Most Marylanders see climate change harming health

Most Marylanders say people in the United States are already being harmed by climate change, a new poll finds.

In a statewide mail survey of 2,100 households, the poll by George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication found that 52 percent of Marylanders see evidence that climate change is hurting Americans.

That's a stronger view than is held by Americans generally, it seems. Only 34 percent of those asked nationwide said they believed climate change was already harming people in this country, according to the pollsters.

The survey, done in cooperation with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, was underwritten by the Town Creek Foundation. State officials said they wanted to understand public attitudes about health and the environment, and particularly their views on climate change and energy use.

"We are working on a multi-year public health strategy for climate change, consistent with the state's climate change action plan," Dori Henry, state health department spokeswoman, said in an email. The final version of the plan, floated in draft last year, is scheduled to be released July 25 at a one-day climate summit to be convened by Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Two-thirds of residents who responded said they believed respiratory problems would become more of a concern as climate in the state changed, while 58 percent mentioned injuries from storms or other extreme weather events as a growing threat, and 52 percent cited heat stroke.


Eighty percent or more agreed it should be a priority of state and local government to protect public water supplies and people's health from extreme weather and environmental threats. Seventy-nine percent said that in the past year extreme weather posed a health threat to people in their community, with 38 percent classifying that threat as major or at least moderate.

Most Marylanders - from 58 percent to 68 percent - rated power generation from coal, oil and nuclear power as somewhat or very harmful to people's health. Majorities almost as large - 58 to 60 percent - said they considered solar, wind and offshore wind power not harmful to people's health.

Natural gas seemed less of a threat to those surveyed, though roughly a third said they didn't know if gas extracted using hydraulic fracturing or some other method posed any health risks.

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