Changing climate mentality

Images: Yale Program for Climate Communication

Our good friends at the Yale Program for Climate Communication along with the George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication analyzed in their most recent survey the percentage of people who have changed their opinions about climate change and it turns out about 8% of surveyed Americans indeed had changed their attitude. Overall 84% of respondents said that they were MORE concerned than in the previous two years about global warming. Interestingly enough, older Americans were most likely to have changed their opinions. As Kate Yoder explained in Grist: So do retirees just have more time to read the news or what? It might have something to do with having been around for longer. With age comes wisdom, as the saying goes, or at least perspective. “You have a longer baseline. I’m noticing that myself — I remember what the winters were like when I was growing up, and there was really more snow.” said Jennifer Marlon, a research scientist at Yale and an author of the new analysis.

So what happens once you do accept climate change and begin worrying about the state of our planet? It turns out that, as UnDark reporteda growing body of evidence demonstrates that climate change and its effects are linked to elevated rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress, and a host of negative emotions including anger, hopelessness, despair, and a feeling of loss. Researchers have dubbed these feelings “ecological grief.” Ecological grief is the grief that’s felt in response to experienced or anticipated ecological loss. It may arise due to acute environmental disasters. For example, one in six survivors of Hurricane Katrina met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, and crop-damaging heat waves have been shown to lead to increased suicide rates in India.

Why This Matters: The point here isn’t to convince your grandpa of anthropogenic climate change so that he can just feel anxious, it’s about the fact that we’re all in this together. Whether you lead a climate NGO or think it’s “junk science”, the effects of a warming planet will affect us all and it will be up to climate advocates to lend a hand to current climate deniers (and vice versa). The reality for my (Miro’s) generation is that we have a pretty unpleasant road ahead and many of the places we love will be irrevocably altered by climate change. This may sound a little kumbaya (sorry I’m not sorry) but right now it’s important that we don’t write off people in our lives who deny climate change*, we should engage them in a conversation and instead of regurgitating statistics express why we’re personally worried about the issue.

*This excludes lawmakers who have access to the best available scientific information and still willfully ignore climate change because they receive money from the fossil fuel industry.

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