How climate change is changing us. A pilot study on whether negative and positive affect towards climate change promote environmental engagement or unhealthy behaviors

Author/s Minou Ella Mebane, Maura Benedetti, Daniela Barni, Anna Passaro, Donata Francescato
Publishing Year 2023 Issue 2023/1 Language English
Pages 20 P. 54-73 File size 232 KB
DOI 10.3280/PSC2023-001004
DOI is like a bar code for intellectual property: to have more infomation click here

Below, you can see the article first page

If you want to buy this article in PDF format, you can do it, following the instructions to buy download credits

Article preview

FrancoAngeli is member of Publishers International Linking Association, Inc (PILA), a not-for-profit association which run the CrossRef service enabling links to and from online scholarly content.

One of the most urgent challenges affecting our world and its inhabitants is dealing with climate change. Community Psychology can have a significant role in encouraging environ-mentally responsible behaviors and a global sense of community. As several authors maintain to enhance eco-friendly behaviors it’s pivotal to understand emotional reactions to climate change and build a planetary sense of community (Francescato, 2020). When emotions and feelings are unacknowledged or unprocessed this can contribute to inhibit climate change en-gagement (Hamilton, 2022). Our pilot research involved 25 high school students that partici-pated in a Psychological Environmental Intervention Program facilitated by environmental sci-entists and community psychologists expert in affective education. Through emotional reflex-ivity on climate change, we wanted to investigate which positive and negative emotions and feelings climate change evoked in students and how these emotions were related to negative unhealthy behaviors such as wanting to drink or smoke and positive prosocial behaviors such as participating to environmental movements.

Keywords: climate change, environmental education, environmental awareness, socio-affective education, prosociality, emotions.

