The trends of major issues connecting climate change and the sustainable development goals

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  • Published: 12 March 2024
  • Volume 5 , article number  31 , ( 2024 )

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  • Yi-Lin Hsieh 1 &
  • Shin-Cheng Yeh 1  

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This study aims to explore the research trends and patterns of major issues connecting climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by employing a bibliometric analysis. The study has found that there is an increasing number of research and policies in various countries committed to finding and implementing strategies to solve climate change issues. The countries with the most research in this field are China, India, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, with Environmental Sciences & Ecology being the most published domain. The study has identified 19 clusters intersecting with climate change and SDGs, with the top five clusters in terms of proportion related to agricultural and food systems, water and soil resources, energy, economy, ecosystem, and sustainable management. This study also presents the trend changes of research topics intersecting climate change and SDGs every 2–3 years. Especially in the recent two years, with the convening of COP26 and COP27 and the advocacy of Net Zero and CBAM (Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism) of the EU, important topics include renewable energy, protection of ecosystem services, life cycle assessment, food security, agriculture in Africa, sustainable management, synergies of various policies, remote sensing technology, and desertification among others. This shows an increasingly diversified range of important topics being discussed in relation to climate change and sustainable development goals.

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1 Introduction

1.1 background.

Climate change has emerged as a pressing global issue that poses significant challenges to human societies and the environment [ 1 , 2 , 3 ]. Climate change is primarily due to human activities, particularly the extensive combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. These human activities generate a substantial amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, leading to global warming.

Global warming, a persistent increase in Earth’s average temperature, is the most significant manifestation of climate change. This change in climate has led to numerous severe effects, including an increase in extreme weather events [ 2 ] (such as storms, floods, and droughts), the melting of glaciers and ice caps, a rise in sea levels, and changes to ecosystems [ 4 ] and agriculture [ 5 , 6 ]. If left these impacts unchecked, these impacts could have disastrous consequences for human societies and the natural environment.

In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The goal was "to prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system," and it required countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with their responsibilities, abilities, and specific circumstances. The first substantive agreement of the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol [ 7 ], was signed in 1997, requiring industrialized countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to below 5% of 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. In 2009, the UN hosted a climate change conference in Copenhagen in an attempt to reach a new global agreement; however, the meeting ended without a clear agreement and was considered a failure [ 8 ]. The Paris Agreement [ 9 ] was signed at the UN Climate Change Conference in 2015, with the goal of keeping global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To achieve this, countries agreed to submit nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to reduce emissions and to review these goals every five years. These agreements and meetings highlight the challenges of combating climate change, including in science, policy, economics, and justice. A key issue is how to ensure economic development and poverty reduction while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These challenges and issues are intimately related to sustainable human development.

The Brundtland Report, “Our Common Future [ 10 ],” was released by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. The report first introduced the concept of “sustainable development,” defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The Rio Declaration [ 11 ] and Agenda 21 [ 12 ] were both signed at the Earth Summit in 1992. The Rio Declaration included 27 principles on sustainable development, while Agenda 21 was a global action plan aimed at achieving a balance between the environment and development. In 2000, the United Nations established eight development goals to be achieved by 2015, known as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which included reducing extreme poverty and hunger, improving levels of education, health, and gender equality, and ensuring environmental sustainability. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, which outlines 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a blueprint for achieving a more sustainable future for all [ 13 ].

Among them, SDG13 (Climate Action) is directly related to climate change, with the aim to "take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts". SDG13 encourages all countries to respond to climate change, strengthen their resilience and adaptability to its impacts, and integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and plans. The goal also emphasizes enhancing education, raising people's awareness of the threats posed by climate change, and increasing institutional capacities to handle climate change. It also refers to global participation and cooperation in addressing these issues. This includes development assistance to help developing countries enhance their capacities to deal with climate change.

The goal of sustainable development is to achieve balance in social, economic, and environmental dimensions, a principle also known as the “triple bottom line [ 14 ].” Under this framework, it is not only necessary to ensure economic growth and social justice but also to ensure the health and sustainability of the Earth's ecosystems and resources. Therefore, addressing climate change is an integral part of achieving sustainable development. On the other hand, accomplishing one or more sustainable development goals is also a way to address climate change issues.

1.2 Research frontier

Addressing the issue of climate change faces many challenges and obstacles, including political challenges, economic factors, technological challenges, social and cultural barriers, and issues of inequality. Firstly, policy makers need to strike a balance between short-term economic benefits and long-term environmental sustainability. Political disagreements and national interests can also hinder the achievement and implementation of global climate agreements [ 15 , 16 ]. Secondly, transitioning to a low-carbon economy requires a significant amount of funding and investment. Many economically backward countries may lack resources to implement necessary changes [ 17 ]. Thirdly, although renewable energy technologies have made significant progress, these technologies still can't completely replace fossil fuels in many cases [ 18 ]. Fourthly, human lifestyles and consumption patterns need to undergo major changes, which may face resistance in many societies and cultures [ 19 ]. Lastly, the impacts of climate change are not equal globally. Some of the poorest and most vulnerable countries and communities are often the most affected, yet they lack the resources and capacity to cope with these changes [ 20 ].

There are numerous studies related to climate change, and these studies encompass a wide range of issues. Issues related to climate change and sustainable development goals [ 21 ], for example, the water-energy-food (nexus), has been extensively studied in relation to climate change in the past [ 22 ]. In this issue, systematic analyses, comparisons, interpretations, and governance recommendations have been proposed, along with in-depth exploration of sustainable development goals and appropriate management models [ 23 , 24 , 25 ].

The connection between climate change and the SDGs is evident, as the impacts of climate change have the potential to undermine the progress made towards achieving these goals [ 166 , 167 ]. For instance, climate change has direct implications for SDGs [ 26 , 27 , 28 , 29 , 30 , 31 , 32 ] related to poverty reduction(SDG1: NO Poverty), food security(SDG2: No Hunger) [ 33 , 34 , 35 , 36 , 37 , 38 , 39 ],energy(SDG7: Affordable and clean energy) [ 40 , 41 , 42 , 43 ], clean water and sanitation(SDG6: Clean water and sanitation), and sustainable cities [ 44 , 45 , 46 ] and communities(SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities). People must take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, including enhancing the resilience and adaptive capacity of nations to climate-related disasters, and integrating climate change measures into national policies and planning(SDG13: Climate action). Therefore, understanding the trends and patterns of research on the interlinkages between climate change and the SDGs is crucial for policymakers, researchers, and practitioners to identify gaps and prioritize efforts in addressing these challenges [ 47 , 48 , 49 ].

However, many topics still require systematic research to formulate sustainable management strategies. For instance, key decisions from the COP26 held in 2021 included the formulation of long-term low-carbon development strategies, strengthening actions to reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gases (such as methane), and enhancing the intensity of nationally determined contributions (NDC) targets for 2030 [ 50 , 51 , 52 , 53 ]. Comprehensive assessments are needed on how countries can gradually reduce coal burning and phase out fossil fuel subsidies, as well as establish rules for the international carbon market [ 54 ].

In order to follow these resolutions, the majority of countries around the world are currently formulating net-zero emission management strategies. Net-zero emissions mean that the greenhouse gas emissions produced by an organization, city, region, or country are balanced by the amount they offset, thereby contributing zero to global warming [ 55 ].

When systematically formulating net-zero management strategies, there are several important topics that need to be considered, such as energy transition (requiring investment and policy promotion to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy) [ 56 , 57 ], green infrastructure (constructing low-carbon, green infrastructure, such as green buildings and public transportation systems) [ 58 ], green finance (encouraging and guiding financial institutions to invest in low-carbon technologies and industries, and incorporating climate risks into their risk management frameworks) [ 59 ], carbon pricing (establishing and implementing carbon pricing systems, such as carbon taxes or carbon trading markets, to reflect their true environmental costs), and international cooperation (climate change is a global issue that requires cooperation among countries to share resources and technology).

It involves multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These strategies need to take into account trade-offs or synergistic effects, including the balance between economy and environment (energy transition may lead to job loss in certain industries, but it may also create new job opportunities. Appropriate policies are needed to mitigate the impact of this transition) [ 60 , 61 , 62 ], fairness (wealthier countries have more resources to reduce emissions, while poorer countries may rely more on fossil fuels. To resolve this inequality, international aid or other mechanisms may be needed) [ 63 , 64 ], cross-sector collaboration (many solutions will require cooperative work between different sectors or industries, such as energy, transportation, construction, finance, etc.) [ 65 , 66 ], technological innovation and application (from improving energy efficiency to developing clean energy, and designing and implementing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, technological innovation plays a key role in achieving net-zero. Of course, this also requires resource input and a suitable policy environment to incentivize and support) [ 67 , 68 , 69 ], behavioral and cultural change (to successfully achieve net-zero, it may be necessary to change public behavior and values, from dietary habits to travel methods, and attitudes towards energy use. This may involve education, policy guidance, and public participation) [ 70 , 71 ], and ecological restoration and protection (forests, oceans, and other natural ecosystems are important carbon sinks of the planet. Protecting and restoring these ecosystems can provide important offset strategies, while also helping to protect biodiversity and enhance ecological resilience) [ 72 ].

