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22 November 2023

Climate change and eco-stress


By Penny Batziaki

Climate anxiety or eco-stress, a growing concern in today’s world, is a psychological reaction to the increasing challenges posed by climate change, especially the anxiety about extreme events such as floods and other climate-related disasters. As the consequences of environmental degradation become increasingly evident, individuals and communities are experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety.

The scientific basis of climate anxiety is rooted in real threats facing our planet. Over the past century, human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, have accelerated the increase in greenhouse gases, leading to global warming and more frequent extreme weather events, including the Thessaly floods in September 2023, as well as the European heatwave in July of the same year. Because of such events, disruptions to ecosystems, food supplies and communities are caused, which can create a deep sense of powerlessness, fear, especially for those living in vulnerable areas.

Stress, anxiety and fear of climate change are not only related to the likelihood of an extreme event, but to the socio-economic impacts it may have on those affected by it, also. Flood victims will be forced to make damaging repairs to their homes, fire victims may have to change their area of residence, and even those who may not be directly affected will have to take precautionary measures to cope with future extreme events. Addressing climate concerns should therefore be based on mitigation of climate change and adequate preparation against extreme events.

Efforts to mitigate climate stress should be based on scientific research and sustainability principles. By disseminating accurate information about climate change and its impacts, we can give individuals the knowledge to combat their stress, including strategies for preparing for and adapting to extreme events. Public and private initiatives such as disaster and climate resilience plans, environmental, social and governance (ESG) and climate change management plans (CCMPs) are key tools for addressing climate anxiety and creating sustainable solutions.

Finally, addressing climate concerns at an individual level can be related to the efforts we each make to mitigate climate change. With simple daily habits such as recycling, reusing and choosing more sustainable modes of travel and transportation, feelings of stress and concern for the livelihood of future generations can be mitigated.

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