silhouetted trees against orange red sky at dusk

Climate Anxiety

I remember the day in fourth grade when I found out that not only is there a limited supply of a fossil fuel available to the world, but also that burning it puts pollution into the air. We also learned that scientists were beginning to believe that too much of that pollution would create major problems for everyone and everything in the world.
I was a little shaken by the news, but not really worried about it because I figured that adults way smarter than me would see to it that things worked out okay.

Ten years passed as we kept polluting, talking about the eventual beginnings of climate change, and doing nothing about it. I was getting irritated and worried about the path we were on.

Ten more years passed. I had two young daughters. It was the late 1990s and basically everyone in the legitimate scientific community was saying that, without major climate action, my grandchildren would be facing environmental catastrophe near the end of their lives.

I was worried about our continued direction and angry that leaders weren’t doing anything about it.  I tried to follow the advice I was given, doing things each day to live more sustainably and reduce my carbon footprint. I tried to teach my daughters to respect the environment. 

But I began to worry more. A lot more.

At one point, I became so worried that I began to associate any abnormal, hot weather (or even a typical hot summer day) as the impending doom of climate change. I had sunk into depression. Climate anxiety wasn’t the only cause, it was part of a package that included major levels of job stress, too much activity, a general sense of fatigue, and total burn out. But climate was definitely a factor.

I had to address a most difficult question: what can I do about climate change?

I got myself back together over time, but I still struggle with that question . The anger I once felt at our leaders who didn’t address our climate issues, has now boiled over into an intolerant rage.

Now it’s 2023. It’s been 45 years since that day in fourth grade science class. During that time I’ve watched our summers get hotter, and our winters shrink. When winter finally comes, it’s warmer. It snows less.

The news right now is full of significant weather events; heat waves, forest fires and droughts-just like the scientists predicted.

Are we to believe that these are mere coincidences? Again? Or are they the tip of the melting iceberg?

In the meantime we’ve done very little to address our energy, pollution and lifestyle problems.

The worry that began in me decades ago still exists. Most days I can manage it or keep it deep in the background, but it still dwells on me like a parasite.

Climate anxiety is something I hadn’t heard of before until recently, but the term caught my attention. I found this excellent article from Yale that explains a lot about what’s going on in some peoples’ minds regarding the climate problem. Please read it if you have a few minutes. It addresses climate-related mental health from a variety of angles. According to the article, it seems I would be best described as climate-worried, a step or two less severe than climate-anxious.

Are you concerned about the climate too? Are you climate-worried, or suffering from climate anxiety? 

If I’m fortunate enough to have grandkids, I hope their fourth grade science classes can include the story of how we got our act together at the last minute, and averted long-term climate disaster.

Follow Todd and the whole staff at Wise & Shine. You can also visit Todd’s personal Five O’Clock Shadow blog or check in on his music at

37 thoughts on “Climate Anxiety

    1. We bought a Prius in 2007 and it has 310,000 miles on it so far!😎 When it finally dies we’re going electric

  1. Thanks for your post, Todd, and for the link to the Yale article. The mention of media consumption related to climate anxiety felt spot-on. I think I’d count myself as climate-worried, like you, and we’re not alone. I’m noticing an increase in what I call “weather fixations” as low-rung entry points for folks who are anxious about climate. It’s hard to avoid the daily barrage of extreme weather incidents and the coverage is continuous. Such a balancing act – wanting to be informed and action-oriented about how to do our part…but not wanting to bombard ourselves with stress. Grateful for your awareness-building post. 💚

    1. Thanks Victoria- media does make things harder because they exaggerate- especially with weather and climate stuff! I usually end up trying to read several accounts of the same news story in order to get it into proper context and without the “extra hype.” This usually makes makes me feel better because, although the situation still sucks, it’s not usually as dramatic as what the average media report points to. And like you said, it’s good not to fixate on things. Thanks for your comments 💚

      On a side note- this post was one of those that looked good until I posted it. After it was up, I suddenly found a whole bunch of stuff I wanted to change and was scrambling to fix it as people were reading and commenting🤦🏼‍♂️😁

      1. Let’s start with the giggle…you just described my behavior every time I post something. I’m always finding something silly…a typo, missing words…better words to use…even though I know we both proof our stuff and review before we hit ‘publish’! A writer’s internal drama. LOL. Especially when we care about the topic. 😉 And given that your original post was awesome, whatever you changed just added extra goodness, I’m sure. xo!

      2. Thanks! 🙂 So I’m not alone! 😎 I’m constantly rewriting stuff. Why don’t the changes occur to us beforehand? 😁

      3. I think you kind of found the answer why so many people are choosing not to believe in climate change and the effects it’s having on us: the media overhypes every little thing, that we have become accustomed to thinking “Well, it’s definitely not as bad as they’re making it out to be”, and that let’s people think we still have a lot of time left, or it will never get as bad as the doomsdayers say it will.

        With all the things going on to produce high anxiety, where’s a person going to focus their attention on, and what should they spend their energy on that could make any difference at all?