  1. Lerner J.S., Li Y., Valdesolo P., Kassam K.S., (2015). Emotion and decision making. Annual Review of Psychology, 66, 799-823.
  2. Agnew, R. (2001). Building on the Foundation of General Strain Theory: Specifying the Types of Strain Most Likely to Lead to Crime and Delinquency. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 38(4), 319-361.
  3. Agnew, R. (1992). Foundation for a General Strain Theory of Crime and Delinquency. Criminology, 30, 47-87.
  4. Ágoston, C., Csaba, B., Nagy, B., Kőváry, Z., Dúll, A., Rácz, J., & Demetrovics, Z. (2022). Identifying Types of Eco-Anxiety, Eco-Guilt, Eco-Grief, and Eco-Coping in a Climate-Sensitive Population: A Qualitative Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(4), 2461.
  5. American Psychological Association (2018). Stress in America: Generation Z. Stress in America™ Survey, 1-11. stress/2018/stress-gen-z.pdf
  6. American Psychological Association (2022). Addressing the Climate Crisis. An Action Plan for Psychologists. Report of the APA task force on climate change.
  7. American Psychological Association (2009). Psychology and global climate change: Addressing a multi-faceted phenomenon and set of challenges. -- https://
  8. Ban Ki-moon (June 8, 2007). Climate change “defining issue of our era”. United Nations News. --
  9. Barnhart, W. R., Braden, A. L., & Jordan, A. K. (2020). “Negative and positive emotional eating uniquely interact with ease of activation, intensity, and duration of emotional reactivity to predict increased binge eating”: Corrigendum. Appetite, 152, Article 104724.
  10. Bissing-Olson, M. J., Fielding, K. S., & Iyer, A. (2016). Experiences of pride, not guilt, predict pro-environmental behavior when pro-environmental descriptive norms are more positive. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 45, 145-153.
  11. Bradley, G. L., Reser, J. P., Glendon, I. A., & Ellul, C. M. (2014). Distress and coping in response to climate change. In K. Kaniasty, K. A. Moore, S. Howard, P. Buchwald (Eds.), Stress and anxiety: Applications to social and environmental threats, psychological well-being, occupational challenges, and developmental psychology climate change (pp. 33-42). Berlin: Logos Verlag.
  12. Brosch, T. (2021). Affect and emotions as drivers of climate change perception and action: A review. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 42, 15-21.
  13. Brosch, T., Scherer, K., Grandjean, D., & Sander, D. (2013). The impact of emotion on perception, attention, memory, and decision-making. Swiss Medical Weekly, 143(1920).
  14. Burn C. (2021). Climate change anxiety and addiction. addiction/climate-change-anxiety-and-addiction
  15. Clayton, S., & Manning, C. (Eds.) (2018). Psychology and climate change: Human perceptions, impacts, and responses. Cambridge (MA): Elsevier Academic Press.
  16. Clayton, S., Manning, C., Speiser, M., & Hill, A. N. (2021). Mental health and our changing climate: Impacts, inequities, responses. American Psychological Association & ecoAmerica. -- climate-change-2021-ea-apa.pdf
  17. Compton, J., van der Linden, S., Cook, J., & Basol, M. (2021). Inoculation theory in the post-truth era: Extant findings and new frontiers for contested science, misinformation, and conspiracy theories. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 15(6).
  18. Cooper, M. L., Frone, M. R., Russell, M., & Mudar, P. (1995). Drinking to regulate positive and negative emotions: A motivational model of alcohol use. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(5), 990-1005. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.69.5.99
  19. Core T. J., Price M. M., Alquist J. L., Baumeister R. F., & Tice D. M. (2018). Life is uncertain, eat dessert first: Uncertainty causes controlled and unemotional eaters to consume more sweets. Appetite, 131, 68-72.
  20. Corral-Verdugo, V. (2021). Psychology of climate change, PsyEcology. 12, 1-29. DOI: 10.1080/21711976.2021.190118
  21. Creutzig, F., Roy, J., Lamb, W. F., Azevedo, I. M. L., Bruine de Bruin W., Dalkmann, H., Edelenbosch, O. Y., Geels, F. W., Grubler, A., Hepburn, C., Hertwich, E. G., Khosla, R., Mattauch, L., Minx, J. C., Ramakrishnan, A., Rao, N. D., Steinberger, J. K., Tavoni, M., Ürge-Vorsatz, D., & Weber, E. U. (2018). Towards demand-side solutions for mitigating climate change. Nature Climate Change, 8(4), 268-271.
  22. Doppelt, B. (2016). Transformational resilience: How building human resilience to climate disruption can safeguard society and increase wellbeing. London: Routledge.
  23. Dorison, C. A., Wang, K., Rees, V. W., Kawachi, I., Ericson, K. M. M., & Lerner, J. S. (2020). Sadness, but not all negative emotions, heightens addictive substance use. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 117(2), 943-949.
  24. Ecker, U. K. H., Lewandowsky, S., Cook, J., Schmid, P., Fazio, L. K., Brashier, N., Kendeou, P., Vraga, E. K., & Amazeen, M. A. (2022). The psychological drivers of misinformation belief and its resistance to correction. Nature Reviews Psychology, 1(1), 13- 29.
  25. Reser, J. & Swim, J. (2011). Adapting to and Coping with the Threat and Impacts of Climate Change. The American Psychologist, 66(4), 277-89.
