The Emotions of Climate Change

by Ellen


The United Nations Climate Change Summit in Cancun, Mexico will be wrapping up this week.  I’m not proud to say that this important conference has barely made the news here in the United States.  For how long can we choose as a nation to approach climate change as this man has?

Head stuck in the sand

Marcus Stephen, president of the island nation of Nauru, spoke passionately on behalf of his country and the thirteen other Pacific small island developing states (SIDS): Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.  His forceful message makes it perfectly clear that if we do not address climate change in a thorough and immediate manner, these low-lying islands may soon cease to exist due to rising sea levels.  Elsewhere, Himalayan villages are threatened by rapidly melting glaciers.

What emotions motivate us to act?

I started thinking about reactions I’ve had or encountered in others when discussing our changing climate and how we can best deal with this quickly worsening situation.  Among those who take the human contribution to climate change seriously, there is great variety in what factors get people moving to do something about it.


Some people react really well to fear and worry, believing that we need to scare ourselves into action, because the consequences of inaction are too horrible to contemplate.  While no one (in his right mind) condones inaction, fear in some people can be counterproductive.  These people can become paralyzed by dire predictions, feeling a sense of helplessness.


Some respond better to a hopeful and optimistic approach, taking positive, effective steps to insure a desirable future.  These people focus on the good that we can accomplish each day.  Feeling that we can make a difference, big or small, can spur us to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve natural resources.


Regardless of how we individually deal with the reality of climate change, we all need to address it.  The sooner we enact changes, the easier it will be to tackle the ballooning problem of global warming.  I sincerely wish that the one emotion we can all share is that of hope —  hope for a future where we act collectively to ensure the health and welfare of the inhabitants of this beautiful planet.

This way...

Photo credits:  Thanks to all these flickr members for their beautiful photos:

Nina Matthews Photography, blakeimeson, spaceodissey, M-n-M, Conor Lawless, and pol sifter

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