Strategies to address climate change include mitigation and adaptation. The aforementioned net zero is a mitigation strategy, while the formulation of adaptation strategies to manage and respond to climate change also requires systematic consideration. This includes disaster prevention and post-disaster recovery, water resource management, adjustments to farming and livestock practices, urban planning and design, protection and restoration of ecosystems, and policy and legislation among other topics. Additionally, research suggests that enhancing the ability to manage extreme weather events can reduce economic, social, and human losses, and ultimately decrease borrowing from lending institutions. The vulnerability to extreme weather events, disaster management, and adaptation must become part of the long-term sustainable development planning for developing countries [ 73 , 74 , 75 , 76 ].

In this process, there indeed exist many challenges, echoing the previously mentioned obstacles faced in tackling the issue of climate change. These include technical, policy-related, economic, social, and cultural aspects. Therefore, people must take a systemic and holistic approach, implementing solutions to climate change from the framework of sustainable development.

Currently, there are over ten thousand academic papers discussing the relevance of climate change or one or more Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are numerous ways to summarize, integrate, or categorize these research perspectives. Common methods include convening expert meetings [ 77 , 168 ] or using literature mining software [ 73 , 74 , 78 , 169 , 170 ] such as VOSviewer, Microsoft Excel, and Biblioshiny, to conduct structured reviews of the interrelationships between Climate Change (CC) and SDGs.

The discussions at the expert meeting revealed the synergies and trade-offs between climate change and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as the impact of climate change (CC) on the achievement of the SDGs [ 77 ]. Using literature software, the bibliometrix package, and R library, it was found that precipitation, drought, and evapotranspiration are the main climate terms most focused on under the topic of climate change [ 79 ]. Moreover, an analysis using Microsoft Excel on published journal articles found that gender equality, climate action, and global health are the key words most focused on in studies related to the Sustainable Development Goals. Some researchers also presented the evolution of themes over the years, and the co-occurrence maps of key words in the context of climate change and sustainable development practice, and found that there have been many research studies in these areas, but there is still a need for more in-depth study [ 80 ].

However, as highlighted in the background, after the 2015 Paris Agreement and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals were proposed, researchers worldwide are called upon to perform comprehensive and systematic analyses, categorizations, and discussions of the results presented by these literature analysis tools. These efforts aim to aid researchers and policymakers in addressing climate change and its related problems, as well as formulating suitable strategies for these issues, all from a perspective of sustainable development. These areas continue to require further in-depth research, and bibliometric analysis can serve as one effective method in this regard.

1.3 Research questions

The research question of this study is to examine the trends of major issues connecting climate change and the SDGs, as reflected in the literature [ 81 , 82 ]. In particular, the study aims to identify the most prominent Clusters and sub-Clusters related to this intersection and to understand the evolution of research in this area over time. This examination will help uncover potential gaps in knowledge, as well as highlight areas in need of further investigation or policy intervention.

Additionally, when systematically analyzing the issues and sub-issues of climate change within the framework of sustainable development, we still do not have a clear understanding of how many important issues related to climate change have emerged since the United Nations announced the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, as well as the proportion of these issues in the research or which fields is leading in these areas [ 75 , 77 , 83 ]. The policy-making and research processes have not had sufficient literature to help understand the varying degrees of correlation between these issues to aid policy-makers or researchers in making appropriate strategies. Moreover, one indicator of the current situation in various countries is the development status of how researchers or research institutions in these countries view climate change within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals, but there is limited academic research on the issues connecting climate change and the sustainable development goals [ 84 ].

This study poses four questions:

Q1: What are the main research topics at the intersection of climate change and sustainable development goals?

Q2: How have the research trends at the intersection of climate change and sustainable development goals developed?

Q3: What are the main research countries at the intersection of climate change and sustainable development goals?

Q4: What are the main research fields at the intersection of climate change and sustainable development goals?

1.4 Methodological approach

This study employs a bibliometric analysis to systematically review and analyze the body of literature on the connection between climate change and the SDGs. Bibliometric analysis is a quantitative method that employs statistical techniques to analyze and classify large volumes of academic publications. This method has the advantage of providing a comprehensive and objective overview of the research landscape [ 85 ], as compared to traditional literature reviews and other classification methods, which may be subject to biases and limited in scope [ 80 , 86 , 87 ].

1.5 Significance of the study

The findings of this study will provide valuable insights into the trends and patterns of research on the interlinkages between climate change and the SDGs, helping to inform future research agendas and policy interventions. By identifying the most prominent Clusters and potential knowledge gaps in this area, this study can contribute to a better understanding of how climate change and the SDGs are interconnected, thereby supporting the development of more effective strategies to address these pressing global challenges.

1.6 Potential applications

The results of this study can be applied in various ways. For instance, the findings can be used by researchers to identify research gaps and opportunities, guiding the direction of future studies. Policymakers and practitioners can also use the insights gained from this study to prioritize efforts and allocate resources more effectively in addressing the challenges posed by climate change and achieving the SDGs. Furthermore, the study can contribute to the development of interdisciplinary research, as understanding the complex interconnections between climate change and the SDGs requires the integration of knowledge from multiple fields and disciplines.

In conclusion, this study aims to explore the research trends and patterns of major issues connecting climate change and the SDGs using a bibliometric analysis. The findings will provide valuable insights for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners.

2 Methodology

2.1 literature mining tools.

This study analyzes and categorizes literature using the two tools. The first one is called Content Analysis Toolkit for Academic Research (CATAR), the other one is called VOSviewer.

2.1.1 The benefits of using CATAR for literature analysis

CATAR is designed to help researchers analyze scholarly literature with academic value. CATAR is particularly effective in multidimensional scaling (MDS) and hierarchical agglomerative clustering (HAC) [ 88 ], which can be used as one of the presentation directions for research outcomes. MDS is a technique that presents n documents on a map according to their similarity [ 89 ], where documents with high similarity cluster in close proximity to each other, while those with low similarity are located further apart. HAC is a type of document clustering [ 90 ] that does not require users to specify the number of categories and can iteratively group the most similar documents or categories into larger groups, gradually organizing all documents from the bottom up. In particular, the complete linkage method can group files that are highly similar to each other into the same group. Therefore, if two files cite common bibliography, they will generate a coupling relationship, and the more bibliography they share, the higher the correlation will be, and the more likely they will be classified into the same category.

The topic map of this study was generated by CATAR using multidimensional scaling (MDS) technique to calculate the relative relationships between categories in a two-dimensional space and draw the topic map accordingly. In the map, circles represent a group of documents classified into the same cluster, with the size of the circle indicating the number of documents in the group, and the distance between circles representing the strength of the relationship between the groups. The closer the circles, the higher the relevance between the topics. The color of the circle represents the classification result in the next higher level, and if the circle is composed of dashed lines, it indicates that it cannot be clustered in the next level [ 91 ].

2.1.2 The benefits of using VOSviewer for literature analysis

The second tool used in this study is VOSviewer, which is a visualization tool characterized by its technical robustness and relatively simple usage. It allows for a detailed examination of bibliometric maps. In the network visualization maps produced by VOSviewer, each label is represented by a colored node, with node size determined by the frequency of use of the item. The higher the usage frequency of an item, the larger its label. In addition, the thickness of the nodes and connecting lines indicates the co-occurrence frequency of the labels. Nodes with the same color have stronger connections [ 74 , 84 , 85 , 92 ].

As keyword co-occurrence network analysis is one of the most effective methods, a large number of studies have used VOSviewer for topics such as climate change or sustainable energy [ 91 , 93 , 94 ], helping researchers quantify trends in research Clusters and future research directions. This study use keyword co-occurrence network analysis in Vosviewer.

2.2 Explanation of data background

2.2.1 the selection of the database.

The data source for this study is the Web of Science (WoS) academic database by Thomson Routers. Analysis of citation data in WoS has shown greater consistency and accuracy than other databases such as Scopus and Google Scholar, [ 95 ] thus this study only analyzed journals included in WoS.

2.2.2 Boolean operators

The background setting for downloading data from WoS was as follows: TS = (climate change) AND AB = ("sustainable development goal" OR "sustainable development goals" OR SDG OR SDGs). These documents are focused on the Cluster of climate change, and the mention of SDGs in the abstract refers to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs aim to address major global issues, including poverty, hunger, inequality, and climate change. Therefore, if a document related to climate change also involves SDGs, it may explore how to link climate change with sustainable development goals to achieve a more sustainable future. Such research may investigate the impact of climate change on sustainable development goals or how to address issues related to climate change by achieving sustainable development goals.

