Psychological effects of climate change

Posted by Christine, March 29, 2012

The National Wildlife Federation has published a report on how we’re bearing in the face of climate change

Having the reality of the destructive forces presented by climate change fully register with people, so they will to act with the needed urgency, is indeed a challenge. And, while the physical and environmental effects of global warming are studied and
described, what has rarely been addressed, and is as compelling a topic as any, are the psychological impacts.

This report aims both to fill in the gap in our awareness of the psychological impacts of climate change, and by exposing the emotional side of the issue, to find the place in our hearts that mobilizes us to fly into action, forewarned, determined, relentless. It also is a call for professionals in the mental health fields to focus on this, the social justice issue of all times, with their capacity to work through denial and apathy, to bring insight and commitment before it is too late.

The language of science is, admittedly, not a stirring call to action. Scientists are by nature cautious, and restrained. While this report does not aim to present the forum participants as flame throwers, for this work to accomplish a primary goal, the reader
will need to feel something in reading it. The language used here, and some of the questions asked, may feel uncomfortably probing, as they pierce our armor. After all, most of us want to be patriotic, to be optimist about the future. But we need to fully
confront certain realities. If we continue the adolescent-like disregard for the dangers we are being warned of,
driving green house gasses up with only casual concern, there will be consequences.

As our world begins to unravel and our role is undeniable, all eyes will be on us.

Questions beg to be asked:
• What will the rest of the world think of us?
• Where will we be safe?
• How will we feel about ourselves?

The interplay between the climate realities we likely face and the potential psychological fallout from them was the subject of a conference convened in Washington D.C., in March 2009. A highly respected group of experts offered insights. Their thoughts,
recommendations and supporting evidence are presented in this report.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to the RWJ Foundation and to our forum participants. We also note the sad death of forum participant and friend Dr. Jerilyn Ross. She added her characteristic straight talk, practical knowledge, and bright intellect to the
discussion.