About the Climate Emergency
The name of our organisation – Psychology for a Safe Climate – recognises our concern about the risk of losing a safe climate. Sadly, since our formation more than 10 years ago, the climate crisis has intensified as ecosystems and climate systems collapse, even threatening the survival of humanity.
The latest IPCC Report makes it very clear that without dramatic action to slash greenhouse gas emissions this decade, we risk temperatures rising beyond the 1.5° C increase – set in the Paris agreement – within the next decade or two.
Based on the latest science, and taking into account Australia’s national circumstances, the Climate Council has concluded that Australia should reduce its emissions by 75% below 2005 levels by 2030, and achieve net zero emissions by 2035.
Activists, researchers, policymakers and community members are deeply troubled. Young people are much more worried about the climate future than the COVID-19 crisis. Their lives will be a struggle with one crisis after another.
Paul Hawken, in an interview about his recent book, Regeneration, said:
Our work is focused on supporting people emotionally as they face the climate reality. We help people connect with themselves, and with others who share similar concerns about broken eco and social systems, and facilitate engagement in collective action for repair.
As we are confronted by the latest IPCC report, and indeed any climate science report, here are some thoughts about caring for ourselves as we digest it.
Digesting the IPCC Report
The IPCC Report is the bearer of alarming news for all on Earth. How can we best hear and respond to this alarm, caring for ourselves and others while mustering motivation and commitment for desperately needed action? The research of climate psychology tells us that rather than suppress or avoid our distress, we need to welcome it as a healthy response to the climate crisis. If we are not feeling some level of fear and grief, we are in denial.
Acknowledging the complex of feelings we have in response to climate breakdown is crucial for sustained action. These feelings demonstrate how much we care about our world, our communities, our lives and our loved ones. This caring is the basis for the action and change our world needs from us all right now.
This work of acknowledging our feelings needs to be done with others, for climate breakdown involves us all, both in its causes and its effects. We need to use this report as a stimulus for reaching out to others, not only to share ideas about what we can do in response, but first to ask one another how we feel. Climate distress is very difficult, if not impossible, to bear alone. However, inviting an open conversation with trusted climate aware colleagues, friends or family members about your response to the latest climate news, lets everyone name and validate their feelings. We can learn that we are not alone in what we feel. There can be great comfort in this.
Psychotherapists describe a safe sharing of feelings and a careful listening to how others feel as a form of ‘holding and being held’. Listening to our own and others’ emotional oscillations helps us to accept the necessity and normality of feelings of grief, hope and despair. They are part of the emotional ebb and flow that accompanies major loss and change. Being held by a large group can make all the difference to how we respond as we become more able to engage with an open heart and a stronger sense of shared purpose. This is what our leaders are supposed to help us do. True leadership can hold the fear and grief evoked by the climate crisis and offer a vision for the future we can work towards together.
How to read the report
How you read the IPCC report or climate media reports bears thinking about. It is important to be kind to yourself, and to be in as calm and grounded a state as one can be. Ideally do this with a trusted companion or a group of colleagues. Choose the time of day to read and a pleasant setting, perhaps first walking or meditating in a natural setting. It can be helpful to read slowly, noting your feelings, taking pauses to focus on your breath and checking in with yourself and with others. Try not to take in more than you can digest, and take time out for refreshments.
For resources on the psychological impact of climate change and support resources for those distressed by the reality of climate changes, see the Resources page.
The following websites are useful resources for information on the climate emergency.
The Climate Council is an Australian independent body that provides public communication on the climate crisis. Comprised of climate scientists, health, renewable energy and policy experts. Their 2021 publication, Aim high, go fast: Why emissions need to plummet this decade provides important, up to date information on the climate reality.
The National Centre for Climate Restoration (Breakthrough) is an independent Australian think tank that develops critical thought leadership to influence the climate debate and policy making.
CSIRO is Australia’s national science academy and innovation catalyst. They provide information about Australia’s past, current and future climate to industries, governments and communities plan for and adapt to the changing climate.
Australian Bureau of Meteorology
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology produces an annual State of the Climate report. The reports draw on the latest climate research, encompassing observations, analyses and projections to describe year-to-year variability and longer-term changes in Australia’s climate.
Australian Academy of Science
The Australian Academy of Science provides independent, authoritative and influential scientific advice. They have produced a landmark climate change report, Risks of a 3 degree warmer world.
Climate Outreach is a UK-based international organisation that helps people understand the complex issue of climate change in order to create a social mandate for climate action. The website has useful resources to drive engagement and action.
Yale Climate Communications
Yale Climate Communications conducts research on public climate change knowledge, attitudes, policy preferences, and behaviour, and the underlying psychological, cultural, and political factors that influence them.
The Climate Mobilization
The Climate Mobilization is building a movement of people across the United States to reclaim the future by initiating an emergency-speed, whole-society Climate Mobilization, to reverse global warming and restore a safe climate.