What is Climate Doomism and How To Fight Eco-Anxiety That Comes With It

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by KnowESG
Image of young man in face mask with polluting industry in background.

Climate doomism is a viewpoint that emphasises the worst potential outcomes of climate change, often exaggerating or misinterpreting the science to paint a picture of an impending apocalypse if action is not taken. This type of thinking can be dangerous and misleading because it only considers the problem, without acknowledging the solutions and actions available.

This is, understandably, an emotional reaction to the severity of the climate crisis. And, while a sense of helplessness and despair can be damaging, it does however prove that some kind of reaction to the reality of our climate situation has taken place. If we view this through the lens of “the 5 Stages of Grief”, then stages of denial, anger, and attempted negotiation have already taken place prior to the depression (doomism). That leaves, somewhat optimistically, the fifth stage of acceptance.

To create meaningful change, we must focus on solutions after we have come to acceptance. Such approaches emphasise collaboration, investment in green technologies, and policy changes that can reduce emissions and prevent the worst effects of climate change. By empowering individuals to take action, climate doomism can be substituted for a sense of hope and future possibility.

An Insidious Method Of Media Manipulation

Discourse surrounding the climate crisis often paints a bleak picture that leaves people feeling scared and helpless. This pessimistic mindset leads many to believe that our efforts are futile - when in reality, it can be perceived as a fear tactic. 

When people express their concerns about the environment in this manner, it dissuades individuals from taking part in environmental activities and provides them with an excuse to remain inactive regarding combating climate change.

Walking this tightrope of information sharing can be a challenge; though those who spread climate crisis facts and figures may not necessarily mean to instil fear in others, they hope that by providing accurate data on the current state of our planet as well as its future outlook, it will inspire more people to take action.

Both Disempowering And Powerful

Queer Brown Vegan blogger Isaias Hernandez identifies climate doomism as a tool employed to disempower collectivised communities striving for environmental freedom. Moreover, they note that the majority of climate scientists are white and frequently succumb to this trap, further excluding BIPOC in the field.

Greta Thunberg is a strong advocate for inspiring people to take action, often through fear-mongering. In 2019 she declared “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act". In anotherreport, it was these powerful speeches from the young activist that helped spur today's immense youth-led climate movement - underscoring how effective doomism can be in an effort for change on certain occasions.

Eco-Anxiety: Climate Doomism Dread And Despair 

Given the overwhelming amount of climate-related information, when someone declares they feel this way, it's because they have consumed too much news and scientific data on the topic. ‘Too much information’ (TMI) is, in any sphere of society, a system overload.

Eco-anxiety is the distress felt towards the ongoing effects of global warming. Or, if we replace the term ‘global warming’ with ‘climate emergency’, you may feel the anxious shift from gentle warmth to immediate action. To alleviate the rising fear detected especially in our youth, many suggest media outlets and scientists use more reassuring rhetoric when discussing the current state of our planet.

While Thunberg's speeches have had a powerful impact, it is time for other people in the movement to begin infusing their climate messaging with solutions-based pragmatism, and from there a sense of potential and hope - something we at KnowESG are dedicated to doing.

Realism Is Acceptance

While people tend to disagree on whether doomism or optimistic messaging is the most efficient method to fight climate change, the truth lies somewhere in between. Whether you stand firmly at one end of the spectrum or another, we should remind ourselves that all efforts—from news stories and documentaries about climate change’s potential dangers, to social media posts spreading awareness—are unified by a single mission: firmly addressing climate change in a sustained, evolving manner. 

Image of climate change protest

Fighting Doomism with Solutions

Climate solutions must be comprehensive and address all aspects of energy production and consumption. This includes transitioning away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, as well as investing in energy efficient technologies. This must all be underpinned by policy changes that seek to modify our basic notions of economics, putting a price on carbon emissions and rewarding environmental stewardship instead of committing to extractive policies and externalising the natural capital of our only planet.

It’s important to remember that, at both the local and global levels, these solutions can provide economic benefits while also reducing our impact on the environment. To take that a step further, we are living in an age of unprecedented change: yes, the changes we have induced to our climate are terrifying, but our rate of technological change and the ability to collaborate at the planetary level are truly exciting. 

This is an age of unprecedented opportunity.

Takeaway

Ultimately, climate doomism is an unrealistic view of the climate crisis that fails to recognise the potential solutions available to us. Past the very real psychological shifts we need to accommodate to accept what is happening, doomism can be seen as a symptom of our TMI times. Or, if you wish, as an insidious plot of distraction on behalf of media giants and autocrats who seek nothing more than inaction to secure entrenched economic interests. 

Even the World Bank claims to agree. Climate change is simply not great for the business bottom line. There is improved profitability in the development of resilience, and however you look at it, our strong suit as a species is adapting to change and making it as favourable as possible to us. That change put be operating principle of business leaders and governments alike, who develop a real respect for the understandable anxieties of the emerging generations.

To fight climate doomism and eco-anxiety, we must accept the likelihood of change in everything: in our relationships, our societies, our world. This is a radical acceptance, but once we are decisive enough to move forward into uncertainty, then there is no room for anxiety. 

Find more views on environmental, social, and governance issues here.

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