2.2.3 The status of literature download

In order to understand the research trends up to December 31, 2022, a total of 2533 articles were downloaded for analysis. On the other hand, when downloading data from the WOS database, it was found that the closer it was to 2022, the more literature discussed CC and SDGs. In order to understand the research trends every 2–3 years and appropriately distribute the number of articles for analysis, research from 2015 to 2017, 2018 to 2022, and 2021 to 2022 was also downloaded. A total of 177 articles were from the first three years, 955 articles were from the middle three years, and 1401 articles were from the last two years.

3 Results and discussion

The research results are presented using the analysis results of two tools, CATAR and VOSviewer. The two research tools are distinguished by date. The data analyzed by the CATAR tool dates from 2015 to 2022, and this tool carries out a comprehensive analysis of the literature. The data analyzed by the VOSviewer tool is divided into three parts: 2015–2017 (the first three years), 2018–2020 (the middle three years), and 2021–2022 (the most recent two years), to understand the development trends of the research field. In addition, CATAR also specifically presents the main research fields and research countries of the literature as academic references.

3.1 Results and dicussion of bibliographic coupling analysis by using CATAR (2015–2022)

Using CATAR for bibliographic coupling analysis and multiple hierarchical agglomerative clustering, 19 clusters (A-1 to A-19) were obtained at the fourth level, with 1220 documents participating in clustering. The characteristic vocabulary of each cluster is shown in Table  1 (with a default threshold of 0.01), and the degree of association is shown in Fig.  1 , (with a threshold set to 0.02). Furthermore, the top five clusters in terms of proportion are related to agricultural and food systems, water and soil resources, energy, economy, ecosystem, and sustainable management, with a proportion of 53% of the documents in this level. The first cluster has the highest proportion of 34%.

figure 1

Maps of the clusters (2015–2022)

In Fig.  1 , clusters 10, 11, 15, and 17 are in green, clusters 4 and 14 are in blue, and clusters 12, and 16 are in yellow. These colors indicate that they can continue to form clusters in the next level and suggest that these topics are worth exploring as they are related to each other. Dashed circles represent clusters that cannot be agglomerated in the next level.

Referring to Table  1 for the keywords condensed in each cluster, appropriate names for the clusters are assigned. The results are shown in Table  2 .

Through the research results of Fig.  1 , since the circles represent the knowledge content contained in the cluster, considering factors such as circle color, circle size, and the intersection and union of circles, a systematic discussion is conducted below.

3.1.1 The relationship about A-10, A-11, A15 and A17 (color green)

In the green circle, A-10, A-11, A-15, and A-17 are four significant topics. The critical issues intersecting these four topics, this study discovered, include "Adaptation and mitigation strategies", "Integration of knowledge and collaboration", and "Urban and community context".

The four Clusters collectively highlight the importance of both adaptation and mitigation strategies in response to climate change. Cluster 10 emphasizes the need to understand and address the health impacts of climate change as an adaptation measure [ 88 , 89 , 96 ]. Cluster 11 focuses on building resilience in coastal areas, which is another form of adaptation [ 97 ]. Cluster 15 covers various aspects of climate change adaptation strategies, including public health, particularly sanitation issues, large urban environments, and the application of green and blue infrastructure. It emphasizes the importance of considering these issues from both local and global perspectives [ 98 , 99 , 100 , 101 , 102 ]. Cluster 17 centers on mitigation strategies such as achieving carbon neutrality through renewable energy sources [ 95 , 97 , 103 , 104 , 105 ].

Clusters 11 and 17 highlight the importance of integrating knowledge from various sources and fostering collaboration between different stakeholders. Cluster 11 emphasizes the role of knowledge integration in sustainability governance, while Cluster 17 involves surveys and research on carbon balance and renewable energy, which require collaboration among experts from various fields.

Cluster 10, 11 and 17 explore the impacts of climate change and sustainable development within urban or community settings. Cluster 10 investigates the relationship between climate change and health in the context of planetary health. Cluster 15 addresses the role of green and blue infrastructure in promoting sustainable development within mega-urban areas. Cluster 17 focuses on achieving carbon neutrality in cities or countries, which has direct implications for urban and community sustainability.

3.1.2 The relationship between “ocean conservation and coral reef biodiversity” (A-12) and “corporate cultural sustainability” (A-16) (color yellow)

The relationship between "Ocean Conservation and Coral Reef Biodiversity" and "Corporate Cultural Sustainability" is closely connected to climate change and ongoing sustainable development [ 106 , 107 , 108 ]. Many companies recognize the importance of environmental sustainability, particularly in the context of climate change and sustainable development. They incorporate this into their business strategies, which includes supporting ocean conservation and preserving coral reef biodiversity through environmentally-friendly practices, philanthropy, or partnerships with non-profit organizations. Examples of this include adopting sustainable practices and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting innovation in products, services, and technologies that contribute to ocean conservation and coral reef biodiversity protection, and collaborating with various stakeholders, including customers, employees, investors, and local communities, to address the challenges of climate change and support ocean conservation and coral reef biodiversity preservation [ 109 , 110 , 111 ].

3.1.3 The relationship between “ecosystems and land degradation” (A-4) and “urban infrastructure and governance” (A-14) (color blue)

First, Climate change poses threats to ecosystems and land, including extreme weather events and unstable rainfall patterns. Ecosystems play a crucial role in land conservation, water resource management, and biodiversity protection. Disrupting ecosystems increases the risk of land degradation, adversely affecting agriculture and ecological environments. Protecting and restoring ecosystems are key to achieving sustainable development goals [ 171 , 172 ].

Second, rapid urbanization necessitates large-scale infrastructure development. The expansion and management of urban infrastructure are directly linked to land use. Poor urban planning and management can lead to improper land use, overdevelopment, and environmental deterioration. Effective urban governance should emphasize the sustainability of land use, including land planning and environmental regulation. Sustainable urban infrastructure and governance help reduce the risk of land degradation while achieving sustainable development goals [ 173 , 174 , 175 , 176 ].

Therefore, the relationship between ecosystems and land degradation and urban infrastructure and governance should be viewed comprehensively. The expansion and management of urban infrastructure should fully consider ecosystem protection and land degradation prevention. For instance, urban planning may include the preservation of green spaces and natural conservation areas to promote ecosystem health. Moreover, urban governance should emphasize the involvement of multiple stakeholders to ensure that land use and infrastructure development align with the principles of sustainable development. This necessitates interdisciplinary research and policy formulation to ensure effective management of land resources during the urbanization process while safeguarding ecosystems to address climate change and achieve sustainable development goals.

3.2 Ranking of countries by the number of published papers, citation count, and publication year

The overview analysis through CATAR is used to present the top eight countries in terms of the number of published papers. Considering that each piece of literature might be co-authored by multiple individuals, the analysis results are presented using Fractional Count (FC). FC means that all the co-authors are counted as a single author. For instance, a paper co-authored by two individuals is counted as one, and the contribution of each author to the paper count is 0.5 and 0.5, respectively.

The results of the FC statistics are shown in Figs.  2 and 3 . We can observe that within the defined scope, the number of papers has significantly increased since 2015. The top eight countries in terms of the number of published papers, from most to least, are the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Australia, India, Germany, the Netherlands, and South Africa. If we only look at 2022, the top eight countries from most to least are China, India, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, Germany, and Canada.

figure 2

Statistical analysis of the top eight countries in terms of the number of papers published, and their publication years, using Fractional Count

figure 3

Statistical analysis of the top eight countries in terms of the number of papers published in 2022, using Fractional Count

3.2.1 The number of articles interpreting climate change issues from the perspective of sustainable development goals

By observing the results presented in Fig.  2 , two pieces of information can be identified. The first piece of information is that, whether the data time is from 2015 to 2022 or only looking at 2022, China, India, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia are all in the top five. The reasons for this include several factors:

The first factor is economic influence. These countries are significant pillars of the global economy, and their policies and investment decisions have massive impacts on the global economy. For instance, China is the world's largest manufacturer and largest emitter of carbon dioxide, while the United States, as the world's largest economy, holds significant sway in driving global climate action.

The second factor is population size. India and China are the two most populous countries globally, and their decisions will have monumental impacts on global climate change. In countries with large populations, the need for sustainable development is particularly pressing [ 112 , 113 , 14 , 15 , 16 , 17 , 18 , 19 , 20 , 121 ].

The third factor is influence in science and technology. The United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia hold leadership positions in the field of science and technology, including research and development in climate science and environmental technologies. Their innovations and solutions can have significant impacts on the global climate change issue [ 115 , 116 , 117 ].

The fourth factor is policy and international leadership. These countries play critical roles in global policy and international affairs [ 122 , 123 , 124 , 125 ]. For instance, the United Kingdom was the host of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), and the United States also plays a leading role in driving the global climate agenda.

3.2.2 The increase and decrease of the number of papers published by each country

The second piece of information is that regardless of the country, the number of publications generally shows a growing trend from 2015 to 2021. The sharp increase in relevant literature published by China and India in 2022 indicates that addressing the challenges brought about by climate change and achieving sustainable development goals are issues of concern to these countries [ 126 , 127 , 128 ].

