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Emotions at the heart of tackling climate change

Published: 5 December 2023 at 11:28

Breaking news and topics: Dangerous burning flame tongues and smoke of fire covering a mountain. Disaster background with copy space. Ecological global warming and climate change.

Professor Rosie Robison will discuss the issue of eco-anxiety during public lecture

Climate records are being broken around the world, at an even faster rate than anticipated, while world leaders are meeting at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai in an attempt to find a way forward.

At the same time, increasing numbers of people are becoming extremely worried about the impact that climate change is already having, and will have for decades to come. This is a particular issue for young people, who are experiencing high levels of anxiety for what this means for their future.

In her inaugural lecture in Cambridge tomorrow (6 December) at 5.30pm, Rosie Robison, Anglia Ruskin University’s Professor of Social Sustainability, will highlight that the key to tackling these problems is to radically improve support for people’s emotional response to climate change.

Professor Robison, who researches sustainable lives – the ways we consume energy, food, goods, and travel – and is a former Geography President of the British Science Association, said:

“Climate change demands us to confront, and in fact actively work towards, huge change in our lives over a very rapid timescale. It’s unsurprising that this makes us feel anxious. 

“However, this anxiety is often hidden, as it is not currently being acknowledged by those in positions of power and responsibility. Our research has also found evidence for increasing levels of anger around the lack of action on climate change.”

To address this climate anxiety, Professor Robison will explain during her talk how training in emotional skills at a community level can help unlock action, and identify the unique roles we can each play in tackling the climate crisis.

Professor Robison joined ARU’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) soon after it was established in 2011, and has been part of the institute’s development over the past decade into a high-profile centre leading major international projects aimed at supporting more sustainable societies. This lecture marks Rosie’s promotion to Professor of Social Sustainability in 2022.

Her work explores both personal journeys of change and policy interventions to facilitate societal-level outcomes. Her research draws primarily on social science approaches (psychology, science & technology studies, psychosocial studies, human geography) to explore the tensions we navigate when trying to effect positive social change.

She currently co-leads the €5m Horizon 2020 SHARED GREEN DEAL project (2022-2027) as well as the €3m Horizon Europe SSH CENTRE project (2022-2026). These research projects are looking at how lessons from on-the-ground social innovation can help support better European policymaking, in order to reach EU climate targets in the coming years. 

At a more local level, she has been working in recent years with theatre makers in Norwich to explore themes of eco-anxiety and eco-anger.

People can attend tomorrow evening’s event in person in Cambridge or virtually. The talk is free and open to the public, but places must be reserved in advance.