The Psychological Toll of Climate Change
Awareness of climate change is at an all-time high – yet only one in three Americans feels that people in the U.S. are currently being harmed. That may be because the impacts of climate change aren’t always obvious things like storms or floods. Sometimes the effects are more gradual and indirect, but they can undermine mental and physical health and well-being nonetheless.
As this Medical Daily article points out, farmers are being particularly affected by climate change because their livelihoods depend so much on weather cycles. New and constantly changing conditions create extra work, uncertainty, and added financial strain, which take their toll in the form of stress and anxiety.
The article features insights from psychology professor Susan Clayton, who was a co-author of ecoAmerica’s 2014 report Beyond Storms & Droughts: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change. Our research found that when a person’s traditional interactions with the natural environment change, it can lead to feelings of sadness, anger, and loss of personal identity or control. But because these effects are relatively subtle and not the result of a single traumatic event, people may not attribute them to climate change.
One of our goals at ecoAmerica is to raise awareness of these health impacts, both within the health sector and among the general public. Our new Climate for Health program is designed to empower health leaders to engage their communities and build support for climate solutions.
To join us or find out more, visit momentus.org.
John Fischer, contributor to Medical Daily
Kathleen Finnerty is a nurse with a passion: bee farming. In almost the last 10 years, she has turned this hobby into a side business called Good Earth Honey, building up 24 hives to produce honey and selling it to diverse establishments ranging from local markets to wineries.
But the oppressive heat of the past few summers has made this job “frustrating,” Finnerty says, forcing her to find ways to help the bees work as the conditions inside the hives grow increasingly hot and exhausting.
Warmer seasons are just one of the many consequences resulting from climate change, which has both gradual (changes in temperature and precipitation rates, rises in sea levels, and higher ocean acidity) and disastrous impacts (increased flooding and droughts in various areas). Scientists have described the cause as global warming, recording a rise in Earth’s average temperature over the last century and predicting further increases between 2 and 11 degrees over the next. It has also been suggested that the effects of rising temperatures on the jet stream have caused warm air currents to push out cold air currents on different regions, creating cold snaps and the idea that colder conditions are connected to climate change. This, though, is still debated, with evidence pointing more toward growing warmer seasons than cooler ones.
Image credit: Reuters