As global temperatures and sea levels rise, changes in the environment are poised to affect human well-being in complex ways. Scientists have begun to explore the potential for negative impacts on mental health over time.
Research suggests that rises in average temperatures are associated with increases in self-reported mental health problems. Other effects of climate change—such as more frequent and severe storms and hurricanes—may cause large-scale spikes in distress. But it is difficult to predict exactly how any specific psychological effects of climate change may play out.
Given the role of human-caused carbon emissions in the global climate crisis—and a lack of coordinated action to address it—there are a variety of ways in which ideas from psychology could be helpful in mitigating and coping with the effects of climate change. Psychological insights may, for example, help to reframe climate-change mitigation strategies to make them more appealing. Psychology also highlights cognitive tendencies that may be relevant for promoting action, or that will need to be overcome, such as the greater impact of concrete experiences relative to abstract statistics and trends, or the tendency to discount the costs and benefits of future events.