Why Psychology Should Be A Part Of The Fight Against Climate Change

Climate change isn’t just a political, social and economic issue. It’s also a deeply psychological one — and now, behavioral scientists are using psychology to better understand the complex relationship between people and nature.

An increasing number of psychologists are arguing that in order to tackle the growing threat to our environment, we need to understand people’s emotional and cognitive responses to this new reality, which can run the gamut from denial to indifference to outrage to anger to grief.

Scientists in the burgeoning field of environmental psychology are working hard to bring psychological insights into discussions about climate change.

“Most people who acknowledge that climate change is occurring feel that the public response has been inadequate,” said Dr. Susan Clayton, a conservation psychologist at the College of Wooster in Ohio. “Psychologists have been looking at how it is that people process this information about risk and come to their understandings — so that’s useful to know in terms of thinking about how you can create messages that are more effective for people in terms of getting them on board.”

What Is Environmental Psychology?

Research in environmental psychology can focus on a number of different areas of inquiry relevant to climate change, including the psychological and mental health impacts of ecological crises and disconnection from nature; the use of psychology to inform communication about climate change, advocacy and policy; and the psychological roots of climate change denial, apathy and inaction.

While psychology has been largely been left out of the climate change conversation, the field is now slowly gaining steam. In 2009, the American Psychological Association created a task force to examine the role of psychology in understanding and addressing global climate change. And last September, President Barack Obama called for the use of behavioral sciences to inform policy, communication —> Read More