  26. Everett, A., Sugarman, O., Wennerstrom, A., Pollock, M., True, G., Haywood, C., Meyers, D., Raines, A., Wells, K., Johnson, A., Arevian, A. C., Sato, J., & Springgate, B. (2020). Community-informed strategies to address trauma and enhance resilience in climate-affected communities. Traumatology, 26(3), 285- 297.
  27. Faure, C., Guetlein, M. C., Schleich, J., Tu, G., Whitmarsh, L., & Whittle, C. (2022). Household acceptability of energy efficiency policies in the European Union: Policy characteristics trade-offs and the role of trust in government and environmental identity. Ecological Economics, 192.
  28. Finucane, M. L. (2008). Emotion, affect, and risk communication with older adults: Challenges and opportunities. Journal of Risk Research, 11(8), 983-997 DOI: 10.1080/13669870802261595
  29. Francescato, D., & Putton, A. (2022). Star bene insieme a scuola. Strategie per il benessere relazionale e il welfare di comunità [Being well together in school. Strategies for the relational wellbeing and community welfare]. Roma: Carocci.
  30. Garofalo, C., & Velotti, P. (2017). Negative emotionality and aggression in violent offenders: The moderating role of emotion dysregulation. Journal of Criminal Justice, 51, 9-16.
  31. Hamilton, J. (2022). “Alchemizing Sorrow into Deep Determination”: Emotional Reflexivity and Climate Change Engagement. Frontiers in Climate, 4.
  32. Hamilton, C., & Kasser T. (2009, September, 28-30). Psychological Adaptation to the Threats and Stresses of a Four Degree World. Four Degrees and Beyond Conference, Oxford, United Kingdom.
  33. Hampel, P., & Petermann, F. (2006). Perceived stress, coping, and adjustment in adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38(4), 409-415.
  34. Head, L. (2016). Hope and Grief in the Anthropocene. Reconceptualising Human Nature Relations. London: Routledge.
  35. Heckman B. W., Kovacs M. A., Marquinez N. S., Meltzer L. R., Tsambarlis M. E., Drobes D. J., Brandon T. H. (2013). Influence of affective manipulations on cigarette craving: A meta-analysis. Addiction, 108(12), 2068-2078.
  36. Hornsey, M. & Fielding, K. (2016). A cautionary note about messages of hope: Focusing on progress in reducing carbon emissions weakens mitigation motivation. Global Environmental Change, 39, 26-34. doi; 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2016.04.003
  37. Iniguez-Gallardo V., Lenti Boero D., & Tzanopoulos J. (2021). Climate Change and Emotions: Analysis of People’s Emotional States in Southern Ecuador. Frontiers Psychology, 12.
  38. IPCC (2018). Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, … & T. Waterfield (Eds.)]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  39. Lazarus, R.S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, Appraisal, and Coping. New York: Springer
  40. Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Rosenthal, S., Kotcher, J. & Bergquist, P., Ballew, M., Goldberg, M., Gustafson, A., & Wang, X. (2020, April). Climate change in the American Mind April 2020. Yale program on climate change education.
  41. Lepore, S. J., & Evans, G. W. (1996). Coping with multiple stressors in the environment. In M. Zeidner & N. S. Endler (Eds.), Handbook of Coping: Theory, Research, Applications (pp. 350-377). New York: John Wiley & Son.
  42. Lindsey R., & Dahlman, L. (January 18, 2023). Climate Change: global temperature. Climategov.
  43. Lorenzoni, I., Nicholson-Cole, S., & Whitmarsh, L. (2007). Barriers Perceived to Engaging with Climate Change among the UK Public and Their Policy Implications. Global Environmental Change, 17, 445-459.
  44. Lu, H., & Schuldt, J. P. (2016). Compassion for climate change victims and support for mitigation policy. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 45, 192-200.
  45. Mah A. Y. J., Chapman D. A., & Markowitz, E. M., & Lickel, B. (2020). Coping with climate change: Three insights for research, intervention, and communication to promote adaptive coping to climate change. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 75,
  46. Metag, J., Füchslin, T., & Schäfer, M. S. (2017). Global warming’s five Germanys: A typology of Germans’ views on climate change and patterns of media use and information. Public Understanding of Science, 26(4), 434-451. DOI: 10.1177/096366251559255
  47. Moser, S. (2010). Communicating climate change: History, challenges, process and future directions. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 1, 31-53.
  48. Moser, S. (2015). Whither the heart (-to-heart?). Prospects for a humanistic turn in environmental communication as the world changes darkly. In A. Hansen & R. Cox (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook on Environment and Communication, (pp. 422-433). London: Routledge.
  49. Myers, T.A., Nisbet, M.C., Maibach, E.W. et al. (2012). A public health frame arouses hopeful emotions about climate change. Climatic Change, 113, 1105-1112.
  50. NOAA (13 January, 2022). 2021 was world’s 6th-warmest year on record. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  51. Norgaard, K. M. (2011). Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life. Cambridge (MA): MIT Press.
