The American Thoracic Society (ATS), in collaboration with George Mason University, surveyed a random sample of ATS members to assess their perceptions of, clinical experiences with, and preferred policy responses to climate change. An e-mail containing an invitation from the ATS President and a link to an online survey was sent to 5,500 randomly selected U.S. members; up to four reminder e-mails were sent to nonrespondents. Responses were received from members in 49 states and the District of Columbia (n = 915); the response rate was 17%. Geographic distribution of respondents mirrored that of the sample. Survey estimates' confidence intervals were ±3.5% or smaller. Results indicate that a large majority of ATS members have concluded that climate change is happening (89%), that it is driven by human activity (68%), and that it is relevant to patient care ("a great deal"/"a moderate amount") (65%). A majority of respondents indicated they were already observing health impacts of climate change among their patients, most commonly as increases in chronic disease severity from air pollution (77%), allergic symptoms from exposure to plants or mold (58%), and severe weather injuries (57%). A larger majority anticipated seeing these climate-related health impacts in the next 2 decades. Respondents indicated that physicians and physician organizations should play an active role in educating patients, the public, and policy makers on the human health effects of climate change. Overall, ATS members are observing that human health is already adversely affected by climate change and support responses to address this situation.
Keywords: climate and health; climate change; environmental health; medical education.