3.3 Number of publications on the relationship between CC and SDGs by field

As shown in Fig.  4 , the top eight fields and years in terms of the number of publications can be seen. We can observe that since 2015, there has been a significant increase in literature discussing the relationship between CC and SDGs. The field of Environmental Sciences & Ecology has consistently had the most publicated documents every year, followed by the field of Science & Technology—Other Topics.

figure 4

Number of publications on the relationship between CC and SDGs by field

3.4 Tracking the research development trends on climate change issues from the framework of sustainable development goals every 2–3 years

The literature mining tool, Vosviewer, was used to perform co-occurrence word analysis on authors. Due to the small number of articles from 2015 to 2017, the clustering result is shown in Fig.  5 . The clustering results for 2018–2020 and 2021–2022 are shown in Figs.  6 and 7 respectively. The larger the clustered keyword, the more frequently it is mentioned by authors. Keywords of the same color indicate a higher degree of association, and are likely to discuss important topics.

figure 5

Keyword relationship diagram for climate change and sustainable development goals from 2015 to 2017

figure 6

Keyword relationship diagram for climate change and sustainable development goals from 2018 to 2020

figure 7

Keyword relationship diagram for climate change and sustainable development goals from 2021 to 2022

3.4.1 Keywords and topics related to climate change and the implementation of sustainable development goals during 2015–2017

During 2015–2017, it is found that research keywords regarding climate change and the implementation of sustainable development goals mainly include "Ecosystem," "Climate change adaptation," "Disaster risk," "Reduction," "Public health," "Renewable energy," "Resilience," and "Water security." The topic discussed during this period is mainly "The impact of climate change on public health and its adaptation strategies." This topic covers the mutual influences of various aspects including environmental ecology, climate change, and public health, emphasizing on how to reduce disaster risks and improve public health levels through the protection and management of ecosystems to adapt to the challenges brought about by climate change. On the other hand, the development of renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and the establishment of water security strategies also contribute to coping with climate change [ 129 , 130 , 131 , 132 ].

3.4.2 Keywords and topics related to climate change and the implementation of sustainable development goals during 2018–2020

During 2018–2020, the research trend in discussing climate change and the implementation of sustainable development goals partially continued from the previous period, and the number of keywords increased. On the other hand, from a broader framework, the research trend shifted towards cross-disciplinary approaches to tackle and adapt to climate change issues and explored how to achieve this goal by protecting the environment and promoting sustainable development [ 133 ]. The most widely addressed topics represented by keywords of different colors include the following top four: "Efficient use and management of food supply to water resources", "Sustainable ecosystem management and land use under climate change", "Adaptation strategies and sustainable development strategies for agriculture under climate change", and "Development of renewable energy" [ 134 , 135 , 136 , 137 , 138 , 139 ].

3.4.3 Keywords and topics related to climate change and the implementation of sustainable development goals during 2021–2022

By 2021–2022, the research trend showed that some keywords regarding climate change and the implementation of sustainable development goals continued from the previous stage, and the number of keywords also increased. During this time period, 'renewable energy' (marked in red) has become the most emphasized keyword against the backdrop of hot advocacy topics such as 'Net Zero' and 'CBAM' (carbon border adjustment mechanism). It particularly emphasizes how, in the process of pursuing economic growth, we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions and achieve sustainable development by improving energy efficiency and using renewable energy [ 140 ].This also echoes the resolutions of COP26 and COP27, which call for an increased proportion of clean energy, including renewable and low-carbon energy sources, acceleration in the research and development, deployment, and dissemination of low-carbon technologies, and emphasis on the importance of natural carbon sinks [ 133 , 141 , 142 , 143 , 144 , 145 ].

Other important keywords are resilience (in orange), ecosystem services; life cycle assessment (in blue), Africa; agriculture (in dark green), policy; adaptation; education (in purple), and Agenda 2030; Paris Agreement; synergy; bibliometric analysis; remote sensing; desertification (in light green).

These keywords are all related to the clusters of climate change and sustainable development, encompassing topics such as the protection of ecosystem services [ 140 , 146 , 147 , 148 ], life cycle assessment, agriculture in Africa, policy; adaptation, education [ 149 , 150 , 151 , 152 , 153 , 154 ], the global sustainable development goals (Agenda 2030), the Paris Agreement, the synergistic effects of various policies [ 155 , 156 , 157 , 158 ], bibliometric analysis, remote sensing technology [ 159 , 160 , 161 ], and desertification [ 162 , 163 , 164 , 165 ].

4 Conclusion

This study, through bibliometric analysis tools CATAR and VOSviewer, presents multiple research findings. First, both tools indicate an increasing number of links between climate change and sustainable development goals in research across countries. There is a growing body of research and policy dedicated to finding and implementing strategies to solve climate change issues. These strategies are often linked to sustainable development goals, highlighting the intersection between climate action and sustainable development.

Secondly, through CATAR, this study identified 19 clusters intersecting with climate change and SDGs (as shown in Table  2 ), among which the top five clusters in terms of proportion are related to agricultural and food systems, water and soil resources, energy, economy, ecosystem, and sustainable management, accounting for 53% of the documents. On the other hand, Fig.  1 also shows that some clusters are highly related (same color). Combined with Table  2 for further explanation, the key topics in the green block include adaptation and mitigation strategies, integration of knowledge and collaboration, and the urban and community context. The important topics in the yellow block are corporate sustainable development and biodiversity investment (especially focusing on the ocean). The important topics in the blue block include urban planning, sustainable governance, due to land degradation and the increased frequency of extreme weather events (such as droughts and floods) damaging ecosystems.

Thirdly, whether the data period is from 2015 to 2022 or just in 2022, China, India, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia are the countries with the most research on the link between climate change and sustainable development goals. This is due to their economic influence, population size, influence in science and technology, and policy and international leadership. Specifically, in 2022, the number of publications in China and India grew at the fastest rate, while the growth trend in the UK and the US was slightly slower. Furthermore, Environmental Sciences & Ecology is the field with the most publications.

Fourthly, by observing Figs. 5 , 6 , and 7 , we can see the continuation and transformation of key topics in literature discussing the link between climate change and sustainable development goals. In the early period (2015–2017), the focus was on 'the impact of climate change on public health and its adaptation strategies'. By the mid-term (2018–2020), topics expanded to include 'efficient use and management of food supply to water resources', 'sustainable ecosystem management and sustainable land use under climate change', 'agricultural adaptation strategies and sustainable development strategies under climate change', and 'development of renewable energy'.

In the later period (2021–2022), under the context of popular initiatives like net zero and CBAM (Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism), there was increased emphasis on renewable energy, as well as protection of ecosystem services, life cycle assessment, food security, agriculture in Africa, sustainable management, synergies of various policies, remote sensing technology, and desertification among others. This shows an increasingly diversified range of important topics being discussed in relation to climate change and sustainable development goals.

The interconnections among the identified Clusters highlight the complex and interrelated nature of climate change and the 17 SDGs. Understanding these interconnections can help researchers, policymakers, and practitioners develop integrated and interdisciplinary approaches to address climate change and achieve the SDGs. For example, policies promoting agroforestry and sustainable agriculture can contribute to climate change mitigation, food security, and biodiversity conservation, thereby advancing multiple SDGs simultaneously.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that the clusters that have not been part of the coalescence (as shown in the dashed circles in Fig.  1 ) do not imply that these topics are unimportant. On the contrary, these topics could potentially become the focus of emerging research in the future, serving as a reference for future researchers to conduct in-depth studies.

Data availability

The literature data used in this study were sourced from the Web of Science database.

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Climate Change Adaptation Preparedness in Developing Countries: A Study of 21 Countries and Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices Studies in Akwa Ibom and Lagos States in Nigeria

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climate change and dissertation

  • March 22, 2019
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  • Global climate change is projected to have disproportionate adverse impacts on water quality and availability in low-resource settings. Therefore, it is essential that developing countries assess their vulnerabilities and develop strategies to improve their resilience. This thesis presents two research studies on climate change adaptation preparedness in developing countries. In the first study, the policies and programs of 21 developing countries were analyzed to determine adaptation preparedness. In study countries, preparedness varied widely. However, in general, even those countries that have prioritized preparedness for climate change need to implement several additional policies and practices to ensure adequate adaptation. In the second study, a knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) study of policy makers and university students was carried out in Nigeria to determine the level of awareness of climate change. Study participants understood the causes of climate change but less so the effects. More awareness is needed for both study populations.
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Three essays on the economic impacts of climate change.

