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Climate Anxiety Survey — Results & Thoughts

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Recently, I posted a climate anxiety survey here on CleanTechnica, and, as promised, below are the results (so far … the survey is reposted first, so that if you haven’t answered yet and want to, you have the opportunity to complete it without the answers from others influencing your thoughts). Results from the initial respondents are summed up at the bottom of the post.

Findings so far

Given that I’m not a qualified survey research data scientist, take everything here with a grain of salt. This is by no means a scientific study. There’s the inherent sourcing of a particular market segment (CleanTechnica readers who tend to be highly educated and climate aware), there’s the leading question of a progression over time — asking how anxiety has changed over time inherently biases the answer toward higher numbers, and there’s self-selection (people who aren’t concerned aren’t even likely to open the article and read).

All that in mind, the findings are worth discussing.

Climate anxiety, scale of 1–10

The first three questions were about peoples’ sense of climate anxiety, on a scale of unconcerned (1) to petrified (10). People in this survey have generally had high-ish levels of climate anxiety dating back at least five years. This is not surprising — I’ve had some semblance of it for 30 years, and I imagine many of us are in that camp. The average response on a scale of 1–10 for climate anxiety 5 years ago was 6.4, with a median of 7. Asked about the same feeling one year ago, that figure rises in survey responses to an average of 7.7 and a median of 8. The average rises to an average of 8.1 with the median response remaining at 8 when asked about the current state of peoples’ climate anxiety.

Managing climate anxiety — what helps

Again, I am not a data scientist or survey researcher by any means, but I gave people a variety of things that they could answer about what they do to help manage their climate anxiety. To help showcase the prioritization people give, I limited the answers to picking 3 from a list. Here are the data from how people responded.

I am, of course, pleased that reading CleanTechnica is helping people to be inspired and see that there’s hope against climate catastrophe. It’s of course a biased sample, but the fact that this made the top three for many people is lovely to see. I do wonder why more don’t see our podcast CleanTech Talk (which you can subscribe to here on the medium of your choice) as something that helps as much as some of these other things, so if you have an opinion on that, I’d love to hear it in the comments below.

The answer with the most responses was driving electric, followed by reading CleanTechnica, educating others, and adding solar. But then it gets really interesting, at least for me, seeing that reducing plastic ranked so high. I am really glad to know that many people understand the connection between climate and the consumption of plastic (which is made from oil and has a big carbon footprint in its production, disposal, and chemical breakdown). 35%, fully more than 1/3 of the respondents, cited the reduction of plastic as one of their top three ways to manage their climate anxiety and take steps to reduce climate change.

Written responses — what people say is their best advice to others to handle climate anxiety

In the next question, I asked people for one line that sums up their best advice they’d give others who are not sure how to handle climate anxiety. Here’s a select list of my favorites.

“Get involved with others who are trying to take tangible steps to make a change.”

“Talk about it, get active, don’t burden yourself with guilt, because we’re all guilty, but at the same time, remember the real reason we’re at this point is fossil fuel industry growth and FUD.”

“Don’t give up. Seek joy. Laugh.”

“Go plant-based and electrify their entire household with heat pump everything”

“Take action. Do what you can personally and support the leaders/politicians who can help us truly prosper”

“Do everything you can do. Don’t stress about things you can’t do.”

“Meditation. Action is more effective when proceeding from a place of peace and calm”

“Do something. Anything. Just do.”

Who do we get answers from?

The last question was about who is leading in this — who can we get inspiration from, and great advice around, to handle climate anxiety and keep us focused, active, and solving it all. The list was long, and I only eliminated one name, which got one vote, which was Jordan Peterson, because the dude uses a book about Rules for Life as a pulpit for climate denialism, and, well, that’s a) him not staying in his lane and trying to be an expert in something he’s clearly clueless on, b) an odd juxtaposition, at best, and c) if I had to guess, I would say it’s entirely possible this is funded by fossil money that promised him a bunch of book sales to get him on bestseller lists and on speaking circuits as long as he promised to include climate denialism in his work. But I digress.

Here are the rest of the unedited responses:

George Monbiot and Katherine Hayhoe — tied for the top, with 5 nominations each.

Michael Mann and Bill McKibben, with 4 nominations each.

Tony Seba, Zeke Hausfather, Steve Hanley, and Mark Jacobson, with 3 nominations each.

Zach Shahan and Jesse Jenkins, 2 nominations each.

Everyone else with one nomination: Greta Thunberg, Dale Vince, Daniel Yergin, Peter Sinclear, David Waterworth, Magnolia Mead, Noah Smith, Peter Diamandis, Sam Harris, Mike Barnard, Roger Hallam, Gail Bradbrook, Leah Stokes, Ayanna Elizabeth Johnson, Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Congressman Ed Markey (D-CA), Joe Biden, Al Gore, David Roberts, Amory Lovings, Kim Stanley Robinson, David Attenborough.

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Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is a serial eco-entrepreneur focused on making the world a better place for all its residents. Scott is the founder of CleanTechnica and was just smart enough to hire someone smarter than him to run it. He then started Pono Home, a service that greens homes, which has performed efficiency retrofits on more than 16,000 homes and small businesses, reducing carbon pollution by more than 27 million pounds a year and saving customers more than $6.3 million a year on their utilities. In a previous life, Scott was an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill) , and Green Living Ideas.


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