An Educator’s Guide to Climate Emotions

Hot of the (virtual) press: An Educator’s Guide to Climate Emotions – by the Climate Psychology Alliance

As a climate resilience coach, a question I hear regularly is: how do I talk to young people about climate change?” So when I heard that the Climate Psychology Alliance (CPA) had just published an Educators Guide to Climate Emotions, I was excited… and relieved! This guide, written by teachers, researchers, mental health clinicians, youth climate leaders and climate psychology professionals, highlights the transformative potential of incorporating emotions in climate education to foster a sense of agency, efficacy and purpose among students.” It is practical – neither demoralising nor overly optimistic – and includes lots of links to additional resources. There is even an Appreciative Inquiry flavour to it. Below is a brief snapshot of this climate emotions handbook.”

For context, a 2021 study of 10,000 young people between 16 and 25, across ten countries, reported that 75% of them found the future frightening. The majority described feeling “sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty,” and that these feelings impact their daily functioning. Even if young people don’t show or express it, they are definitely impacted by climate change.

Unsurprisingly, the guide suggests that the first step in becoming more comfortable talking to young people about climate change is to have some basic knowledge about it. This doesn’t mean becoming a climate scientist, but involves being familiar with climate emotions and terms like eco- or climate-anxiety, which are broad terms for a wide range of emotions such as grief, anger, frustration, guilt, overwhelmed, powerlessness and loneliness”.

Everyone is impacted differently, based on many factors (race, culture, socioeconomic background, proximity to climate-related events, emotional maturity, family and social support, neurodivergence, etc.) Regardless of ones experience, it is normal and valid. Climate emotions are not a sign of mental illness (but rather a sign of our humanity) and can even be positive drives for action. Another recommendation is to acknowledge that climate change exacerbates inequalities around the world – or even within one diverse classroom or community.

Of course, educators and parents experience climate emotions, too. Be sure to have a support network and self-care tools at your disposal. Be aware of how your own experience may influence your students or kids. Balance is key. In a parent or teacher role, we have a tendency to want to protect, fix or give the answer. When it comes to climate change, it is better to just listen to young peoples feelings, questions and concerns – dont just deliver information. Give time and opportunities to process it at a deeper level through a wide variety of other activities like arts, embodied practices/movement, journaling, mindfulness, connecting with nature and other living beings.

This may seem obvious, but what to share and how to share it needs to be age appropriate. The guide provides specific recommendations.

Climate change is a complex issue that can be approached from many disciplines. This variety is also present in the type of climate actions that one can take. Exploring the ways that humans are already responding to the climate crisis can instil a sense of possibility and even excitement among young people… Educators can guide students to seek the areas where their interests, skills and capabilities connect with climate and environmental needs.”

We can build resilience by learning to talk about and manage climate emotions, taking care of ourselves, connecting with others, and making decisions and taking actions in alignment with what is important to us.

In my 12-week programme, From Climate Anxiety to Climate Resilience: 12 Tools to Navigate Climate Change (also available as an online self-paced course), we take a deeper dive on strategies to build resilience, many of them drawing from Appreciative Inquiry. These include using generative language, dreaming of the desired future, focusing on climate solutions, embracing a prototyping mindset, or building on strengths and values.

Join Alex’s workshop, From Climate Anxiety to Climate Resilience, on April 25 at 10am, EDT; or join a workshop or one-on-one climate coaching session during ICF International Coaching Week, from May 13-19 2024. Click here for details – some pro bono slots are available.

Alexandra Arnold, MSPsych, ACC, is an ICF-accredited Leadership & Climate Resilience Coach at Alma Coaching & Consulting ( She has trained with Climate Change Coaches, is a member of the Climate Coaching Alliance, and participates in the She Changes Climate mentoring program. She is a graduate of Champlain Colleges Positive Organization Development Certificate, where she fell in love in Appreciative Inquiry, and has been a regular contributor to the AI Practitioner Journal since 2021. She is also the Executive Consultant at the Taos Institute