A growing consensus indicates that climate change will impact economic well-being, and understanding the cost of this event is important to optimize climate policies. Over the past decade, an expanding body of literature estimated the impacts of climate change on significant facets of economic well-being; however, I have identified three shortcomings in the literature. First, previous studies predominantly focused on temperature and precipitation while ignoring other climatic variables, such as humidity and wind speed. Climate change is predicated on the shifts in a set of climatic variables, including temperature, precipitation, humidity, and wind speed; therefore, omitting any of these components may generate bias in the estimates. Second, although economists have examined various economic impacts caused by climate change, some topics have not been investigated thoroughly, and micro-mechanisms are lacking. Third, most of these studies largely focused on the U.S. context, whereas developing countries, especially China, have received little attention. The impacts of climate change may be particular strong on such countries given their increased vulnerability to this event, such as credit constraints and restricted access to irrigation. My dissertation aims to fill these research gaps.

The first chapter, coauthored with Junjie Zhang and Minpeng Chen, discusses the importance of climatic variables other than temperature and precipitation. Two models are estimated and compared using county-level agricultural data derived from China for the period of 1980 to 2010 to identify the possible omitted-variable bias. The restricted model includes temperature and precipitation only, whereas the full model includes a set of climatic variables that also contains humidity, wind speed, sunshine duration, and evaporation. The results show that omitting humidity tends to overpredict the cost of climate change on crop yields, while ignoring wind speed is likely to underpredict the effect.

The effect of temperature on economic growth needs to be understood to optimize climate policies, and much of the existing literature has estimated this relationship with aggregated economic data. Chapter 2 presents the micro-mechanism behind this relationship by employing detailed firm-level production data collected from the Chinese manufacturing sector for the period of 1998 to 2007. Upon estimating the effect of temperature on the four components in a Cobb-Douglas production function (output, total factor productivity (TFP), labor, and capital inputs), the reduction in TFP in response to high temperatures is determined to be the primary driver behind output losses. Given that TFP is invariant to the intensity of labor and capital inputs, I am able to estimate the net effect of temperature on productivity while separating any factor allocation effect.

Climate change remains as a major threat to food security, particularly for China because of its enormous population living off limited cropland. Evaluating the cost of climate change on agriculture requires estimates on both crop yields and cropland, where analysis on the latter has been limited. The third chapter, coauthored with Jianghao Wang and Junjie Zhang, utilizes unique high-resolution satellite data from 1980 to 2010 to estimate the effect of temperatures on cropland changes in China. We find that extremely high temperatures have significantly negative effects on the area of cropland, and the majority of the decrease in cropland is likely to be the conversion to built-up lands. As a result, climate change is likely to severely threaten the food security in China in the absence of countervailing investments. Ultimately, this dissertation aims to empirically evaluate the impact of climate change on the Chinese economy. This research is expected to contribute to a growing body of literature by improving on existing methodologies as well as by developing micro-mechanisms and discovering new concepts. Furthermore, this work has significant policy implications. As the world's largest CO2 emitter, China's climate strategy is critical to mitigating global climate change.

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climate change and dissertation

99 Climate Change Dissertation Topics & Research Titles

By Amanda Jun 13, 2023 in Climate Change | No Comments

Before we suggest a list of climate change dissertation topics, we must understand what it is and its importance in our life. The climate of the Earth has been changing rapidly and has brought about many physical and environmental changes all of which significantly affect the inhabitants of the Earth. As such, climate change, its […]

climate change dissertation topics

Before we suggest a list of climate change dissertation topics, we must understand what it is and its importance in our life. The climate of the Earth has been changing rapidly and has brought about many physical and environmental changes all of which significantly affect the inhabitants of the Earth. As such, climate change, its causes , issues and outcomes are the central theme of not only this age but possibly for the very existence of humankind.

This list of dissertation topics in climate change is in no way enough to cover logistics associated with climate change yet these research topics on climate change are presented here as a point of focus to get you started thinking about a direction associated with climate change that most appeals to you.

List of climate change dissertation topics:

The researchers can also search terms like dissertation topics on climate change or climate change research topics to locate this post and get benefit from it.

Assessing the role of forests and carbon sequestration in climate change mitigation.

Is climate change impactful on farming production quality?

What are the key barriers to the adoption of climate change policies- a review of global literature.

The impact of climate change on urban infrastructure and resilience.

The impact of climate change on indigenous communities and their traditional livelihoods.

An online survey of the causes of climate change denial in Norway.

How has the pandemic influenced the implementation and effectiveness of climate change mitigation measures?

Is tourism sensitive to climate change? A survey of international tourists.

Investigating the role of corporate social responsibility in addressing climate change.

Have vulnerable populations facing tsunamis/ tropical dry forest fires developed resilience? An exploration.

Investigating the role of agriculture in climate change adaptation and mitigation.

An analysis of healthcare impacts due to the combined threat of climate change and access inequality to healthcare services in poor socio-economic environments.

What are the opportunities for a green and sustainable recovery from the pandemic that can also address climate change challenges?

What are the potential implications of the pandemic on climate change policy and international cooperation?

How has the pandemic influenced public attitudes and behaviors towards sustainable lifestyles and consumption patterns?

What are the social and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable communities in the context of climate change?

What are the current gaps in knowledge of climate change?

Exploring the nexus between climate change, health, and public policy.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected public perception and awareness of climate change?

Exploring the role of gender in climate change adaptation and resilience.

Is climate change a stronger threat to populations vulnerable to potential disasters?

Evaluating the role of renewable energy sources in achieving the UK’s climate change targets.

Climate change acceptance of denial? Primary exploration of global perspectives.

Is the colour of our oceans reflective of changes in climate? A review of literature.

The impact of climate change on Neanderthal species- forensic anthropology .

The impact of climate change on coastal erosion and flooding in UK coastal regions.

Is readiness for climate change adaptation indicative of a sense of personal responsibility among individuals?

The implications of climate change on the mental health of people in current times- what is known?

What are the steps being taken by China in improving the quality of air in its metropolitan cities? A survey.

Is climate change adaptation behaviour difficult for small farmers to practice? A primary exploration.

What are the chief risks posed by climate change to the mental health of humans? An exploration.

The impact of climate-induced migration on host countries and the need for international policy responses.

The concept of food security and its relationship with climate change- what are the implications for the future?

Are global climate change policies geared towards justice for future generations?

Changes to wildlife due to climate change- a global review.

What efforts are energy-based corporations taking for climate change adaptations? An exploration.

Assessing the economic costs of climate change and the benefits of mitigation and adaptation measures.

Investigating the impact of climate change on UK biodiversity and conservation efforts.

Investigating the role of climate change in shaping global geopolitics and international relations.

Investigating the relationship between climate change and social inequality.

Assessing the effectiveness of climate change mitigation strategies in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The role of international climate change agreements in promoting global cooperation and mitigation efforts.

What motivates small and medium enterprises towards climate change adaptation? A survey-based exploration.

The importance of social media in advancing climate change literacy in developing countries.

Assessing the vulnerability of UK cities to climate change impacts and developing adaptation strategies.

What is the potential impact of changes to marine life due to climate change on human populations? Review of literature.

Investigating the socio-economic implications of climate change on UK agricultural systems.

Investigating the role of multinational corporations in addressing climate change through sustainable practices and emissions reduction.

How important is the human contribution to acceleration in climate change? Evidence-based literature.

Rise in sea levels associated with climate change- what is understood?

Is following of energy-saving practices in daily life representative of responsibility towards climate change?

How is the construction of dams impacting climate change through ecology- an analysis of literature.

How has the pandemic affected climate change research and data collection efforts?

Exploring the relationship between climate change and extreme weather events.

Can we see solutions to climate change? Enumerating the key points.

Drought in farming communities and causes associated with it- an exploration of current literature.

Evaluating the effectiveness of climate change education and awareness campaigns in the UK.

Examining the effectiveness of international climate finance mechanisms in supporting adaptation and mitigation projects in developing countries.

Is there a tipping point in climate change?

Assessing the effectiveness of climate change education and awareness programs.

What role can renewable energy technologies play in supporting economic recovery and addressing climate change post-pandemic?

Examining the public perception and understanding of climate change in the UK.

Is climate change a hoax? Theoretical evidence for an argumentative debate.

Assessing the effectiveness of climate change policies and initiatives in the United Kingdom.

The impact of climate change on cultural heritage sites and their preservation.

Assessing the vulnerability of small island developing states (SIDS) to climate change impacts and the need for international support.

A study of the causes of climate change over the past one hundred years.

Assessing the vulnerability of coastal communities to sea-level rise and climate change.

Evaluating the effectiveness of international climate change agreements in addressing global warming.

Evaluating the effectiveness of climate change communication and public engagement strategies.

Changes to groundwater networks amidst discussions of climate change- a study of forecasted changes.

Is it possible to slow negative climate change through the calculated human impact? An exploration.

Is climate change adaptation the forte of a special kind of psychology?

Climate change impacts on coral reef bleaching and implications for marine biodiversity in the Bahamas.

Change in animal biodiversity due to climate change- studying the direct and indirect impacts on human populations.

The impact of climate change on biodiversity loss: A case study of endangered species.

