Feeling anxious about climate change? You are not alone

Poll reveals concerns across nation, locally

ORLANDO, Fla. – As Central Florida smashes records with temperatures in the 90s in February, some people are experiencing increasing anxiety about climate change.

“I love feeling the warmth of the sun,” said Theresa Pope.

Pope moved to Lake County from New York seven years ago.

As temperatures have increased, she said her concern has increased.

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“We’re all affected by climate change,” she said. “You can see it with the weather – how different it is. There’s a lot more storms now all over the world. It’s not just here. It’s everywhere, and I’m worried about what we’re leaving our kids and our grandchildren in the future.”

Courtesy: Climate Central (Copyright 2023 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Pope was one of the people who responded to a climate survey conducted by a collaboration of news organizations across the country, which included News 6 and ClickOrlando.com.

It asked respondents how concerned they were about global warming.

Nationally, more than two-thirds said they were either extremely or very concerned, 18 percent said they were not worried at all, while 17 percent said they were somewhat worried.

In Florida, more than half of those responding said they were extremely worried or very worried.

In Central Florida’s nine counties, that number increased to two-thirds.

More than half of those responding across the country said they have felt down or depressed because of global warming, while one-third of Central Florida residents reported feeling the same.

“If I think about it on a world scale, it’s scary,” Pope said.

“Climate anxiety is definitely a real thing,” said Michael Whalen.

Whalen is a licensed mental health counselor in St. Petersburg who is also part of the Climate Psychology Alliance.

According to their website, the group is comprised of therapeutic practitioners who believe in attending to the psychiatric and emotional responses people experience to climate change.

[RELATED: How to get mental health help in Central Florida]

Whalen said he sees patients who are experiencing depression and anxiety about the changing climate from all walks of life.

“It’s the reaction to a threat,” he said. “The threat of climate change and global heating, what that’s going to do, and we are facing sea level rise, and witnessing increased natural disasters and occurrences -- or hurricanes as we know here in Florida -- wildfires elsewhere.”

Whalen said there are steps to help relieve some of that anxiety:

First, the person needs to give themselves permission to feel the way they feel.

Second, they should seek out a safe space where they are free to share their feelings about the changing climate without judgment, such as friends and family.

Third, he recommends channeling some of the feelings into taking actionable steps to help make a difference – even the smallest difference.

Whalen said there are even suggestions of how to talk to your children about the changing climate.

Whalen said there are continuing education courses available for therapists and counselors to help train them to listen for cues that their clients may be experiencing climate anxiety.

“We’re sitting with people who may be triggered,” he said. “If we are not aware of what’s happening for us, as in all therapy, and what to do with that, then we’re not going to be very effective.”

Pope said she is doing her part to help reduce emissions, which are partially blamed for rising temperatures.

“I just want people to pay closer attention, and to start doing something to help,” she said.

Whalen shared the following links for more resources for the public:

He shared these resources for therapists:

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About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.