The truth ignored: Climate change
Although many studies initially focus on the chain of events that occur in the biosphere due to climate change, a certain portion of climate change is caused by human activities, and another portion by the conditions of our planet, irrespective of humans. It seems possible to associate the current state of climate change with anthropogenic activities partially through the use of fossil fuels, deforestation, and pollution.
Increasing temperatures, heat waves, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, deforestation, glaciers and rivers being destroyed, and desertification may directly or indirectly cause physical and mental pathologies in human beings.
On the other hand, the matter of climate change, which has been of concern to the whole world for nearly half a century, still seems to be failing in attracting due interest. Though being ignored, the scenery is becoming more perilous day by day, as a consequence of extreme climate events.
But when is it possible to consider a climate event to be “extreme”?
In science, the term “extreme” is used in different contexts. Extremisms can be defined as events that occur rarely or beyond the normal range. Climate change is not the only reason why destructive natural weather events occur. Certain seasonal changes or annual average temperatures can be “extreme” Therefore, extremisms are interpreted in the context in which they take place. When such events are unprecedented or different from previous phenomena, humans and communities judge those events to be “extreme” by comparing them to their personal experiences.
That being said, it is still uncertain how many people will be affected by the climate change-induced extreme events, and to what extent and when such events will jeopardize their quality of life. People can be under the risk of survival either directly (for instance, during an extreme event) or indirectly (food shortage, famine, water shortage, a reduction in the number of agricultural or hunting areas, or being displaced).
It is foreseen by various studies that different outcomes and risks will exercise influence over the people as a result of climate change. These current and any possible future predictions include adverse outcomes, such as the extinction of plant and animal species, drought, hunger, forced migration, an increase in physical diseases, a reduction in biological diversity, neurodevelopmental disorders caused by congenital defects, and psychosomatic and neurological disorders being triggered.
Effects of Climate Change on Mental Health
Climate possesses the capability to create powerful phenomena which have disastrous effects among human communities. Disasters, hurricanes, floods, and droughts, when compared to normal seasonal changes in weather, cause a different psychological and psychopathological problem. Furthermore, when combined with other climate events which are commonly ignored in studies carried out on the mental health of the populations being exposed (such as acidification of oceans, acid rain, super fog, melting glaciers, biomass being destroyed), it can impose a bigger effect on mental health.
While the literature is cognizant of the fact that each of the extreme natural events listed (heat waves, floods, storms, drought, wildfires, etc.) has adverse effects on human psychology, the psychological picture of climate change includes various clinical disorders ranging from the symptoms of minimal stress and distress, anxiety, and sleep disorders to depression, post-traumatic stress, and suicidal thoughts.
Weather conditions may affect daily activities, and the changes in behaviors may stem from the physical properties of the environment Originating from the sensitivity towards the global climate change and ordinary weather conditions, these psychopathological phenomena can be currently analyzed in a much larger dimension. There is a strong correlation between natural disasters and mental disorders, and it is being predicted by certain studies that climate change will cause psychiatric implications as it will increase the frequency of extreme weather events.
Despite the studies, the correlation between climate change and its effects on mental health has yet to yield a clear result. The complexity of the current studies puts emphasis on this challenge. This challenge largely stems from the heterogeneity in respect of what is to be measured and how the effects of climate change will be measured. Defining the deviation of extreme weather events from normality, the attempts on discovering the underlying mechanisms of adaptation, and eventually the attempts on defining the direct cause and effect relationships are challenging tasks.
Nevertheless, as it seems nearly inevitable for a psychological pathology to be created by the short-term effects, and by the long-term effects in an indirect manner, climate change will lead to fundamental changes in the environment, and it will cause an environment-driven migration (random refugees and climate refugees) while changing the life styles. Mental adaptation and certain behavioral patterns will develop based on the chronology of events: in the pre-warning phase, during the disaster, and in the post-event phase. The climate change problem seems likely to continue in the upcoming years. Indubitably, this is an exhaustive matter with quite different aspects, and such huge issue will pose serious effects on humans and human psychology.
Becoming conscious of the matter and being prepared for any possible implications are probably the major valuable precautions to be taken against the destruction that climate change may cause in psychological terms. Social awareness will make it possible to both postpone the apprehension and pathologies that might be caused by the adverse outcomes to occur, and be aware of the adaptable aspects of the situation to be encountered.
– Cianconi, P., Betrò, S., & Janiri, L. (2020). The impact of climate change on mental health: a systematic descriptive review. Frontiers in psychiatry, 11, 74.
– Clayton, S., Devine-Wright, P., Stern, P. C., Whitmarsh, L., Carrico, A., Steg, L., … & Bonnes, M. (2015). Psychological research and global climate change. Nature climate change, 5(7), 640-646.
– Swim, J., Clayton, S., Doherty, T., Gifford, R., Howard, G., Reser, J., … & Weber, E. (2009). Psychology and global climate change: Addressing a multi-faceted phenomenon and set of challenges. A report by the American Psychological Association’s task force on the interface between psychology and global climate change. American Psychological Association, Washington.