Are changes to the Arctic covering a reason to panic? Evidence from a climate change perspective.

Groundwater reservoirs, effects of climate change and consequences for economic valuations of agricultural produce in farming communities- a review of literature/ a survey.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted global greenhouse gas emissions and their contribution to climate change?

Ice sheets, sea levels and climate change- investigating a relationship.

The changes in drought environments in the past ten years – is climate change to blame?

Assessing the implications of climate change for biodiversity conservation and protected areas.

The impact of climate change on water resources and water scarcity.

Is the rise in violence attributable in some measure to climate change?

Is urbanisation a potential reason for climate change? A review of literature.

The role of the UK transportation sector in contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

How urgent is an action plan to tackle climate change? A review.

Investigating the social and economic consequences of climate-induced migration.

Politics within climate change- understanding the conceptual bases for the emergence of bullies and victims in the global sphere.

Cycles of drought and relationship with climate change- finding answers from literature.

How important is scientific literacy for acknowledgement and understanding of the causes and implications of climate change among high school students in the UK?

What lessons can be learned from the pandemic response to inform climate change adaptation and resilience strategies?

The role of renewable energy technologies in mitigating climate change.

An exploration of how climate change has given rise to the term “climate refugees”.

Examining the effects of climate change on food security and agricultural production.

Assessing the role of UK businesses and industries in mitigating climate change through sustainable practices.

The role of indigenous knowledge and traditional practices in climate change adaptation.

Are there skeptics to climate change among healthcare professionals? Investigating viewpoints.

What is the influence of climate change on food security in terms of variations in farming practices across the world?

There you go. Use the list well and let us know if you have any comments or suggestions for our topics related blog posts for the future or looking to get help with dissertation writing , send us an email at [email protected] .

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Climate Change and Mental Health: A Scoping Review

Fiona charlson.

1 Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, Queensland Health, Wacol, QLD 4076, Australia; [email protected] (S.A.); [email protected] (M.P.); [email protected] (J.G.S.)

2 School of Public Health, The University of Queensland, Herston, QLD 4006, Australia

3 Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Department of Global Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

Suhailah Ali

Tarik benmarhnia.

4 Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science & Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC, San Diego, CA 92093, USA; ude.dscu.htlaeh@ainhramnebt

Madeleine Pearl

Alessandro massazza.

5 Department of Health Services Research and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT, UK; [email protected]

Jura Augustinavicius

6 Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA; ude.uhj@6tsuguaj

James G. Scott

7 Mental Health Programme, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Herston, QLD 4076, Australia

8 Metro North Mental Health Service, Herston, QLD 4006, Australia

Climate change is negatively impacting the mental health of populations. This scoping review aims to assess the available literature related to climate change and mental health across the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) five global research priorities for protecting human health from climate change. We conducted a scoping review to identify original research studies related to mental health and climate change using online academic databases. We assessed the quality of studies where appropriate assessment tools were available. We identified 120 original studies published between 2001 and 2020. Most studies were quantitative ( n = 67), cross-sectional ( n = 42), conducted in high-income countries ( n = 87), and concerned with the first of the WHO global research priorities—assessing the mental health risks associated with climate change ( n = 101). Several climate-related exposures, including heat, humidity, rainfall, drought, wildfires, and floods were associated with psychological distress, worsened mental health, and higher mortality among people with pre-existing mental health conditions, increased psychiatric hospitalisations, and heightened suicide rates. Few studies ( n = 19) addressed the other four global research priorities of protecting health from climate change (effective interventions ( n = 8); mitigation and adaptation ( n = 7); improving decision-support ( n = 3); and cost estimations ( n = 1)). While climate change and mental health represents a rapidly growing area of research, it needs to accelerate and broaden in scope to respond with evidence-based mitigation and adaptation strategies.

1. Introduction

In 2009, a Lancet Commission on Climate Change asserted that “climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century” [ 1 ]. In response, the ‘Lancet Countdown on health and climate change’ has been established as an independent, global monitoring system dedicated to tracking the health dimensions of the impacts of, and the response to, climate change [ 2 ]. While the Lancet Countdown includes numerous health indicators, it currently lacks an indicator capable of capturing the impact of climate change on mental health globally. This lack of representation in global climate and health initiatives is of considerable concern, as mental disorders are a leading cause of burden of disease globally and contribute to increased rates of premature mortality [ 3 ].

Climate change is expected to impact mental health via a range of direct and indirect pathways [ 4 ]. Direct pathways include exposure to traumatic events, such as bushfires and other severe weather-related events. Indirect pathways largely operate through a range of social, political, and economic determinants of mental health such as poverty, unemployment, and housing. Vulnerable people and places, especially in low-income countries, are anticipated to be particularly badly impacted [ 4 ].

Three recent reviews have attempted to synthesise the existing literature on climate change and mental health. Middleton et al., have explored the mental health impacts of climate change among Indigenous Peoples, populations in which climate change impacts are anticipated to be amplified [ 5 ]. Hayes et al. conducted a scoping review to explore an important question of how mental health might be integrated into climate change and health vulnerability assessments [ 6 ]. Cianconi et al. examined the association between climate change-related events and mental health; however, the review did not assess the quality of these studies [ 7 ]. Yet, assessing the quality of studies in such a novel and growing area of research is critical, as it helps identify research gaps and methodological issues that will help formulate recommendations for future studies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has proposed five global research priorities for protecting human health from climate change: assessing the risks; identifying the most effective interventions; guiding health-promoting mitigation and adaptation decisions in other sectors; improving decision-support; and estimating the costs of protecting health from climate change [ 8 ]. Currently, there has only been the assessment of the evidence base across the first of these five research priority areas (assessing the risks).

Building upon existing reviews, this scoping review aims to assess the available literature and explore the key literature gaps, related to climate change and mental health across WHO’s five global research priorities for protecting human health from climate change. This is essential in order to understand the current gaps in the literature and inform future research priorities.

2.1. Scoping Review

This review followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) 2020 guidelines [ 9 ] in conjunction with the PRISMA Extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR) [ 10 ]. To identify original research studies related to mental health and climate change, the following online databases were searched from 1 January 2001, to 31 December 2020: PubMed, PsycINFO, EMBASE, CINAHL, Web of Science, and Scopus. The PubMed search string ( Box 1 ) was adapted for each database (search strings for each database can be found in the Appendix A ). Whilst acknowledging there are other relevant and broader constructs of mental health, such as ‘emotional wellbeing’, we elected to constrain our search terms to draw a boundary around an otherwise unmanageable number of references. Additional studies were identified by examining the reference lists of key review articles. Three authors (F.C., S.A., and M.P.) independently conducted title/abstract and full-text screening using Endnote X9, and two authors (SA, M.P.) independently extracted data from studies that met the inclusion criteria into a Microsoft Excel sheet. Consensus was sought among these authors throughout this process.

PubMed search string.

Search ((((((((((((“Climate Change”[Mesh]) OR “Global Warming”[Mesh]) OR “Global Warming”[tiab]) OR “climate change”[tiab]) OR “Greenhouse Effect”[Mesh]) OR “Greenhouse Effect”[tiab]) OR “Climatic Processes”[Mesh]) OR “Hot Temperature”[Mesh]) OR “Climate”[Mesh]) OR “Weather”[Mesh]) OR “Weather”[tiab])) AND (((((((“Mental Disorders”[Mesh]) OR “Mental Disorders”[tiab]) OR “Mental Disorder”[tiab]) OR “Mental illness”[tiab]) OR “Mental illnesses”[tiab]) OR “Mental Health”[Mesh]) OR “mental health”[tiab])

The inclusion criteria were as follows:

  • Must relate to mental health and climate change across one or more of the domains defined by the Lancet Countdown for Health and Climate Change 2018 [ 11 ]: climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerability; adaptation, planning, and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; finance and economics; and public and political engagement
  • Must be original research (e.g., cross-sectional or cohort studies)
  • Publication year must be from 2001 onwards
  • English language

Details of the protocol for this review were registered on PROSPERO (registration number CRD42020161076) and can be accessed at .

2.2. Quality Assessment

The same three authors (F.C., S.A., and M.P.) assessed all studies for which appropriate quality assessment tools were available ( n = 93). We used the ‘Observational Cohort and Cross-Sectional Studies’ and ‘Case Series Studies’ Quality Assessment tools from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) [ 12 ]. The NHLBI tools were robustly developed and include individualised tools for a range of study designs (e.g., cohort, cross-sectional, case series). Qualitative studies were assessed using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) Qualitative Checklist [ 13 ]. Ecological studies were evaluated using a scale adapted from Cortes-Ramirez et al. [ 14 ], with the “sample size” and “validity of statistical inferences” criteria removed as their specificity was not deemed relevant to providing an overall quality assessment of the studies included in the review. We did not assess the quality of studies employing modelling, case report, time-series, case-crossover, panel, or other unique study designs due to the lack of appropriate quality assessment tools.

