Dealing with the psychological impacts of climate change

It’s not just our natural systems that need to be resilient to climate change – people need to be resilient too. ecoAmerica have looked at what the psychological impacts of climate change are and how we can make sure our communities have the social fabric to combat the mental stress of losing the ecosystems we know and love.


The mental stresses of climate change have so far been overlooked beyond climate expert burnout and criticisms of too many climate disasters in the media desensitising people. However, the stresses of dealing with climate change are a public health concern that needs to be more widely addressed.


Experiencing extreme weather events can change people’s opinion on climate change, however it gets more complicated from people’s worldview and ideology.

Climate impacts are going to make people more vulnerable to social stressors and are heavily dependent on socioeconomic factors. Communities that are already more vulnerable and have less access to health services will be less resilient to climate impacts.

Drought is different to most other climate impacts. Where most disasters happen suddenly and communities come together in the clean up and rebuild, drought is a slow and ever increasing build up of impacts that has long lasting health implications.

Climate impacts on mental health include trauma, shock, anxiety, depression, grief, PTSD, relationship strain, substance abuse, and a sense of loss and lack of control.

Climate impacts on physical health include severe physical trauma, death, broken bones and cuts, disease, reduced access to health care, increased exposure to pests and toxins, allergies, asthma, impaired fetal development and changes in general fitness as climate impacts change daily routines.

Social impacts of climate include loss of community cohesion, loss of sense of belonging, increased violence and crime, increased social instability and increased interpersonal aggression and domestic violence.

Things you can do to reduce the stress of dealing with climate are:

  1. Give people confidence we can prepare for and mitigate climate change
  2. Communicate solutions
  3. Highlight the co-benefits of acting on climate
  4. Acknowledge the normality of emotions around climate
  5. Use personal stories to connect
  6. Be careful with too many disaster images causing a sense of hopelessness
  7. Focus on local impacts
  8. Emphasise the power of collective action
  9. Help people interpret their experiences
  10. Connect the dots from impacts to solutions


image: Clint McMahon via cc, Flickr 

Date: 2014
Organization: ecoAmerica
Strategic Approach: Engagement, Other
Organization: ecoAmerica
Strategic Approach: Engagement, Other

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