Climate Change and Human Well-Being

Part of the series International and Cultural Psychology pp 19-42


The Threat of Climate Change: Psychological Response, Adaptation, and Impacts

  • Joseph P. ReserAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, Griffith University Email author 
  • , Shirley A. MorrisseyAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, Griffith University
  • , Michelle EllulAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, Griffith University

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This chapter examines the existing social and health science literature addressing the psychological impacts of the threat of climate change. The exercise reflects a convergent environmental, social, and health psychology perspective, informed by those interdisciplinary bodies of work relating to the social construction and representation of environmental threat; psychosocial environmental impact assessment and monitoring; public and mental health; risk communication and perception; and disaster preparedness and response. Attention is also paid to public understandings of the phenomenon and threat of global climate change, and popular culture discourse and reflections about the psychological and mental health responses to and impacts of ‘climate change’. The chapter indirectly addresses the unfolding physical environmental impacts of climate change and corresponding psychological, social, and societal consequences, but the principal focus is on public exposure and response to the phenomenon of climate change through multimedia representations of this phenomenon and limited direct experience. The larger context of this chapter and the present coverage is the post–Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] focus on climate change adaptation and mitigation, and the continuing neglect of the psychological, social, and cultural in research and policy considerations and initiatives addressing human and environmental quality, sustainability, and health. The chapter concludes with a brief consideration of what psychology has contributed and can contribute in addressing psychological adaptation to the threat of climate change.


Psychological impacts Psychological distress Media representations Environmental stress