Our Brain And Climate Change


Climate change presents the most pressing challenge of our time, demanding urgent and coordinated action from governments, businesses, and individuals alike. Addressing this complex issue requires an understanding of not only scientific and technological aspects, but also the human behaviors and psychological factors that drive our responses to the crisis.

The climate crisis is not just an abstract environmental issue — it’s deeply personal. But to address it effectively, we must understand how our minds process, react to, and engage with this global challenge. Several key questions arrive: How do we perceive the obstacles to climate action? In what ways do those perceptions shape our action — or inaction? What is the role of emotions in communicating the reality of our collective situation? And given the growing evidence that the climate crisis is impacting our mental health, can psychological insights be used to foster positive individual, community and system-level responses?

Behavior change is a critical component of this discussion, yet it needs to be seen in the broader context. Individual actions must be complemented and facilitated by transformations at the system level — from industry, policy to education. A well-informed public is key to driving these changes — but information transmission alone is insufficient. This section aims to dispel the prevalent binary view of individual action versus systemic change, advocating for a more holistic approach instead. 

Effective climate communication can help us bridge the often-highlighted gap between awareness and action, as well as between personal action and larger systemic shifts. To grasp the power of communication, we must understand the interconnected nature of individual beliefs, societal values, and the overarching systems they’re situated in. Psychology plays a pivotal role in explaining our responses to the climate crisis, but also in shaping pathways to a more sustainable and resilient future. By connecting the dots between the human mind, society and the environment we’re embedded in, we can use psychological insights to shape meaningful action against climate change.

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The Psychology of Climate Change

Action on climate change starts and ends with understanding how we perceive this global challenge, and its significance for our own lives. Psychologist and climate communication expert Per Espen Stoknes’ seminal work What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming examines the psychological dimensions underpinning collective inaction on climate change.
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The Climate and Mental Health Crisis

Nearly one in five US adults struggles with mental illness, and an increasing amount of research indicates that climate change can exacerbate these mental health challenges. The latest IPCC reports highlight the profound mental repercussions of climate events — with 20-30% of those experiencing hurricanes facing depression or PTSD in the subsequent months, with similar rates in flood survivors.
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Human Psychology for Catalyzing Action

How climate change is framed will influence how people perceive it, and therefore what actions they are willing to take. By framing climate change as an urgent problem that requires immediate action, as well as an opportunity to create a better future rather than a sacrifice, we can motivate people to take personal action
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