        “The Government” is made up of many people like us who have fears, they themselves know that they might never be able to create bills where these issues can be addressed, and since they need lotsa $$$ to get elected and re-elected, they cannot go against the wishes of their big donors, who are the owners and CEOs of the companies that still want to make Billions of dollars each week by continuing keeping things running as they are.

  2. I remember my grandparents wondering what was going on, and telling stories how the snow used to be as high as the tops of fence posts. I remember in my own lifetime snows of about half that. Now a couple of inches is considered a major snowfall.

  3. Oh yes, Todd. Climate anxiety is very real. I try so hard to reduce waste, use less energy at home, drive less, and be responsible. Then I see people who just don’t care and are very open about the fact that they don’t care. It’s so frustrating. Yet, all we can control is our part and hope others see that and follow suit. And we can put pressure on our politicians to do stop pandering to the big oil lobby and be responsible about the environment. Sigh.

    1. Yep- I hear you Michelle. I have to admit, I no longer have any tolerance at all for people who just openly don’t care. I try to be patient but it’s very difficult for me.

  4. How is it that decision makers refuse to make the right choices. It seems they place their dollars and power ahead the planet’s and our well being. I know many countries have policies protecting the environment but on the other side of the coin many countries don’t give a hoot and say it’s all a natural earthly cycle. Like the extinction of the dinosaurs I guess.

  5. I’m impressed by what a prescient 9-year-old you were. I think we are the same age and I was only worried about getting the Olivia Newton John album.

    But that’s not your point. You create a good balance between anxiety and hope in this post. Is there any irony that we’ve gone from the cold war to fighting global warming? It is frustrating that our leadership doesn’t seem to be able to lead on this. I can only hope that the efforts we can make individually make a difference. And like you, I hope the story turns into a action drama when we turn it around just in time.

    1. Thanks Wynne- I won’t lie- in fourth grade I was also very much concerned with Olivia Newton John 😁

  6. I had a kind of the same experience when I was a teenager, I would say I was 15. One teacher wanted us to do a research on a scientific topic of our choice. I chose sustainable energy sources. It was the end of the ‘80, and today we see that so little has been done, in spite of the increasing knowledge. To link it to one of your previous post Todd, in our world it’s always profit first. Unfortunately the new generations will have to struggle a lot to be able to live a decent life. Unless Musk or Bezos will take them all to another planet. I am terribile sad about it and from time to time I feel anxious about the climate crisis. I’ll do my best to help, and will never stop.

    1. It’s so frustrating to me that we’ve wasted so much time – hopefully we’ll have a worldwide change of heart soon. Thanks for commenting Cristiana.

  7. Unfortunately, I believe that some leaders have given up on trying to save this planet. On the one hand, there’s Musk’s Mars colony, basically save a small elite while everyone else dies. Then there’s what I’d call the Trump view — it’s too late, just enjoy because we won’t be here to see the disaster to come. Anyone with a brain wants action, but these groups don’t.

  8. I’m trying to connect with others about the Climate Crisis and am currently in search of Climate science experts. If you’re interested or able to connect with me regarding a book that will be published in February, 2024, please be in touch.

  9. Astronauts typically express awe and even love for the beautiful Earth below while they’re in orbit. I wonder how they feel when seeing the immense consequential pollution from raging massive forest/brush fires, like the one currently consuming much of Quebec and fouling American air, basically due to human-caused global warming?

    One wonders: If a large portion of the planet’s most freely-polluting corporate CEOs, governing leaders and over-consuming/disposing individuals rocketed far enough above the earth for a day’s (or more) orbit, while looking down, would have a sufficiently profound effect on them to change their apparently unconditional political/financial support of Big Fossil Fuel? …

    I myself was left feeling I could never again complain about the weather being too cold after having suffered the unprecedented heatwave here in late June 2021, described by meteorologists as a ‘stalling dome’ of high heat, that resulted in 619 confirmed heat-related deaths.

    But then complain I did when most of the province, including southwestern B.C., suffered an unprecedently cold bunch of days in January, which was described by meteorologists as a ‘stalling dome’ of freezing cold.

    I doubt it was just coincidental; rather, such extremes are basically due to climate change via human-caused global warming via morbidly massive amounts of fossil fuel consumption ever since the Industrial Revolution.

    Basic commonsense dictates that it is no longer prudent to have so much of society, including our primary modes of transportation, reliant on traditional sources of energy.

    Yet, if the universal availability of green-energy alternatives will come at the profit-margin expense of traditional ‘energy’ production companies, one can expect formidable obstacles, including the political and regulatory sort.

    In this world, if something notably conflicts with corporate interests, even very progressive motions are greatly resisted, often enough successfully.

      1. In truth, the farther we are from something, the less we can see of the details of that thing. We can model and guess, but that’s about it. That’s true of distance in terms of time as well as physical and emotional distance. What color were dinosaurs, really? From a distance you see the forest, but not the individual trees dying of acid rain. From space you see dark clouds, but do you know whether the represent rain or forest fires? And, frankly, most of what you see from space is ocean and not the plastics in that water. Emotional distance works the same way — you see the body but not the turmoil within. Some people are, sadly like TFG, impaired and unable ever to see anything more than they want to see. Distance blurs details out of focus, and sometimes the details are all that matter.

Leave a Reply