Studies were assessed as either ‘poor’, ‘fair, or ‘good’, guided by a series of questions set by the quality assessment tools. The findings of ‘poor’ quality studies were excluded from our synthesis of results but can be found listed in Table A1 .

2.3. Research Framework

Studies were grouped by a member of the team under the five global research priorities for protecting health from climate change proposed by the World Health Organization: assessing the risks; identifying the most effective interventions; guiding health-promoting mitigation and adaptation decisions in other sectors; improving decision-support; and estimating the costs of protecting health from climate change [ 8 ]. Further information about the WHO framework can be found in Appendix A .

2.4. Figure Preparation

The PRISMA flow diagram was prepared using PRISMA2020: R package and ShinyApp for producing PRISMA 2020 compliant flow diagrams (Version 0.0.1) [ 15 ]. The world map was created using the rworldmap package (version 1.3-6) [ 16 ] in RStudio (version 1.3.1093) [ 17 ] with R 4.0.3 [ 18 ]. The graph of studies over time was also created in RStudio using ggplot2 (version 3.3.3) [ 19 ].

We identified 120 original research studies that examined mental health in the context of climate change-related exposures ( Figure 1 ). Sixty-seven studies reported quantitative data, 34 reported qualitative data, and 19 reported a combination of qualitative and quantitative data. The most common study design was cross-sectional ( n = 42), followed by case studies ( n = 28), modelling studies ( n = 12), ecological studies ( n = 7) and cohort studies ( n = 7). Table A1 provides a summary of the included studies.

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PRISMA flow diagram of study selection.

The geographies which represented the most original research studies were Australia ( n = 34), Canada ( n = 17), USA ( n = 16), China ( n = 6), United Kingdom ( n = 6), Italy ( n = 5), and Bangladesh ( n = 5) ( Figure 2 ). The majority of studies (77%) were carried out in high-income countries, with 12% from upper middle income, 12% from lower middle income and only 3% from low-income countries (as per World Bank classifications).

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Map of included studies.

Although we searched for studies from 2001 onwards, we did not identify any published before 2007. There was an overall increasing trend in the number of studies between 2007 and 2020, with the highest number in 2020 (34 studies) ( Figure 3 ).

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Number of studies published over time, by analysis type.

The following sections provide a narrative summary of the original research corresponding to the WHO framework.

3.1. Assessing the Risks

The majority of studies ( n = 101 out of 120) examined the mental health risks posed by climate change. The literature linked mental health outcomes to several climate-related exposures—heat, humidity, rainfall, drought, wildfires, and floods. Other environmental exposures, such as tropical cyclones and storms, were not included as no studies were found that explicitly referred to climate change. This section will present studies according to the following three categories (which are not mutually exclusive): (1) environmental exposures; (2) mental health outcomes; and (3) specific sub-groups and contexts that might be particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change on mental health.

3.2. Environmental Exposures

3.2.1. temperature and humidity.

The most commonly examined environmental exposure in relation to health risk was temperature ( n = 27), which was often measured alongside other meteorological variables such as humidity and rainfall. In most studies, an increase in temperature was positively correlated with poor mental health outcomes.

Three studies from Australia found associations between heat and mental health outcomes; however, the evidence was inconsistent. For example, Ding et al., report that an increase in temperature and humidity affects psychological distress, independently from pre-existing depression or anxiety [ 20 ]. Similarly, another study that looked at data from Adelaide, Australia, found that while there was a positive association between temperatures exceeding the maximum and minimum thresholds (32 °C and 16 °C) and psychiatric presentations to the emergency department, there was a significant decrease in this effect when temperatures were considered extreme [ 21 ]. A third study conducted on children in Australia showed a small effect of worsened childhood mental health with an increase in annual average daily maximum temperatures [ 22 ].

Several studies from Asia found that fluctuating temperatures influenced mental health and well-being, impacting productivity and livelihoods [ 23 , 24 , 25 ]. Long-term exposure to high and low temperatures in Taiwan resulted in a 7% increase of major depressive disorder incidence per 1 °C increment in regions with an average annual temperature above the median 23 °C. A higher incidence was found in the older age group (65+ years), with a slightly higher hazard ratio for males in this group, and females in the younger age group (20–64 years) [ 26 ].

Temperature also affected mental health and well-being in several studies conducted in North America. Noelke et al. reported that temperatures above daily averages reduced positive emotions like happiness, increased negative emotions like anger and stress, and increased fatigue [ 27 ]. Another study found that monthly temperatures above 30 °C increased the probability of mental health difficulties by 0.5%, and ongoing exposure to increasing temperatures (1 °C over five years) was associated with a 2% increase in the prevalence of mental health issues [ 28 ]. High ambient temperatures were also found to increase help-seeking for mental health, such as crisis text line usage in young adults in several urban areas in the United States [ 29 ]. A study exploring protective factors in the context of extreme seasonal weather in Tennessee, USA found that social cohesion was associated with reduced mental health impacts among low- and moderate-income residents [ 30 ].

3.2.2. Drought and Rainfall

Drought was another frequently studied climate exposure ( n = 16). All but one of the studies were from Australia and primarily focussed on rural communities. Almost half of these studies were based on large, longitudinal studies and utilised standard mental health measures such as the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10). A nationally representative cross-sectional survey of Australian residents found that while drought was associated with elevated psychological distress (as measured by the K10) in rural communities, this was not the case for urban dwellers [ 31 ].

A longitudinal cohort study showed elevated drought-related stress and psychological distress (as measured by the K10) among farmers [ 32 ]. Drought-related stress, which captures worry about the impacts of drought on themselves and their families and communities, was influenced by socio-demographic and community factors (e.g., loss, government compliance pressures, and difficulties accessing mental health support or receiving inappropriate mental health services) that differed from the factors that influenced psychological distress [ 33 ]. Factors associated with higher psychological distress included being unemployed and exposure to other adverse life events, while protective factors included financial security, social support, and a sense of community [ 32 , 34 ]. The evidence for differential impacts on gender and age is conflicting [ 35 , 36 , 37 ].

One multi-country study has looked at rainfall as a climate-related exposure and has reported that the highest prevalence of mood disorders is observed in countries characterised by small variations across monthly rainfall and high levels of rainfall [ 38 ].

3.2.3. Wildfire

Two studies from North America examined the impacts of wildfires on mental health. Qualitative interviews of people purposively sampled to include a broad cross-section of backgrounds and experiences from a severe 2014 wildfire season in the North-West Territories of Canada, in the context of climate change, reported how experiences of evacuation and isolation, as well as feelings of fear, stress, and uncertainty, contributed to acute and long-term negative impacts on mental and emotional well-being [ 39 ]. Prolonged smoke events were linked to respiratory problems, extended time indoors, and disruptions to livelihood and land-based activities, which negatively affected mental well-being [ 39 ].

A household study conducted one year after the Wallow Fire in Arizona, United States, concluded higher solastalgia, a term used to indicate distress caused by environmental change (measured using a scale adapted from [ 40 ]), and an adverse financial impact of the fire was associated with clinically significant psychological distress (as measured by the K10). In contrast, a higher family functioning score was associated with less psychological distress [ 41 ]. Other countries that experience regular wildfires, such as Australia, referred to as bushfires, had no research exploring mental health impacts in the context of climate change.

3.2.4. Flood

Several studies examined the mental health impacts of flooding. An Australian study qualitatively explored individuals’ experiences from rural communities, concluding that the threat of drought and flood are intertwined and contributed to decreased well-being from stress, anxiety, loss, and fear [ 42 ]. A cohort study from the UK looking at the long-term impact of flooding found psychological morbidity persisted for at least three years after the flooding event [ 43 ].

In addition to the tangible mental health impacts related to exposure to specific climate change-related events, studies have reported psychological impacts of perceived risks associated with climate change [ 44 , 45 ].

3.3. Mental Health Outcomes

3.3.1. symptom scales and screening tools.

Symptom scales were commonly used to examine mental health outcomes. Distress ( n = 17) was one of the most investigated outcomes; primarily psychological distress measured using the K10. Some studies attempted to develop specific environmental distress measures, including a scale for solastalgia and a specific ‘climate change distress’ scale [ 41 , 46 , 47 , 48 ]. Four studies used validated screening tools for mental disorders [ 39 , 41 , 45 , 46 ]. Only one study used a structured diagnostic instrument to determine mental disorder diagnoses [ 49 ].

3.3.2. Hospital Admissions

Alternatively, many studies utilised routinely collected administrative data. Psychiatric hospital admissions associated with temperature and heat waves were frequently studied ( n = 15). These studies demonstrate a positive association, particularly with elevated temperatures, with susceptibility varying in terms of demographic variables (e.g., older people shown to be at higher risk) [ 50 , 51 ] and type of disorder (e.g., organic disorders such as dementia) [ 52 ]. The relationship between hospital admissions and heat has been examined for a range of mental and neurological disorders, including dementia, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, somatoform disorders, and disorders of psychological development [ 52 , 53 , 54 ].

