Navigating the Complexities of Climate Emotions

Type: Virtual Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM (PDT)
Room: Virtual 23
Organizers: Jade Sasser
Chairs: Jade Sasser


This virtual panel aims to bring together papers that address the complex role of emotions in response to climate change and climate disaster. While studies of climate change have largely focused on diverse topics including physical science, policymaking, social impacts and social movements—and increasingly the dramatic impending impacts of abrupt climate crisis (Wallace-Wells 2020)—scholars are increasingly turning their attention toward the impacts of climate change science on human emotion.

“Anthropocene disorders” (Clark 2015) and other mental health impacts arising in the era of increasing climate disaster, as well as the ongoing sense of grief, loss, despair, and even apathy (Lertzman 2015) that arise in response to ongoing environmental changes (Albrecht 2019). Young people in particular express responses such as anxiety, depression, and grief when confronted with the scope and scale of current and future climate-driven changes to the planet (Ray 2020). At the same time, climate activists often express emotions such as hope, excitement, and anticipation (Adams, et al. 2009) as motivations for their work, while at the same time other activists engage less anticipated forms of affect such as humor, sarcasm, irony, and satire to make claims to alternative forms of climate engagement (Seymour 2018).
This work challenges assumptions about scientific knowledge production as solely driven by, and only responsible to, a desire for empirical data collection. It also opens the possibility for asking what kinds of actions are made possible by particular kinds of science-engaged emotional entanglements, the relationships between climate science facts and emotions, and how an intentional acknowledgement of, and engagement with, climate-related emotions might open up new possibilities for expansive research, policymaking, and activism.

The papers in this panel engage the following topics: the impacts of climate emotions on future childbearing plans; the role of unexpected emotions, such as embarrassment, in difficult conversations about climate grief and other pressing political emotions; the ways environmental pedagogy often re-centers whiteness by assuming certain affective responses to the material (guilt, despair, shame); and the ways in which worry, as distinct from other fear-based emotions such as dread and anxiety, connects people to specific objects of care such as pollution and species extinction.

Adams, Vincanne, Murphy, Michelle, Clarke, Adele E. 2009. “Anticipation: Technoscience, Life, Affect, Temporality.” Subjectivity 28: 246-265.

Albrecht, Glenn. 2019. Earth Emotions: New Words for a New World. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Clark, Timothy. 2015. Ecocriticism on the Edge: The Anthropocene as a Threshold Concept. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Lertzman, Renee. 2015. Environmental Melancholia: Psychoanalytic Dimensions of Engagement. London & New York: Routledge.

Ray, Sarah Jaquette. 2020. A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

Seymour, Nicole. 2018. Bad Environmentalism: Irony and Irreverence in the Ecological Age. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Wallace-Wells, David. 2020. The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. New York, NY: Tim Duggan Books.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Jade Sasser*, University of California - Riverside, Can We Still Have Children? Exploring Climate Emotions and Childbearing Decisions among Young Environmental Activists. 15 9:35 AM
Presenter Sarah Ray*, Humboldt State University, An Affective Pedagogy for Climate Justice: Trauma, Burnout, and Eco-White Fragility in Climate Education 15 9:50 AM
Presenter Nicole Seymour*, , The Environmental Politics and Pedagogy of Embarrassment 15 10:05 AM
Discussant Frances Roberts-Gregory 15 10:20 AM
Presenter Jennifer Ladino*, University of Idaho, Who’s Afraid of the Climate Crisis? Worry, Anxiety, and Objects of Care Among Climate Skeptics 15 10:35 AM

To access contact information login