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Climate change is creating visible impacts worldwide. From wildfires and drought to excessive flooding, stronger storms, deadly heat waves, and rising sea levels threatening coastal areas, the global community is experiencing dramatic increases in severe weather events as a result of human-inflicted damage to our climate. More than 99.9% of peer-reviewed scientific papers agree that climate change is mainly caused by humans, according to a new survey of 88,125 climate-related studies. The case is closed for any meaningful public conversation about the reality of human-caused climate change. This is our situation, and responsible leaders must adjust their strategies accordingly.

Climate change has become one of the most significant global issues of our time.  Our climate is now changing at an unprecedented and alarming rate with profound impacts on human life. As our awareness and understanding of climate change increase, the links between climate change and human behavior have become an important area of inquiry.  There is increasing acknowledgment that climate change acts as a “threat multiplier” for various adverse behavioral impacts.

 

The Center for Climate Change & Human Behavior

At Behavioral Science Applications LLC our singular purpose is to help our clients form accurate behavioral assumptions to guide their policies, plans, procedures, and exercises. The impacts of climate change on human behavior and behavioral health can seem overwhelming, however, solutions are accessible and abundant. Practitioners, policymakers, and organizations can all help to build resilience with shared responsibility and to bring about solutions to climate change in order to preserve our collective physical and behavioral health, safety, and security.

One of the most time-tested concepts in psychology is Lewin's equation, which posits that individual and group behavior is a function of the interaction between a person and their environment.  As climate change makes disruptive and dangerous events more frequent and intense, organizations will need to prepare for and adapt to new challenges. One of the most sensitive elements to climate change is human behavior, a critical aspect of all organizations and operations. 

The Center for Climate Change & Human Behavior (CCCHB) was developed specifically for this purpose: to anticipate and prepare for the likely behavioral challenges associated with the many facets of climate change.  The Center offers a range of paid and pro bono training and consulting opportunities to introduce practitioners in security, emergency management, business continuity, and related disciplines to climate-informed frameworks, and to help them apply those concepts to their work. Our goal is to help leaders make climate-informed decisions and adopt climate-smart policies.

The Climate Change-Human Behavior Nexus

When considering extreme temperatures, it is important to know that the part of the brain that controls thermoregulation is the same part responsible for emotional regulation. The effects of heat impair attention span and memory, as well as the ability to process new information. Heat degrades the ability to perceive situational information and the potential for reactive/impulsive decision-making increases. High heat also affects the perception of risk and risk-taking behavior. 

 

Climate change can also cause and exacerbate existing mental health problems. Researchers have found connections between extreme weather and increases in PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance use, and risk of suicide—especially if such weather is recurring. It is also a demonstrated correlation between higher temperatures (especially heat waves) and increased suicide rates; increased hospitalization and mortality for those with diagnosed mental health conditions; increased aggressionconflict, and violence, and lower sleep quality leading to cognitive and emotional changes. All of these factors have a direct impact on both performance and wellness. 

As extreme weather events increase, the composition of the labor force will change as climate change increasingly will affect employee morale and productivity, geographical placement of employees, demand for new skills, and safety and security. It may also affect how people live and work together, workplace cultures and values, leadership styles, decision-making processes, safety considerations, organizational structures, and processes.

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How We Can Help

Program consultation and training specific to the effects of climate change on human behavior is available to organizations of all types. Training can be customized to the unique needs and culture of an organization. For more information and pricing related to program consultation and training, please contact us via email.   

 

The Center also offers several no-cost options to learn more about climate change and human behavior through publications and lectures. In addition, there is a four-part series of on-demand professional development classes on Climate-informed Security & Emergency Management online. The classes can be accessed via the links below.  

Free Resources

Hot & Bothered (Part 1) Heat & Violence

Hot & Bothered (Part 2) Heat & Violence 

Online Classes

Climate-informed Security & Emergency Management

Climate-informed Workplace Violence Prevention

Climate-informed Behavioral Threat Assessment & Management

Climate-informed Operational Stress Control

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