Climate change: Why we struggle to process the doom | Climate News

Climate Change: Why It’s Hard To Come to Grips with the Doom

The recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been a hot topic of discussion. While some people respond with fear, there are others who scroll on to the next story or hide under the duvet. This article explores why it’s hard to come to grips with the doom of climate change.


The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a report that provides a summary of all the findings on the causes, solutions, and effects of climate change in the last five years. Some of the statements that have been made about climate change are scary, and they can cause people to feel overwhelmed and disengaged. This article explores how our brains respond to the doom of climate change.

The Psychology of Climate Change

Sander van der Linden, a professor of Social Psychology at Cambridge University, believes that there is a risk of people being paralyzed by fear. If things are framed in a way that scares people, they may disengage and tune out because they feel too overwhelmed to take action. However, some concern is useful. Worry can be a motivator. If you’re sufficiently worried, you’ll do your homework, and then you’ll try to take corrective action. We want people to be appropriately worried and motivated to take corrective action, not scared to the point where they’re just going to run away and hide.

Effective Phrases

Van der Linden suggests that effective phrases could be “experts agree climate change is real, it’s us, it’s bad, but there’s hope” or “more and more people are changing their behavior to address climate change.” This signals change within a social group, which many of us respond to.

Social Signals

Social signals certainly worked for digital content creator Venetia La Manna. She was already promoting plant-based diets when she was ‘called out’, and now she champions environmentally friendly clothing. Someone said, “Great that you’re eating vegetables, but you’re wearing fast fashion and that doesn’t really align.” Then I went away, watched documentaries, read some books, and here we go,” she says. So it was, I guess, being held to account online. So that fact that others were sort of scrutinizing and saying, “Maybe you should make a change.”

It’s Not All Doom and Gloom

Although reports like the IPCC’s are often reported as all doom and gloom, that is not entirely fair. They stress that, despite being on ‘thin ice,’ we do have a chance. The document itself includes a graph called ‘multiple opportunities for scaling up climate action’ showing massive carbon-cutting solutions. Many are cheap, cost-neutral, or actually save us money. Unsurprisingly, the media often prefers to simply sound the alarm.


We must find ways to communicate the threat of climate change in a way that motivates people to take action. It’s not easy, but it’s essential. We must also recognize that while the situation is dire, there is still hope. We have the agency to change it, and we need to use that agency.