Acknowledging Climate Anxiety

032114ChaiseLounge2_Orig copyTalk of the overlap between psychology and climate change most often focuses on values and behavior change. Yet there’s another type of overlap that’s rarely discussed: our affective response to climate change – our feelings associated with the issue.
In this Sightline Daily article, Renee Lertzman asserts that our underlying feelings about climate change play a role in driving how we respond to it on an intellectual level. Psychologists have identified how feelings, some of which we may not even be conscious of, drive our responses to almost everything. So it’s not surprising that they would also drive our responses to climate change. For example, fear and anxiety about the effects of climate change may lead to denial of the problem’s existence.
What climate communicators need to do, writes Lertzman, is recognize the role that emotion may be playing in how we react to climate change, and show compassion towards these feelings, no matter what shape they take. Climate communicators can also experiment with “naming” fears in climate messaging in order to weaken people’s defense mechanisms that make it difficult for them to acknowledge the problem or take action. In doing so, however, climate communicators should take care to pair their acknowledgement of anxiety with an emphasis on climate solutions and the benefits they’ll bring.


Breaking the Climate Fear Taboo

By Renee Lertzman, Contributor to Sightline Daily and Director of Insight at Brand Cool
Over the past decade, we’ve seen a huge proliferation of research, workshops, conferences, strategy sessions, and articles about climate change communications. Why? Because how we communicate about this issue will determine how effective we are at mobilizing people to take actions.
We know about the barriers ranging from how the issue itself is complex and abstract, to the ways in which political ideologies may inform how people perceive the problem from the fields of behavioral and social sciences devoted to climate change communications. To date, we have tended to focus more on changing behaviors than actually engaging people with how they feel, make sense of, and experience the threat of climate change and its profound implications.
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Image credit: eBay


  1. Using the IPCC’s Reports to Boost Climate Engagement | ecoAffect - April 2, 2014

    […] emotions that come with it. But as psych expert Renee Lertzman suggests, we’d do better to recognize people’s emotions (whatever form they take) about climate change rather than keeping feelings out of the […]

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