What is Climate Anxiety?

15.12.2023 3 min read

In an era marked by rising global temperatures, extreme weather events, and alarming reports on the state of our planet, a new and pervasive phenomenon is taking root: climate anxiety.

As the consequences of climate change become increasingly apparent, individuals around the world appear to be grappling with a profound sense of unease about the future. Climate anxiety has been defined as “feelings of distress about the impacts of climate change”. While we see a rise in general mental health awareness in the public domain, we surprisingly seldom see the bridge gapped between mental health and climate concerns.

The BBC recently published an article in partnership with Google regarding the increase in online searches for “climate anxiety” by the public. Data gathered shows that searches made in English from January to October in 2023 are 27 times higher than the same period in 2017.

The article goes on to discuss similar searches around the world in other languages, such as Portuguese, Chinese and Arabic. While the data gathered may show a correlation between the magnitude of climate change and an increase in search results, other factors must also be acknowledged rather than assuming that climate anxiety is categorically increasing. For example, access to online resources becoming more widely spread could increase searches as well as the awareness of climate concerns becoming more known.

Nonetheless, in November 2021 the Office of National Statistics did publish that 75% of adults in Greater Britain say that they worry about the impacts of climate change[2]. While the long-term implications of climate anxiety are unknown, it has the potential to contribute to the many ways that climate change is impacting our health. The Natural History Museum has published a guide on how to deal with climate anxiety[3] which has been summarised below:

  • Don’t bury your feelings – recognise and acknowledge as best as you can what you are feeling and why.
  • Speak up – share your thoughts with trusted family and friends as you may be surprised by how many others share the same feelings.
  • Language is important – adjusting your language from the negative to the positive can impact the weight of your emotions. For example, rather than ‘not enough people care’ try ‘I’m proud to be part of the group that does care’.
  • Find your superpower – identify your skillset and how you can contribute to the solutions, whether that’s inspiring others around you or pursuing a career/education in environmental affairs.
  • Choose ‘do’ – start with small actions in your everyday life and work your way up to bigger lifestyle changes.

Further information on each of these points can be found in the article linked.

Overall, climate anxiety is an emerging challenge that warrants attention and compassion. By acknowledging its existence, raising awareness, and taking concrete steps toward a more sustainable future, we can collectively work to alleviate the mental and emotional burden that climate anxiety places on individuals worldwide.

Key Contacts

Kat Lail Consultant - EIA