Urgent climate action needed to avert health crisis

Source: Greennews.ie

June 14th, 2019

A new report from some of Europe’s leading scientists has shown that climate action is urgently required to protect human health in Europe.

The European
Academics Science Advisory Council (EASAC) found that thousands of premature
deaths in Europe could be averted with a zero-carbon economy.

They also confirmed
that eating a more sustainable diet of fruits, vegetables, legumes and reducing
red meat intake will lower greenhouse gas emissions and non-communicable
disease in Europe.

The EASAC report
indicates that climate events such as flooding, heat waves and forced migration
can also have major effects on people’s mental health.

Acute mental health
effects include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, substance abuse and
depression. Chronic effects include higher rates of aggression, violence and

Growing Concern about
climate breakdown

Data released this
month has shown that people in the UK are more concerned about the environment
now than ever before.

The data from analytics company YouGov shows
that public concern for the climate peaked after the Extinction Rebellion
Protests in London last April.

Chris Curtis of YouGov said that,
although Brexit generally dominates the headlines, their data shows that the
environment is “particularly a concern for young people”.

The data shows that 45 per cent of
young people surveyed aged between 18 and 24 were concerned about the
environment and potential for what has been coined by psychologists as

Although there is no official
definition for it,Psychology Today
refers to this as a “fairly recent psychological disorder” affecting an
increasing number of individuals “who worry about the environmental crisis.”

The basis of this anxiety is a
growing awareness of climate change and the global problems that result from
the damage to our ecosystems.

People of all ages are expressing
high levels of stress relating to climate change and symptoms include panic
attacks, obsessive thinking, loss of appetite and insomnia.


Assistant Professor of Sociology at DCU Audrey
Bryan said that climate grief or trauma appears in climate literature

“It’s possible of course that the climate crisis
could be impacting on some young people’s mental health” but “there’s not
sufficient evidence” in an Irish context currently, she said.

As of yet, no major studies into the
psychological effects of climate change on young people have been completed in
an Irish context.

According to Clinical Psychologist Dr
Eddie Murphy it is “crucial” how we communicate climate issues to children. “Kids
are picking up on the media narrative and that comes through in the therapy
room” he said.

Dr Murphy maintained that children
who are prone to worrying or have generalised anxiety will also worry about the
“ecological messaging” they experience around them.

Irish Doctors for the Environment
spokesperson Sandra Green said that behaviour change can often feel
“paralysing” if taken as a “big-picture or all at once” process.

Research provides
evidence that some people have feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration
due to their inability to feel like they are making a difference in stopping
climate change.

Dr Green said it is better to focus on climate actions that we can take such as physical commuting – biking or
walking can reduce stress, improve cognitive function and academic performance.

Other positive mental health
practices include immersing yourself in green spaces such as a forest or taking
a walk in natural surroundings. This has been scientifically proven to
alleviate symptoms of depression and reduce stress,
according to the WHO

Marianne Foody

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