IPCC report: Why it makes sense to read climate news – Knowledge

The new climate report delivers an almost familiar message: The climate crisis is actually no longer a crisis, but a permanent condition. It will affect almost everyone on earth during their lifetime. Living conditions could deteriorate dramatically. In order to limit this, action must be taken more quickly than has been the case up to now.

Many people click on at this point or turn the page of the newspaper if they still have bad news about the climate read. According to the ongoing Pace study by the University of Erfurt, for which the attitudes and behavior of Germans in the climate crisis are regularly surveyed, around a third of those surveyed rarely or never find out about climate change, and the current trend is slightly increasing. The number of people who clearly agree with the sentence “I’m tired of hearing about climate change” is also increasing: from 28 percent two years ago to 32 percent most recently.

The reasons for this are diverse. In addition to demographic and economic factors, it is primarily psychological processes that play a role, i.e. feelings such as fear or worry. The reactions to this range from skepticism and resistance to despair to trivialization and suppression (i.e.: turning the pages). “What feelings and coping strategies of the climate change triggers in the individual is highly individual and also depends on how acutely affected,” explains Lea Dohm, who is a psychologist specializing in climate feelings. 2021 attracted a lot of attention an international study, in which 60 percent of 16 to 25-year-olds stated that they were extremely afraid of climate change. Fear was greatest in Portugal, a country that had repeatedly experienced devastating forest fires in previous years.

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The best way to combat climate anxiety is to deal with it

It is important for experts like Lea Dohm to point out the connection between individual climate feelings and the societal dimension of climate change. The assumption that the individual can do nothing in relation to climate change anyway and can therefore confidently turn away is problematic in two respects: On the one hand, this assumption underestimates that individual perspectives in the aggregate form the so-called will of the voters, on which politics oriented. “Even if the political course is crucial to stopping global warming: This policy is made by people. Not least by voting,” agrees Mirjam Jenny, who researches climate-friendly behavior at the Institute for Planetary Health Behavior at the University of Erfurt.

On the other hand, there is now a consensus in climate psychology that people can best get a grip on negative climate feelings if they manage to deal with them and thereby experience self-efficacy. “There are definitely psychological benefits of actively engaging with and being better prepared for the cognitive dissonance that encountering climate change almost inevitably triggers,” says Dohm. Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable and, in the long run, unhealthy emotional state that arises when action, knowledge and values ​​diverge.

Psychology understands self-efficacy to mean a person’s confidence in being able to act even in extreme situations. Because of the dimensions of the climate crisis, Lea Dohm explains, for many people it is no longer enough to do without plastic bags or to cycle more. She also sees politics as having a responsibility to provide better framework conditions for more climate-friendly behavior and transparency, also in terms of the mental health of its citizens communication, civic participation or other forms of political participation. According to the current Pace study, 74 percent of those surveyed would like climate-friendly behavior to become easier.

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Measures for climate protection are more popular than expected

A recently published analysis also concludesthat climate protection measures are more strongly advocated than citizens, including decision-makers, think. Approval is developing particularly positively in places where measures such as wind or solar parks are already being implemented, as well as where there are formats for public dialogue and participatory projects such as energy cooperatives and where neighboring places can learn something from each other.

Beyond the societal dimension, the psychologist Lea Dohm also advises each individual to deal with their climate resilience, i.e. with the ability to remain mentally resilient. It helps to network with others and to think about how to get involved, for example at your own workplace climate protection can work.

So far, the positive psychological effect of climate commitment has received little attention in society. This is also shown by the fact that the aspect hardly ever comes up when talking about climate activists – and if it does, then it’s more out of pity for the young people and their worried view of the future. When asked how she coped with constantly dealing with gloomy climate forecasts, she answered Climate activist Clara Rochel in a program by Markus Lanz however, most recently with the sentence: “I’m not hopeless. Otherwise I would crawl into my private life.”

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