Who’s Afraid of the Climate Crisis? Worry, Anxiety, and Objects of Care Among Climate Skeptics

Authors: Jennifer Ladino*, University of Idaho
Topics: Anthropocene, Social Geography
Keywords: climate emotions, worry, eco-anxiety, climate change, skepticism
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 23
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

According to recent Yale Program on Climate Change Communication data, approximately two out of three Americans are at least somewhat worried about global warming (Leiserowitz, A. et al., 2020). As Glenn Albrecht puts it, “a generalized worry about the future is now commonplace” (Earth Emotions, 2019). My paper aims to take stock of this “generalized worry,” to differentiate between its different forms, and to connect specific worries to the anticipated impacts of climate change. I begin by distinguishing worry from anxiety, in particular what the APA describes as a chronic “eco-anxiety” (Clayton, S. et al., 2017). I argue that worry, unlike anxiety, identifies clear “objects of care” (Wang, S. et al., 2018) and typically feels less overwhelming and less intense for individuals. I then discuss a research project at my home institution, in which I am working with a team of sociologists and geographers to assess 1000 surveys and 33 interviews conducted with self-identified climate skeptics. The data suggests that despite not believing in anthropogenic climate change, skeptics nevertheless feel significant degrees of worry, and that their concerns are linked to specific objects of care such as pollution and species extinction. I conclude by discussing how worry and other so-called negative emotions might correlate to pro-environmental beliefs and actions.

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