maltese public perceptions on climate change and health (Master of Science).
Abstract: Scientific evidence about climate change leaves no doubt that the climate is changing and that it is mainly the product of human behaviour and lifestyle. The health effects of climate change are diverse in nature and range from the direct effects of extreme weather events on health such as heatwaves, floods and storms to the more indirect effects on health such as water shortages and food shortages. Recently, the World Health Organisation identified protecting health from climate change as a defining challenge of the 21st century. Meeting this challenge requires a concerted intergovernmental effort: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to garner public support for mitigation policy and to encourage committed action by individuals and communities. Social surveys on public perceptions' of climate change have been conducted since the 1980s. Studies have largely focused on the levels of public support for mitigation policy and their willingness to adopt mitigation behaviour. It was found that even though the public is generally aware of climate change, climate change lacks issue salience in people's daily lives and is generally viewed as a distant threat in place and time. This cross-sectional study is among the first to study the Maltese public perceptions on climate change, with a special emphasis given to the public perceptions of the human health effects of climate change. Together with risk perception and knowledge about the health effects of climate change, awareness, concern and knowledge about the causes of climate change were analyzed in relation to support for climate change mitigation policy and willingness to adopt climate change mitigation behaviour. A telephone survey was conducted during January and February 2009 on a representative stratified random sample of the Maltese resident population over the age of 18 years (n=543). The design of the survey was primarily quantitative but qualitative information was also collected through a focus group, an open-ended question and opinion probing during the telephone interview. This research concludes that the Maltese public is generally aware of climate change, concerned about it, but confounds climate change with a variety of other environmental hazards including air pollution, ozone depletion and agricultural pesticide use. Notwithstanding this flawed understanding of climate change, the Maltese public still associates climate change with health and disease. It is also generally willing to support climate change mitigation policy and to adopt climate change mitigation behaviour once there is the understanding that the environment is conducive to such behaviour. This study finds that the perception that climate change is a threat to health was the strongest driving force behind the Maltese public's willingness to support policy and change behaviour. Furthermore, an accurate knowledge of the human health effects of climate change was also found to correlate positively with a willingness to take up climate change mitigation measures. Thus, the author of this study argues that climate change could become salient in people's lives if it is framed as a threat to health rather than as a distant ecological concern.
Description: M.SC. PUBLIC HEALTH
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacM&S - 2009
Dissertations - FacM&SPH - 2009

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