Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mental Well-Being Will Suffer Under Changing Climate, Experts Say

Trees burn on May 13 as a San Diego wildfire moves through a canyon between Rancho Santa Fe and the Fairbanks Ranch area.(Credit: Click to enlarge.
In the wake of increasing fires, storms and drought, the most profound wounds may occur in the human psyche, according to experts.

Mental health troubles are an insidious threat from climate change.  Though less grisly than injuries and infections, mental illnesses can still be very costly. The World Economic Forum issued a study in 2011 that found mental health issues will lead to $16.1 trillion in lost economic productivity over the next two decades.

Some of those losses stem from a changing climate.  A report last week from the American Psychological Association and environmental group ecoAmerica discussed the mental health impacts of a warming world.

"Our motivation is to get people to think about climate change in a way they aren't," said Susan Clayton, a co-author and a professor of psychology at the College of Wooster. "We're not presenting something new so much as something people have not been paying attention to."

Even the Obama administration, in its pitch for greenhouse gas emissions cuts from power plants, touted fewer asthma attacks and heart problems as a result of curbing carbon pollution, but overlooked the mental health benefits of doing so.

The report found that addressing climate change could slow or avert looming problems like stress, anxiety and depression.  The analysis draws on how people responded to disruptions like hurricanes and tornados in the past.

Mental Well-Being Will Suffer Under Changing Climate, Experts Say

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