‘Eco-anxiety’: Is The Media’s Coverage Of Climate Change Giving Viewers Psychological Issues?
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - MARCH 15: School children hold placards and shout slogans as they participate in a protest outside the Scottish Parliament on March 15, 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Students around the world took to the streets on March 15 to protest a lack of climate awareness and demand that elected officials take action on climate change. Inspired by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old environmental activist who started skipping school since August 2018 to protest outside Sweden's parliament, school and university students worldwide have followed her lead and shared her alarm and anger. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

An increasing number of Americans feel such panic over climate change that they are streaming into psychiatrists’ offices to deal with the stress, according to a viral video posted by NowThis News on Friday.

Psychologists say that “eco-anxiety” is creating “existential concerns about our future, and the future of our children, and their children.” Mitch Prinstein, chief science officer at the American Psychological Association, told the left-of-center news outlet that, for some people, concern over the environment is “impairing our ability to function every day.”

The video, which focuses on how to cope with stress over global warming, gives no statistics on the phenomenon of “eco-anxiety” and merely assumes that it exists. Is this psychological phenomenon real? If so, what is behind it?

What is the claim?

An identifiable group of Americans suffer from “eco-anxiety,” a fear of climate change so severe that it creates an impactful amount of stress and mental harm.

What are the facts about “eco-anxiety”?

“There’s growing recognition in the field of psychology that people are experiencing distress over climate change,” reported the Scientific American in April. The American Psychological Association has identified “eco-anxiety” as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.”

Surveys show that “eco-anxiety” is real and deepening the harm to young people’s well-being. Yale warned in 2018 that 29% of Americans were “very worried” about the environment, “the highest level since our surveys began in 2008.” By November 2019, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Washington Post found that the problem had exploded, particularly among “young adults ages 18-29.” In all, 68% of young people said they felt “afraid,” 66% felt “helpless,” and 54% felt “guilty” about the future of the global climate.

“Some teenagers today are more concerned about the environment than going to school or taking care of themselves, which is incredibly damaging to a child’s development,” reported the Texas Public Policy Foundation last month.

That fear may come, in part, from politicians’ overheated rhetoric, designed to sell a left-wing agenda on climate change. “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in January 2019. (She later claimed that she was joking, although she delivered the line in heartfelt earnest; her comments came days before she released her sweeping Green New Deal.) In April 2019, presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said the nation had to act “in the 10 years we have left to us, as the scientists tell us.” In January 2020, teenage activist Greta Thunberg said that the world has “less than eight years” to act.

Within one year, climate activists reduced the amount of time the world had left before the impending climate apocalypse by more than four years.

The Associated Press set the record straight in March 2019, reporting, “There is no scientific consensus, much less unanimity, that the planet only has 12 years to fix the problem” or perish.

Still, politicians have inflated the way they refer to the problem from “climate change,” to “climate emergency” (or, in Gavin Newsom’s phrase, “climate damn emergency”) to “climate catastrophe,” frequently with “existential” thrown in.

The resultant stress is so bad that Prinstein encouraged viewers to “talk with others about whether our anxieties are starting to feel a little bit disproportionate to the situation.”

He also encouraged people to become more discerning consumers of news and opinion. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there about climate change and the science behind it, but we really have to be very careful about what information we’re reading,” said Prinstein in the video. “What’s the source of that information? And are we talking about science, or is it a piece that might be trying to be more alarmist and trying to get us emotionally to respond?”

For instance, teenage global climate activist and media darling Greta Thunberg (who suffered from eco-anxiety herself) told her young followers: “Adults keep saying, we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic.”

Prinstein might look at his own organization. The American Psychological Association posted a 70-page guidance addressing in March 2017 which claimed “the implications of climate change” will “induce stress, depression, and anxiety; strain social and community relationships;” and induce “increases in aggression, violence, and crime.”

Everyone has a role to play in saving young people from sacrificing their future in endless worry over emotionally evocative rhetoric. “As a society, we have the ability to reduce eco-anxiety cases in children and teenagers by reporting facts about climate change rather than doomsday scenarios,” said the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

What is the bottom line?

“Eco-anxiety” is real, deepening, harmful, and preventable. The media could help improve the mental health of millions of young people around the world by debunking overstated claims about the environment, reporting accurate scientific claims about the state of our climate, and noting the environmentalist movement’s 50-year history of failed apocalyptic predictions.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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