With summer 2023 now officially the hottest ever recorded in the northern hemisphere, it’s no surprise that there’s a heightened public awareness around how extreme weather and changes in climate are affecting people, wildlife and landscapes across the globe.
We wanted to find out more about how this was impacting people’s wellbeing across the UK and commissioned research to find out more.
We found out that more than half of UK adults say they feel a sense of grief about what is happening to nature and the planet, with 39% reporting that they feel anxious about the climate crisis.
These feelings of guilt, grief and anxiety come at a time of other pressing worries as many are navigating increasing pressures around the cost of living. In fact, understandably 62% say rising food and 60% say living costs are more of an immediate worry to them than the climate crisis.
People are taking steps for wellbeing and resilience
In the face of negative news, individuals are taking steps to help them feel less anxious about the climate crisis. 83% of those who felt anxious about the climate crisis said that they take action to reduce this feeling, rising to 90% of 18-34 year olds.
“It’s not surprising that so many of us – particularly young people – are feeling worried about the future and the dual threats of the cost of living and climate crises,” comments Sana Yusef, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth.
“People are already turning their fear into action on the climate and making changes to live more sustainably. But it is a worrying time when our government’s commitment to meeting its climate targets is looking increasingly shaky.”
For those feeling concerned about the future of the planet, these feelings are exacerbated by feelings of inaction and powerlessness. Government inaction on climate issues makes 48% feel worse about the climate crisis, while a similar number (46%) say big businesses not making the changes needed to cut carbon emissions also exacerbates their anxiety.
Speaking to The Times, Caroline Hickman, a leading researcher in climate psychology, said: “We do not want to classify it as a mental illness. It is socially, collectively, politically caused. There is nothing wrong with people worried about climate change.”
Sana explains that there also needs to be emphasis on systemic change: “We urgently need our leaders to act on the fair, green solutions that will bring down our bills and the harmful emission that cause climate change. This means ending our reliance on expensive and polluting gas by investing in a street-by-street insulation programme to fix our heat-leaking homes and lifting the barriers to cheap, clean, homegrown renewables.”
Bevis Watts, CEO of Triodos Bank UK agrees: “COP28 later this year must deliver an acceleration in action at a global level, prioritising the phasing out of fossil fuels and increasing financial support for a fair, low carbon future. Only a truly collective effort can turn current anxiety about the future into something more hopeful.”
This article is just intended as guidance. If you wish to seek professional help, please visit the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy or Climate Psychology Alliance.