Wednesday, August 31, 2011

AustralianReport: Mental illness rise linked to climate ?

The web-journal "The Sidney Morning Herald" ( has published an article titled "Mental illness rise linked to climate". The article begins with "RATES of mental illnesses including depression and post-traumatic stress will increase as a result of climate change, a report to be released today says. The paper, prepared for the Climate Institute, says loss of social cohesion in the wake of severe weather events related to climate change could be linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse. As many as one in five people reported ''emotional injury, stress and despair'' in the wake of these events.

The report, A Climate of Suffering: The Real Cost of Living with Inaction on Climate Change, called the past 15 years a preview of life under unrestrained global warming.

I wonder if this is a real story, if the report "Climate of Suffering" has really been published, and if the article gives a correct account. Also, if existing: Who wrote the report? What is the "Climate Institute"?


Ben said...

The last time I changed climate (moving for an extended period from Europe to Western Australia) I didn't feel any of the symptoms (depression, post-traumatic stress) described in this excellent article. Despite the significantly higher temperatures Down Under.
But man, I can tell you, when I moved back to Europe, it hit me plain on the head (provoking the trauma). I have now been in a post-traumatic phase for several years, I'm depressed every day. The only cure I can see: move back to Australia, the sooner the better. Will our health insurance reimburse the cost of this medically mandatory move?

Vinny Burgoo said...

The report is introduced by Anthony McMichael, who sits on the board of the Climate Institute and lead-authored several flawed but hugely influential early 2000s WHO studies of the number of deaths due to climate change.

Available at

Hans von Storch said...

Thanks, Vinny. The summary is interesting. They start from "mental health consequences of extreme weather events", and relate contemporary extreme weather to climate change. It is unclear to me if the agent is really the extreme weather or the damage, which may arise from it, or the reporting and talking about it. In the latter case the report itself would cause mental illnesses.

If it would be really the weather, then the hypothesis would be testable by comparing people from regions with different frequency and characteristics of extreme weather. Taiwan has many typhoons - are they generally mentally ill more so than say people in San Francisco?

I find this study very strange, but maybe I have not really understood the argument well enough.

Is it fair to suggest that this is just an advocate piece of cherry-picked arguments by a interest led group without scientific credentials?

Anonymous said...

When I was in school a teacher explained us that the sunspots could explain everything, from climate to diseases, wars and stock market crashes.

It seems that climate plays the same role today.

My depressions will disappear because it gets colder next week, I guess.

We need a next Bin Laden, a next world war or a next cold war soon to distract our thoughts from the worst disease ever (climate change). ;-)


Vinny Burgoo said...

HvS: Is it fair to suggest that this is just an advocate piece of cherry-picked arguments by a interest led group without scientific credentials?


Shibui said...

I suppose it could be argued that devout believers of an unproven theory (CO2 = AWG) are mentally unbalanced)...

Werner Krauss said...

isn't this article also cherry-picked from the billions of articles about climate change on the internet? Why just pick one of those freak articles (from the Sidney Morning Herald web-journal, hm...) and post it here on klimazwiebel? As an advocate piece for whom, or for what? To please skeptics? Just asking....

We could post the "climate pin-up girl of the day" instead (pooh, global warming makes me wanna take my clothes off...). I am sure we will find it on the internet, too.

Hans von Storch said...

Werner - I would agree. It is cherry-picked as an example of the various absurd ideas floating around, when the issue of climate is discussed in the public. Yes, why not a "climate pin-up article of the day"? - Hans

Vinny Burgoo said...

You don't have to be discussing climate change to make dodgy claims about mental health. See this week's report from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology:

It is estimated that each year 38.2% of the EU population suffers from a mental disorder. Adjusted for age and comorbidity, this corresponds to 164.8 million persons affected.

(Later, they give the estimate as 'over 38.2%'. Such precision! Do they mean it could be as high as 38.21%? 38.22%? Or even - gasp! - 38.24%?)

Their conclusion:

Concerted priority action is needed at all levels, including in particular substantially increased funding for basic, clinical and public health research ...

There's a surprise.

As for the 'climate pin-up girl of the day', that'd be nice but you'll never do it. Climate activists are a disappointingly unsexy bunch. One a year might be a more realistic target, but even then you'd struggle. (The only one I can recall is the UNFCCC usher who tried to take the microphone from a bolshy journalist at COP15. Phwoar!)