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2018 APS Congress

The 2018 APS Congress will be held in Sydney from Thursday 27 to Sunday 30 September 2018


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Coping and adapting to climate change

Psychologists and other social scientists have contributed to a crucial body of work on how people are coping and psychologically adapting to climate change.

Psychological adaptation includes: how people perceive and understand the problems, how they react emotionally, how they decide what to do, and how they behave in response to the problems.

Key points

  • Research into climate change coping strategies regard climate change as an environmental stressor. Unlike other stressors which are often personal, (like illness, or an accident, or unemployment), climate change is more universally experienced, chronic, in many ways intangible, but still quite an extreme stressor.
  • Alongside physical and structural adjustment to environmental changes, adaptation also includes a range of coping actions that individuals and communities may take in response to environmental threats, as well as psychological processes that both precede and follow behavioural responses.
  • Climate change coping strategies include things like taking environmentally responsible actions (this is a potent way to manage and reduce the anxiety); adopting a problem-solving attitude; cognitive re-structuring or reframing; social support-seeking; becoming more attentive to the issue, expressive coping.
  • There are also maladaptive coping strategies that people can engage in, like avoidance/denial, diversionary tactics, unrealistic optimism, wishful thinking, resignation.

How the APS is involved


Aspinwall, L.G. (2011). Future-oriented thinking, proactive coping and the management of potential threats to health and well-being. In S.Folkman (Ed) The Oxford handbook of stress, health and coping (pp 334-365). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Bradley, G.L., Reser, J.P., Glendon, AI. (2014). Distress and coping response to climate change. In K. Kaniasty, K.A. Moore, S. Howard, & P. Buchwald (Eds) Stress and anxiety: Applications to social and environmental threats, psychological well-being, occupational challenges, and developmental psychology climate change (pp 33-42). Berlin, Germany: Logos Verlag.

Building resilience in rural communities toolkit. This toolkit provides ideas and information that can inform new or existing social programs or workshops to enhance people's resilience.

Reser, J.P., Swim, J.K. (2011). Adapting to and coping with the threat and impacts of climate change.American Psychologist, 66, 4,277-289.

Reser, J.P., Bradley, G.L. & Ellul, M.C. (2012). Coping with climate change: Bringing psychology in from the cold. In B. Molinelli & V. Grimaldo (Eds)Handbook of the psychology of coping (pp 1-34). New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Reser, J.P., Morrissey, S.A. & Ellul, M. (2011). The threat of climate change: Psychological response, adaptation, and impacts. In I. Weissbecker (2011) (Ed) Climate change and human well being (pp 19-42) International and Cultural Psychology Series. New York: Springer Publications.