MomentUs, launched in January 2013, is a new strategic organizing and communications initiative designed to build a game-changing increase in personal and institutional support for climate change solutions by using local and regional impacts and preparedness to engage the breadth of the American public in mitigation. They just published BEYONDSTORMS & DROUGHTS: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change.
A summary is published here. For this blog I selected some key excerpts from the main text:
Understanding Climate Change
One reason why people may not accept or act on climate change is that the problem is often perceived as global, distant, and difficult to understand.
Learning about the local effects of climate change can make climate change more tangible and thus make people more likely to accept it as a reality.
Experiencing the effects of climate change sometimes makes people more likely to accept climate change, although psychological factors and people’s worldviews and ideologies can complicate this link.
Helping people understand the psychological impacts of climate change could be one way to increase people's willingness to respond to the issue.
Different Types of Climate Impacts: Disasters vs. Gradual Effects
Disasters onset at a specific point in time and are often highly visible. Examples of disasters include floods, hurricanes, wildfires, heat waves, and droughts.
Gradual effects build up over time and are harder to observe. Gradual effects include: slow changes in mean temperature, humidity and dew point; sea level rise; spread of disease; changes in agricultural conditions and associated increases in food insecurity; changes in natural landscapes, changes in land use and habitation and associated increases in numbers of displaced people; ecosystem disruptions; increased air pollution; and decreased availability of fresh water.
Impacts on Mental health
Some of climate change’s impacts on mental health will come about from the direct and immediate physical impacts of climate change. Others will come about as a result of climate change’s more gradual impacts on the environment, human systems and infrastructure.
Some of the key impacts of climate change on mental health include:
Trauma, Shock, Stress, Anxiety, Depression, Complicated grief, Severe reactions, such as PTSD, Strains on social relationships, Substance abuse, Mental health emergencies, Sense of loss, Hopelessness, fatalism, and resignation, Loss of autonomy and sense of control, Loss of personal and occupational identity.
Drought is a special case of natural disaster that can have particular effects due to the drought’s potential to impact people’s livelihoods, especially farmers’.
Women, children, and older adults may be especially susceptible to some mental health impacts.
Experiencing adversity from climate impacts is not inevitable. In some cases, adversity can result in personal and psychological growth, a phenomenon known as post-traumatic growth.
Tips to prepare and strengthen communities
Planners, policymakers, and other leaders may have experience preparing for the physical impacts of climate change. However, they may be less well-equipped to plan for psychological impacts. Here are 9 tips that planners, policymakers, and other organizations can use as they prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change:
1. Strengthen community and social networks.
2. Involve and inform the community.
3. Encourage residents to incorporate mental health into existing disaster preparation efforts.
4. Develop trusted and action-focused warning systems.
5. Pay special attention to vulnerable populations.
6. Create a sense of safety, calm, and hope.
7. Foster optimism.
8. Shore up infrastructure to mediate psychological effects.
9. Be sensitive to the needs of displaced people.