Climate change impacts on human behavior

Connections:  The difference in human behavior that climate change has been shown to cause can be detrimental in the long run if we get stuck in the spiral downwards of getting mad at each other instead of working together for the future of our planet.

Thunderstorm, Iowa, USA, June 2019

News: As the climate continues to change, the psychological impact on us/humans will continue to grow. Many of us have begun to experience this already–whether it has been from heatwaves, extended droughts, torrential rainfall, flooding, extreme cold snaps, etc.

What does the research tell us?

Research indicates that as temperatures get hotter, humans experience increased negative emotions (anger, fear, anxiety, etc.), and interpersonal and group conflict. “Droughts, floods, and severe storms diminish quality of life, elevate stress, produce psychological distress, and may also cause internal and group conflict.”

However, the research done in the past can be improved. More research is needed that uses direct experience with climate extremes (people who were actually in the storm, affected by the heat, had their homes flooded, and so on) rather than using perceptions of projected climate changes, uses experimental studies rather than self-reports of behavior, and investigates the processes underlying any behavioral changes (exactly why is this happening?).

Still, as more and more people are directly impacted by increased heat, droughts/lack of water, sporadic torrential rainfall and flooding, extreme cold and snow, worsening air pollution, and the realization that this is long-term climate change with no easy fixes, “physical and mental health will be compromised.”

Can we adapt successfully to these changes?

Go to the source: Projected behavioral impacts of global climate change (Gary W. Evans, Annual Review of Psychology, January 2019).

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