Climate Anxiety – What Can We Do?
The recent publication of the IPCC report and government inaction has left young people feeling anxious about the future. Sophie Jaggers explores the rise of climate anxiety, and actions that can be taken in the face of the climate crisis.
The impacts of climate change have become increasingly evident in recent years, with the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change’s (IPCC) sixth assessment report in August confirming that the situation isn’t improving any time soon. The report established that the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global warming from reaching a rise of 1.5 degrees is now highly unlikely, with global temperatures predicted to breach this threshold by 2035, and in the worst-case scenario, 2028.
If these projections make you feel anxious – you’re not alone. A recent study surveying over 10,000 young people across 10 different countries found that 56% of young people believe humanity is doomed. Another study found that globally, four in ten young people are reconsidering having children due to the threats of climate change. Despite these statistics, our governments remain overwhelmingly unresponsive, prompting 60% of young people to identify this inaction as the main cause of their climate distress.
These statistics speak to the increasing prevalence of ‘climate anxiety’ globally: anxiety induced by the uncertain future climate change creates. There is no denying that projections are bleak. However, activists and climate scientists stress that there is still time for hope, and action. Here are some suggestions of individual actions you can take to remain hopeful and contribute to solutions.
Become Familiar with Climate Issues
Net zero? Carbon neutral? Ocean acidification? Understanding the key concepts and issues surrounding climate change is central to contributing to action, and also your capacity to create awareness. Here are some recommendations for books, climate activists and organisations to learn more about climate justice issues:
- All We can Save, Ayana Elizabeth Johnson & Katherine K. Wilkinson
- No One is too Small to Make a Difference, Greta Thunburg
- The Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace-Wells
- This One Wild and Precious Life, Sarah Wilson
Organisations and activists:
Be Politically Active
Ultimately, it’s political leaders that develop and enact climate policies. Vote for leaders that listen to climate scientists and have policies that coincide with your ecological values. 79% of Australians care about climate change – Australians will back leaders who support determined climate action.
We are often encouraged to ‘make our voices heard’, but how do we practically achieve this? Writing to your local Member of Parliament (MP) is one of the most effective ways to communicate your concerns. The more people that get involved in pressuring political leaders to act, the more effective these actions will be. Find advice on how to write to your local MP here.
Coinciding with the growth of climate anxiety are attitudes of climate nihilism – the belief that climate action is futile, it’s too late, there’s nothing we can do. Whilst governments and corporations are responsible for the majority of global greenhouse-gas emissions and decision-making powers, individuals still have a critical role to play in sparking effective climate action.
A study conducted by Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard University, examined hundreds of political campaigns and protests spanning the last century. Encouragingly, her findings confirmed the effectiveness of sustained action. When just 3.5% of a population participated in non-violent protest – significant change was achieved. The enormity of climate crisis issues can be extremely overwhelming, however our individual potential to enact change is still significant. Becoming involved in protests and initiatives, signing petitions and informing decision-makers of your concerns are influential forms of climate action individuals can take. Check out Climate Action Newcastle and Surfers for Climate for some local opportunities.
Look After Yourself and Have Hope
The current climate situation is confronting. It’s important to take a break and look after yourself to avoid becoming overwhelmed. The IPCC report exposed the reality that our world will get hotter, and that the consequences of this will be significant. However, the report also emphasised that there is still hope, and time for action. The climate anxiety felt by young people globally reflects an awareness and care for our environment and future. Through translating this into action, we can all contribute to a resolution.
Feature Image: Lori Stretton, Yak Media Designer