Norweigan researchers recently conducted a study that revealed that anger was the most important catalyst for climate activism. The study predicted anger is seven times more likely than hope to promote active engagement.
“The problem isn’t that people feel too scared about climate change,” said Thea Gregersen, a climate psychologist at the Norwegian Research Centre and lead author of the study. “The problem, in Norway at least, seems to be that they’re not scared enough.”
The study involved 2000 adults from Norway and determined that “fear and guilt were the best predictors of policy support, while sadness, fear and hope were the best predictors of behavioural change.”
Faced with rising reports of ecological anxiety, psychologists across the world are racing to understand how people’s feelings about the destruction of nature affect their mental health and behaviour. But the few studies to interrogate the link between emotions and actions have shown mixed results.
But messages that make people angry can also push others to shut down, particularly if they feel powerless. There were robust studies from health psychology that showed communicating risks could backfire if people were not also told how they could protect themselves, said Lorraine Whitmarsh, the head of the UK’s Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations, who was not involved in the study. “People really need to feel they can make a difference on climate change. And it’s much harder to make a difference on climate change than it is on health risks, because it’s a great big global collective problem.”
The Guardian article detailing the outcome and reaction to the study also evaluated the role of hope in climate activism, citing a review study that evidences an increase in hope generating more involvement in climate action.
“Even there, the relationship seems to be more the other way around,” said Lea Dohm, a psychologist and co-founder of the German climate action group Psychologists for Future, who also was not involved. “It may be less that hope comes first and then brings action, but rather that people act and then hope arises.”
The Global Fight to End Fossil Fuels takes place in New York City on September 15 and 17 to coincide with Climate Week and the UN Climate Ambition Summit. Demonstrations are also planned across the country and internationally. Information on transportation is available on the site.
On September 15 to 17, millions of people around the world will take to the streets to demand a rapid, just, and equitable end to fossil fuels.
This wave of global mobilisations will include the March to #EndFossilFuels fast, fair, forever in New York City on September 17, as world leaders attend the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Ambition Summit.
This historic mobilisation renews and reinforces the globally coordinated efforts focused on ending the era of fossil fuels. The scale of this mobilisation and the urgency of the moment underscore the devastating impacts of recent record breaking heat, deadly floods, and increased extreme weather events.
The climate crisis is escalating and in response so is the global movement for climate justice. Across the globe, we are coming together to fight back against the fossil fuel industry and its enablers.
Together, we are unstoppable as we build and imagine a fossil fuel-free world.