In the grip of climate anxiety


A NEW study has revealed that more and more people across the world, including the Philippines,  are getting worried about the threat of climate change, triggering what the study termed as “climate anxiety.”

According to the Climate Reality Project Philippines, the global study showed eight out of 10 children and young people are affected, while 45 percent reported that their feelings on the prevailing climate crisis are having negative impacts on daily functioning, including eating, concentrating, work, school, sleeping, spending time in nature, playing, having fun and dealing with relationships.

In the Philippines, the figure is up to 75 percent, with the report recognizing that young people in the Global South are experiencing more severe climate anxiety—which is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.”

The figures were shared by Caroline Hickman, a psychotherapist and teaching fellow at the University of Bath in the UK, during the 18th episode of the Climate Reality Project Philippines “Klimatotohanan” webcast entitled “Feeling Anxious and Hopeful About Our Collective Futures: How the Climate Crisis is Affecting Our Mental Health.”

Hickman is the co-lead author of the study “Young People’s Voices on Climate Anxiety Government Betrayal and Moral Injury: A Global Phenomenon,” released on a pre-publication basis by the scientific journal Lancet Planetary Health while it is undergoing peer review process.

The said study is the first large-scale investigation of climate anxiety in children and young people globally and its relationship to government response. It surveyed 10,000 children and young people, aged 16 to 25, from Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Portugal, the UK and the US.

The results of the survey among the Filipino youth revealed that 71 percent of respondents, compared to 55 percent worldwide, think that they won’t have access to the same opportunities their parents had enjoyed.

On the other hand, 77 percent of the respondents, compared to 52 percent worldwide, think that their family’s economic, social and physical security will be threatened. Meanwhile, 47 percent of the respondents, compared to 39 percent worldwide, are hesitant to have children because of climate change.

“Climate anxiety is not a mental illness. But if we put together the realities of climate change with climate anxiety and global inadequate action, then what we are looking at are chronic, inescapable stressors that will inevitably impact the mental health of children and young people,” Hickman explained.

Hickman, also board member of the Climate Psychological Alliance, a nonprofit group that aims to address the psychological dimensions of the climate and ecological crisis, added that climate anxiety is inextricably linked to the failure of those in power to act decisively and sufficiently to address the prevailing climate crisis.

To understand the correlation between climate anxiety and actions or inactions of governments around the world, Hickman said, they asked respondents what they think of the response of the governments (globally, not just their own governments) to the prevailing climate crisis.

Here are the results in the Philippines: 68 percent think that governments are failing young people. 69 percent think that governments are lying about the impact of their actions. 56 percent think that governments are betraying them and future generations.

“We need to acknowledge the concurrent mental health distress that this [climate crisis] is causing. We need to be clear that unless we take global action, we are leaving young people in the most vulnerable countries in the world feeling distressed and feeling abandoned and betrayed,” she added.

Individual vs collective climate actions

JON Bonifacio, Education Coordinator of the Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines, noted that while individual actions matter, there is a need to collectively clamor for systemic solutions to the climate problem. “The primary solution [to the climate crisis] really is to find ways to address it to change current conditions. And the best way to do that is to do it together and collectively,” he said.

Hickman agreed, warning young climate advocates not falling into “the binary of either naïve optimism or apocalyptic thinking.”

We have to take care of ourselves in whatever form of activism we’re engaging in. Any internal activism needs to be balanced with external activism. Otherwise, it’s a really high risk that we’ll just burn out,” she added.

Hickman also advised authorities against dismissing climate anxiety. “We’re causing moral injury if we disregard these figures,” she said, adding that young people must be listened to, understood, and taken seriously. “If we can do that seriously and properly, then young people can be reassured, protected, valued, and hopeful,” she added.


IN Davao City, environmental activists are pressing Malacañang to compel accountability among corporations on climate change following the release of the same Lancet study which showed a very high percentage of Filipino youths expressing climate anxiety and dismay over perceived government inaction in addressing climate issues.

The public posturing of environmentalists came in the same week that President Duterte aired before the United Nations General Assembly the Philippine position on corporate accountability for the changing climate patterns and the hoarding of Covid-19 vaccines by affluent nations.

Greenpeace Philippines said, “Young Filipino activists echoed how lack of urgency and accountability among governments and big polluting corporations heightened climate anxiety,” which it said, however, was also a global phenomenon among young individuals.

“Young Filipino climate activists demanded the government to hold corporations accountable for the worsening climate conditions, to secure a safer future for the youth and vulnerable communities,” Greenpeace Philippines said.

The Filipino youth’s reaction followed the release of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s latest Synthesis Report on the Nationally Determined Contributions of 113 countries, “which shows that the current contributions would warm the planet by 2.7 degrees Celsius—significantly higher than the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold under the Paris Agreement.”

Greenpeace Philippines said it was “in solidarity with these young Filipinos in demanding the government to uphold climate justice by holding big polluters accountable for driving the climate crisis.”

“The government must also ensure a transition to resilient and efficient food, energy and transport systems, and uphold active citizen participation. It must put people at the core of local and national policy-making,” the group added.

“When the youth calls for actions, those in power must listen. Our call for accountability is a call for the protection of entire generations. We refuse to inherit a dying planet where anxiety is looming over hope,” Greenpeace Campaigner Kisha Muana said. With Manuel T. Cayon

Image courtesy of Skypixel |

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