Nature: Treat Climate Anxiety by Encouraging Personal Climate Action

Essay by Eric Worrall

Researchers from University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada have suggested encouraging people stricken by climate anxiety to act on their delusions is the path to mitigating their symptoms.


Reducing personal climate risk to reduce personal climate anxiety

Jeremy Fyke & Andrew Weaver

Climate anxiety, reflecting concerns about the negative impacts of climate change, is growing. Planning and action on individual specific climate risks could be a way to reduce personal climate anxiety.

Personal climate anxiety is a climate impact in its own right, and accepting this is necessary to manage it at the individual level. However, this first step can be challenging, because it can trigger powerful defensive psychological responses, including mental transfer of responsibility for solutions to others, fatalism and even climate change denial9,10. Overcoming these psychological defences involves a journey that in many ways mirrors the challenges of accepting other uncomfortable personal issues such as addiction, trauma and loss.

Based on linkages between anxiety, uncertainty and risk established by cognitive science, we argue that personal climate anxiety is most effectively and sustainably reduced by prioritizing planning and action to reduce personal climate risks. Comparing climate anxiety to health anxiety around COVID-19 clarifies this argument. The counterfactual case where one prioritizes psychological, symptomatic methods for COVID-19 anxiety16 as the first line of defence while neglecting to plan and expeditiously undertake available COVID-19 risk reduction exercises such as social distancing, mask wearing and vaccination17 is self-evidently a poor plan, because it doesn’t prioritize attempts to reduce the core anxiety-causing risk itself. 

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Essentially they are saying it is better to encourage victims of climate anxiety to plan and act to mitigate their personal climate risk, because they believe the basis of the anxiety is real. They compare the condition of people suffering climate anxiety to people who fear Covid-19, who act on their anxiety by wearing masks and social distancing.

Another option for treating “climate anxiety” might be to point out the fact indiscriminately rejecting every alarmist climate prediction is a safe bet, given their long track record of predictive failure. Automatically rejecting alarmists predictions means you will be right far more often than wrong. Therapists could teach people the basics of the scientific method, and how to distinguish between genuine and junk science.

But the researchers don’t appear to have considered this option.

via Watts Up With That?

February 26, 2023 at 12:28PM

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