  52. O ́Brien, K., & Sygna, L. (2013). Responding to climate change: the three spheres of transformation. Proceedings of Transformation in a Changing Climate, (pp.16-23). University of Oslo.
  53. O’Neill, S., & Nicholson-Cole, S. (2009). “Fear Won’t Do It”: Promoting Positive Engagement with Climate Change Through Visual and Iconic Representations. Science Communication, 30(3), 355-379. DOI: 10.1177/107554700832920
  54. Ojala, M. (2013). Coping with Climate Change among Adolescents: Implications for Subjective Well-Being and Environmental Engagement. Sustainability, 5(5). 2191-2209.
  55. Ousey C. G., Wilcox P., Schreck C.J. (2015). Violent victimization, confluence of risks and the nature of criminal behavior: Testing main and interactive effects from Agnew’s extension of General Strain Theory. Journal of Criminal Justice, 43(2), 164-173.
  56. Pozzi M., Passini S., Chayinska M., Morselli D., Ellena A. M., Wlodarczyk A. & Pistoni, C. (2022). ‘Coming together to awaken our democracy’: Examining precursors of emergent social identity and collective action among activists and non-activists in the 2019–2020 ‘Chile despertó’ protests. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 32(5), 830-845.
  57. Prentice, H. (2003). Cosmic walk: awakening the ecological self. Psychotherapy and Politics International, 1, 32-46.
  58. Reser P. R., Graham, L., Bradley, A., & Glendon, I. A. (2012). Public risk perceptions, understanding and responses to climate change and natural disasters in Australia and Great Britain. National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. Griffith University /2019/03/Reser_2012_ Public_risk_perceptions_ Final.pdf
  59. Roeser, S. (2012). Risk communication, public engagement, and climate change: a role for emotions. Risk Analysis, 32(6),1033-1040.
  60. Sinatra, G. M., & Hofer, B. K. (2021). Science denial: Why it happens and what to do about it. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  61. Siqueira, L., Diab, M., Bodian, C., & Rolnitzky, L. (2000). Adolescents becoming smokers: the roles of stress and coping methods. Journal of Adolescent Health, 27(6), 399-408.
  62. Smith, J. P., Book, S. W. (2008). Anxiety and substance use disorders: A review. The Psychiatric Times, 25(10), 19-23.
  63. Smith, N. & Leiserowitz, A. (2014). The role of emotion in global warming policy support and opposition. Risk Analysis, 34(5), 937-48.
  64. Stanley, S. K., Hogg, T.,L., Leviston, Z., & Walker, I. (2021). From anger to action: Differential impacts of eco-anxiety, eco-depression, and eco-anger on climate action and wellbeing. Journal of Climate Change and Health, 1.
  65. Steentjes, K., Pidgeon, N. F., Poortinga, W., Corner, A. J., Arnold, A., Böhm, G., ... & Tvinnereim, E. (2017). European Perceptions of Climate Change (EPCC): Topline findings of a survey conducted in four European countries in 2016. --
  66. Stern, P. C. (2000). Toward a coherent theory of environmentally significant behavior. Journal of Social Issues, 56(3), 407-424. DOI: 10.1111/0022-4537.0017
  67. Thomas E. F., McGarty, C, & Mavor K. I. (2009). Transforming “apathy into movement”: the role of prosocial emotions in motivating action for social change. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 13(4), 310-33. DOI: 10.1177/1088868309343290.
  68. Tollefson, J. (2022, February 28). Climate change is hitting the planet faster than scientists originally. Observatorio 2030. -- https://observatorio
  69. Van der Linden, S. (2015). Intrinsic motivation and pro-environmental behaviour. Nature Climate Change, 5, 612-613.
  70. Van der Linden, S., Maibach, E., & Leiserowitz, A. (2015). Improving Public Engagement with Climate Change: Five “Best Practice”. Insights from Psychological Science. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(6), 758-763. DOI: 10.1177/174569161559851
  71. Van Valkengoed, A., & Steg, L. (2019). The Psychology of Climate Change Adaptation. Cambridge University Press.
  72. Vergunst, F., Berry, H. L., Minor, K, & Chadi, N. (2022). Climate Change and Substance-Use Behaviors: A Risk-Pathways Framework. Perspectives on Psychological Science. DOI: 10.1177/17456916221132739.
  73. Verplanken, B., & Roy, D. (2013). “My worries are rational; climate change is not”: Habitual ecological worrying is an adaptive response. PLoS ONE, 8(9), 1-6.
  74. Wang, S., Leviston, Z., Hurlstone, M., Lawrence, C., & Walker, I. (2018). Emotions predict policy support: why it matters how people feel about climate change. Global Environmental Change. 50, 25-40.
  75. Willox, A. C., Harper, S. L.; Edge, V. L., Landman, K., Houle, K., Ford, J. D., & Rigolet Inuit Community Government (2013). The land enriches the soul: On climatic and environmental change, affect, and emotional health and well-being in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, Canada. Emotional, Space and Society, 6, 14-24.

Minou Ella Mebane, Maura Benedetti, Daniela Barni, Anna Passaro, Donata Francescato, How climate change is changing us. A pilot study on whether negative and positive affect towards climate change promote environmental engagement or unhealthy behaviors in "PSICOLOGIA DI COMUNITA’" 1/2023, pp 54-73, DOI: 10.3280/PSC2023-001004