Psychology around the climate crisis.

by Hillary Mullen

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard of climate change. Some people’s brains and thought processes react differently to the crisis than others. It may be difficult for some of us to comprehend why people are convinced that climate change is not that big of a deal or believe that it doesn’t exist at all (even though it evidently does). However, this reaction of some people towards climate change can be understood through the understanding of the human mind and its psychology. 

Psychology of the Individual towards climate change.

Big movements and big changes usually start at home by a specific individual. It is the easiest way to change something about your life. From recycling your plastics to thrifting clothes instead of buying another t-shirt from H&M, individual changes really impact how one lives a sustainable lifestyle. 

However, beginning with the individual is important in order to emphasise to people that there is in fact a climate crisis in the first place. Under the concept of individual and household behaviour towards climate change, the theory of “overlooked dimensions” fits here (Nielsen et al., 2021). This means that there are choices individuals must make in order to be more sustainable and combat climate change and obstacles putting them off or preventing them from making such choices. For example, it is better to take public transport to get into work than a car. However, it is easier to get the bus if you live in the middle of the city compared to the middle of the countryside. 

Big movements and big changes usually start at home by a specific individual

According to Time Magazine, many psychologists have made the point that it is incredibly difficult for the human brain to fully comprehend the concept of climate change. The point was made by Samuel Schleffer for Time that a human’s purpose is to provide a legacy and work on something that has a significant impact on those living in the future. When people hear about climate change, it makes many feel that the work they are doing is not worthwhile or has any point in continuing if there is no future to look forward to. 

However, the argument could be made that a person’s work is worthwhile if it is to create a sustainable planet for the next generation that is not worrying over climate change the way many young people are today. 

On the other side of the spectrum, many people are struggling with their mental health as a result of climate change becoming more of a reality. This is as a result of people who have been directly affected by the consequences of climate change or are nervous for a future that does not look so bright anymore.

climate change … makes many feel that the work they are doing is not worthwhile

Climate anxiety develops as a result of action or a lack of action towards the crisis. Responses are needed for those who feel that issues to do with the environment are beginning to lose control.

Psychology of people within Government towards climate change

It is submitted that many governmental bodies are not bringing in enough policies and systematic change to help combat climate change. Despite an ongoing demand by the citizens of these countries, the government is hesitant to abide by some points. Governments when deciding on policy observe the mood of the people towards certain issues over others.  

Many people do want to see climate change policies implemented by their governments over the growing concern by the individual over the climate crisis. However, governments are beginning to understand and prioritise climate change policies through agreeing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and signing up to the Paris Agreement. 

the concept of a complete climate catastrophe is too overwhelming for the human brain to fully comprehend

If there’s one thing we know about the human mind it is that it tends to procrastinate. Tell me that you have never procrastinated an assignment or put off doing some housework at some point in your life, I doubt it. There are just some people out there procrastinating about climate change because the entire concept of a complete climate catastrophe is too overwhelming for the human brain to fully comprehend. However, it is essential for humanity to move past this and deal with the crisis head on for a sustainable future. 

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