Climate anxiety is real. It affects more and more people every day. Are you concerned about what is happening to our earth, as the climate crisis worsens? Do you experience fear about natural disasters and our collective future? Let’s unpack these emotions and dare to take action together. Additional resources and a global climate anxiety study are available on our website and from many organizations. This is serious, but you are not alone!
WHAT IS CLIMATE ANXIETY?
Climate or eco anxiety is “the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm that comes from observing the seemingly irrevocable impact of climate change and the associated concern for one’s future,” per the American Psychology Association. Individuals experiencing eco-anxiety may feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of environmental problems and the potential consequences for future generations. They may fear for the safety of loved ones and the survival of vulnerable communities and ecosystems. Additionally, the sense of personal responsibility and guilt over one’s own environmental footprint can exacerbate these feelings.
Eco anxiety can manifest differently across demographic groups. For instance, young people, who may be more acutely aware of the long-term consequences of climate change, may grapple with the feeling that their future is at risk. Meanwhile, those living in vulnerable communities, particularly in regions already experiencing the effects of climate change, may face immediate dire threats to livelihoods and well-being, which can heighten anxiety.
With the current state of our planet, some climate anxiety is normal. Climate change is a scary and all too real phenomenon! However, if the anxiety is keeping you from living your day-to-day life, it may be time to find ways to slow your thoughts.
TURNING GREEN’S GLOBAL STUDY
With a desire to assess student knowledge of climate change, the impact on daily life and ideas for solutions-based action, we are surveying and collecting input from thousands of high school, college and graduate students around the world. Launched initially as a Climate Action Project by Project Green Course participant Stephen Kirk, we continue to gather and employ the data from the survey — Anxiety to Action: Insights from college and university students about climate change and pathways to action — to empower, equip and mobilize students to take concrete steps locally and globally to propel climate action.
We concluded that people who suffered the most from climate change were more motivated to take action. However, even though 60% were motivated to take action, we noted 20% of that group did not know where to start!
Motivation to Act
The correlation between those impacted by climate change and a desire to make impact is generally strong. Respondents who directly experience the effects of climate change were more likely to be motivated to take action for the environment. Several factors contribute to this correlation:
1. Vulnerability and Inequity: Vulnerable communities, such as those in low-income areas or marginalized groups, often bear the brunt of climate change impacts despite contributing less to the problem. They may be motivated to make an impact to protect themselves and advocate for environmental justice.
2. Personal Experience: Individuals living in regions already facing the consequences of climate change, such as extreme weather events, sea-level rise or droughts, are witnessing the devastating impact on their surrounding communities and livelihoods. This firsthand experience fosters a stronger sense of urgency to address the issue.
3. Sense of Responsibility: Some people feel a moral responsibility to act on climate because they recognize the potential harm their actions or lifestyle may cause to others, particularly to future generations.
Barriers to taking Climate Action
The barriers people face to taking action against climate change are wide-ranging and may be social, economic, political, psychological or otherwise. The survey results revealed that a substantial number of participants faced common barriers to engaging in climate action. The most prevalent obstacles included:
1. Not knowing where to start (20%): The complexity of climate change and wide array of potential actions may lead to a sense of overwhelm and indecision
2. Don’t think they can make a difference (18%): Some participants believed that their individual efforts would not make a meaningful difference in the face of such a large-scale and global problem like climate change. This feeling of powerlessness can discourage them from taking action.
3. Time constraints (15%): Participants reported that their busy schedules and daily commitments left them with little time to engage in climate-related activities.
4. Lack of Access to Resources: While less common than previous barriers, some participants faced limitations in accessing the necessary resources to engage in climate action effectively. This can include financial constraints, lack of information, or limited access to sustainable alternatives.
Emotions around Climate Change
Powerlessness (18.1%) and anxiety (18.9%) were the largest reported emotions when respondents were asked about their feelings surrounding climate change. People experiencing climate anxiety often feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of environmental issues and the seemingly insurmountable challenges posed by climate change.
Read more on our survey results with our progress report
COPE WITH ECO ANXIETY
Managing eco-anxiety can be a daunting task. You might not know where to start, so here are some tips to help manage emotions.
We have gathered additional resources, so you can learn more about eco-anxiety:
Need more support or immediate help? Look for a hotline number in your country.
Knowledge is power. Want to learn more about climate change? Looking to inspire you to action? Discover more with resources we have created featuring environmental information, definitions and a story map.
TAKE ACTION WITH US
Ready to make a difference? Take a stand to combat climate change? Further environmental and public health? Join our organization to learn, deepen impact, connect with fellow student leaders, and grow the movement for people and planet! Apply to our year round Turning Green internship program, sign up for our global fall initiative Project Green Challenge, and/or become a Campus Rep.
“I have a lot of anxiety about climate change, but connecting with like minded students helps me feel not alone. I began working with Turning Green and students across the world to use our shared passion for the planet and collective voice to make bold, impactful change. The survey is the entry point..”