Most humans, even those who are educated, can read and write, and have studied some science, seem to have a hard time comprehending unpleasant future realities, absent personal experience.
Some say that people learn most from their own mistakes. If true, that makes widespread prevention of anticipated calamities very difficult.
And I am not only talking about people who are deeply into religion and superstition, and those who send politicians who proudly profess to be anti-science, off to represent them in government.
Of course, I am speaking of the human contributions to global warming, denied vociferously and successfully for decades by the purveyors of fossil fuels and religious fatalism.
Even Vice President Al Gore’s brilliant documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” dated 2006, which propelled him to both a Nobel Peace Prize and an academy award is derided by the climate-change ignorant, who irrelevantly instead scoff at Mr. Gore’s alleged prior boast of having invented the Internet.
Well, it looks like Nero fiddling while Rome burns might have a local re-run in red places like the Midwest and Plains States.
I have always held a higher expectation of physicians in public health, even believing that the predicted adverse health consequences of global warming could motivate individual physicians to motivate their organized groups and patients to lead the fight against global warming, for the sake of the health of the planet’s people.
In 1996, we at JAMA published a theme issue on the effects of global climate change on human health. There were and are many.
In 2006, I wrote that global warming may be a graver public health threat than nuclear war.
How could global warming kill billions? Heatstroke, floods with drowning, drought with famine, storms with destruction, new and old diseases out of control, and war for competitive survival on a greatly decreased inhabitable land mass.
In 2007, Dr. Stephen Moffic proposed a psychiatric method to jar people blasé about global warming into action.
At long last, in 2011, the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association did declare global climate change to be a serious threat to the public health. But to launch a major effective health protecting campaign? No.
What now? I don’t know, but some of the hot experiences of 2012 have been up front and personal to a lot of people. It may be too late to save the planet as we know it. But some wise heads and data experts say we still have a chance, if we act soon.
George Lundberg is a MedPage Today Editor-at-Large and former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association.