Climate Emotions, Pro-environmental Behaviours, and Activism among Canadian Youth
Psychological research has made significant contributions to the current understanding of the role of emotions in promoting or hindering a person’s ability to engage with pro-environmental behaviours and climate action. While international research on this topic continues expanding, there is little research documenting the emotional impacts of climate change on Canadian youth, and the role emotions play in their ability to stay actively engaged with this global challenge. This study examines several psychological constructs (e.g., climate anxiety, generalized anxiety and depression, negative and positive affect, and emotional responses to climate change) known to be associated with different levels of engagement with climate activism and pro-environmental behaviours in a sample of 912 first- and second-year Canadian university students. Using data gathered online, we conducted a series of statistical analyses that revealed that climate worry and concern were common among our participants. Results also showed that participants experienced many different emotions towards climate change. Factor analysis led to a categorization of emotional responses into four factors: externalizing negative emotions, internalizing negative emotions, positive emotions, and neutral emotions. Further statistical modeling showed that, while common, negative emotions did not inhibit climate activism or pro-environmental behaviours, which instead were predicted by positive emotions. We interpret the findings in the context of positive psychology frameworks such as Fredrickson’s Broaden and Built theory and draw insights that may guide further research investigation in the burgeoning field of the psychology of climate emotions.