We are constantly being reminded of the realities of our impact on the world and the impending consequences in the absence of drastic global change. Climate-related natural disasters are becoming commonplace. Despite this, and despite almost 200 countries pledging to control greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 from pre-industrial levels, many in positions of power are failing to meet their obligations: the EU is on track to miss 90% of its emissions targets by 2030.
So it’s not a surprise that Climate Communication have found almost 70% of people are worried about climate change, and 51% feel “helpless”. And according to Psychology Today, the number of people suffering from “eco-anxiety” is on the rise. Defined as “a chronic fear of environmental doom”, eco-anxiety may stem from the awareness of a rising risk of extreme weather events, losses of livelihood or housing, fears for future generations, or general feelings of helplessness.
But what can you do if you suffer from eco-anxiety?
Align your lifestyle with your values
While the physical impact of individual actions can be very small, researchers have suggested that altering your lifestyle so that it is more compatible with your values can help with eco-anxiety.
Some ways to do this may be to decrease your meat and dairy consumption, use public transport, walk or cycle instead of driving or getting taxis, and up your recycling.
Focus your efforts on changing systems
This can have a much more meaningful and large-scale impact than individual action. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment suggests letting your MP, local councillors and mayor know that you think action on climate change is important, and writing to your bank or pension provider to ask if you can opt out of funds that invest in fossil fuels.
Cut back on flying – especially if you’re a frequent flier
I know – it’s so cheap, easy and accessible to fly these days, and when you’re plunged in the depths of British winter – or, indeed, British spring, summer or autumn – it can be tempting to jet off somewhere warm.
But the aviation industry is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and – surprise, surprise – the US, China and EU account for 55% of all aviation emissions.
What’s more, according to Full Fact, 15 per cent of the adults in Great Britain account for 70% of flights taken, so it’s those of us taking three or more flights a year who will make the most difference by cutting back.
Check your home’s energy health
The CCC have identified that energy used in homes accounts for 14% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions. Good insulation and draught-proof windows and doors will ensure your home is energy efficient, and extra measures like turning down your heating and putting on extra layers go a long way to help. Reducing your energy use helps you take direct ownership of your consumption, and can reduce eco-anxiety.