3.3.3. Mortality

Mortality has also been found to be influenced by high ambient temperatures for people living with mental illness and neurological conditions. A study of health outcome data from Adelaide, South Australia, for 1993–2006, has demonstrated that mortality attributed to mental and behavioural disorders increased during heat waves in the 65- to 74-years age group and in persons with psychosis [ 52 , 55 ]. Another European study supports this finding with increased mortality risk for people with psychiatric disorders during heat waves from 2000 to 2008 in Rome and Stockholm, particularly for older people (75+) and women. A study from England found that primary care patients with psychosis, dementia, and alcohol or substance misuse experienced significantly higher heat-related mortality above regionally defined temperature thresholds. This effect was more marked for younger patients and those with a primary diagnosis of alcohol or substance misuse [ 56 , 57 ]. Nitschke et al., found a small increase in mental health-related mortality in people aged 65–74 years during heat waves in metropolitan Adelaide [ 58 ]. Projections of mortality under different climate change scenarios in China also estimate increasing trends in heat-related excess mortality for mental disorders but a decreasing trend in cold-related excess mortality [ 59 ].

3.3.4. Self-Harm

Temperature has also been associated with self-harm and suicide rates [ 60 , 61 , 62 , 63 , 64 ]. Data from Finland found that temperature variability explained more than 60% of the total suicide variance over several decades [ 62 ]. Using data from the US and Mexico, suicide rates were found to increase by 0.7% and 3.1%, respectively, for a 1 °C increase in monthly average temperature, with unmitigated climate change projected to result in a combined 21,770 (95% CI 8950–39,260) additional suicides by 2050 [ 64 ].

3.3.5. Burden of Disease

Studies attempting to quantify the burden of mental disorders attributable to climate change are sparse. One study from South Korea has estimated the burden of disease related to climate change for a range of conditions and climate-related measures, including PTSD, as an outcome of disasters [ 65 ]. Unfortunately, this study was limited in several ways, including a lack of availability of input data.

3.4. Vulnerable Populations and Life Stages

3.4.1. pre-existing mental illness.

We identified a body of research related to populations and contexts that are anticipated to be more vulnerable to climate change and its mental health impacts. People taking certain psychotropic medications (including hypnotics, anxiolytics, and antipsychotics) are at increased risk of heatstroke and death as a result of high temperatures, possibly due to disruptions in thermoregulation triggered by some psychotropic medications [ 56 , 66 ]. One study from Australia showed that people living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) experience obsessions and compulsions directly aligned with climate change concerns [ 67 ].

3.4.2. Youth

According to the results of a national survey of Australian children aged 6–11, higher temperatures may impact children’s mental health [ 22 ]. Youth affected by drought may also experience cumulative mental health impacts [ 68 ].

3.4.3. Indigenous People

Qualitative studies reporting the unique mental health impacts of climate change on Inuit communities in Canada have described a loss of place-based solace, land-based activities such as hunting, and cultural identity due to changing weather and local landscapes [ 69 , 70 ]. Changes in sea ice stability and surface area are of particular cultural concern for Inuit [ 71 ]. Studies among these communities report that climate and environmental changes increase family stress, enhance the possibility of increased drug and alcohol use, amplify previous traumas and mental health stressors, and may increase the risk of suicidal ideation [ 72 ]. Indigenous communities from Alaska have also expressed significant concern for climate change and its impacts on local sustenance resources, such as berries [ 73 ]. Mental health, physical health, traditional/western education, access to country food and store-bought foods, access to financial resources, social networks, and connection to Inuit identity emerged as key components of Inuit adaptive capacity in the face of climate change [ 74 ]. Studies conducted with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from Australia also highlight the environmental impacts of climate change on emotional wellbeing, including increased community distress from deteriorating the connection to country [ 75 , 76 ]. Heat also appeared to be associated with suicide incidence in Australia’s Indigenous populations; however, other socio-demographic factors may play a more critical role than meteorological factors [ 77 ].

3.4.4. Low- and Middle-Income Countries

A study from Ethiopia, a low-income country that has a high dependency on the local environment to meet basic human and animal needs, demonstrated that seasonal environmental changes related to water security expose populations to significant emotional distress [ 78 ]. Small island developing states in the Pacific Ocean have been deemed to be particularly at risk and vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Low-lying villages in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific report that sea-level rise causes fear and worry on a personal and community level [ 79 ]. Research from Tuvalu, another small Pacific Island experiencing the threat of sea-level rise, describes the individual experiences of distress in the face of climate change and underscores the necessity to provide access to culturally informed social and mental health services in the region [ 80 ]. Three studies from Bangladesh have reported negative effects on emotional well-being as a result of climate-induced immobility [ 81 , 82 , 83 ].

3.5. Identifying the Most Effective Interventions

There were eight studies related to interventions; however, these were primarily exploratory and qualitative and focused on health professionals and community settings, and did not provide clear support for any one specific intervention.

One study looked at the health and social service responses to the long-term mental health impacts of a flood event. It concluded that sustained recovery interventions rooted in local knowledge and interdisciplinary action were required and that there are unintended consequences related to psychosocial interventions that can incite complex emotions and impact psychosocial recovery [ 84 ].

A study from rural Australia has described how a community development model, incorporating elements of health promotion, education, and early intervention, was accepted and considered effective in helping communities build capacity and resilience in the face of chronic drought-related hardship [ 85 ]. Unfortunately, this study did not measure the intervention’s impact on the mental health status of participants. Another Australian study that focused on rural health service managers found that 90% of respondents perceived climate change as likely to impact mental health and highlighted the important role of rural health services in education and advocacy on climate change’s health impacts [ 86 ]. A case study of health promotion practices that address climate change in Victorian (Australia) healthcare settings found that community gardens improved social connectedness and mental and physical health [ 87 ]. Results of a study from Canada revealed the need for improved medical education on climate change and health, including mental health, suggesting that a 3-h education activity would be useful and would allow family physicians to use this knowledge in their daily practice, notably through prevention and counselling [ 88 ].

Two studies explored the relationship between pro-environmental behaviour and mental health in terms of awareness of health risks and potential health co-benefits. Results from a survey in China indicated that residents’ health-risk perception is positively affected by climate-change information. Additionally, perceiving climate change as detrimental to mental health was shown to influence a residents’ attitude and intention to take environmental action more than physical health-risk perception [ 89 ]. A study of UK households found that while individual-level pro-environmental attitudes were negatively associated with mental health, household pro-environmental behaviours and attitudes of other household members were associated with positive outcomes, pointing towards a role of social capital and the household level as an important target for interventions [ 90 ].

Finally, a study exploring health perceptions in climate-driven migrants found that emphasis was placed on the importance of mental health, indicating that mental health interventions could be effective in this population [ 91 ].

3.6. Guiding Health-Promoting Mitigation and Adaptation Decisions in Other Sectors

A small number of studies ( n = 7) examined how sectors outside of health can mitigate and adapt to reduce climate change impacts on mental health. Three of these studies were from Inuit communities. Social and environmental factors that may protect mental health and wellbeing were highlighted, including being on the land and connecting to Inuit culture, as well as how Inuit-led monitoring of environmental conditions can guide climate change adaptation that considers intangible losses and damages to well-being and ways of living [ 92 , 93 , 94 ]. A study from Nepal revealed similar themes [ 95 ], while a 15-year prospective cohort study of Hurricane Katrina survivors (New Orleans, LA, USA) has concluded that mitigation efforts should prevent trauma exposure through investments in climate resilience and eliminating evacuation impediments [ 96 ].

Barriers to implementing strategies to adapt to combat the agricultural impacts of climate change have resulted in negative mental health outcomes among subsistence farmers in Burkina Faso [ 97 ]. Barriers comprised financial and time constraints, material and labour shortages, and inaccessible information; however, awareness of climate change was also reported to be limited.

Finally, an exploratory study surveying people affected by widespread public safety power shutoffs (PSPS) to reduce the risk of wildfires in California found that while people were mostly supportive of PSPS as an adaptation measure, it was associated with poorer physical and mental health [ 98 ].

3.7. Improving Decision-Support

Very few studies ( n = 3) reported issues that could support improved decision-making around mental health and climate change. Between 2010 and 2012, the WHO Division of Pacific Technical Support led a regional climate change and health vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning project in collaboration with health sector partners in 13 Pacific Island countries. Mental health was identified as a high-priority climate-sensitive health risk in eight out of the 13 countries [ 99 ]. However, another study found that policy documents on climate change from 12 countries made little or no reference to nine vulnerable groups, including people with mental illness [ 100 ].

A study designed to develop and validate indices of adaptation to flooding found that people who perceived a risk of flooding in their home in the next five years adopted more preventative behaviours and adaptation behaviours than those who perceived little or no risk at all. Additionally, people who felt more adverse effects of flooding on their physical or mental health tended to adopt more adaptive behaviours than those who felt little or no adverse effects on their health [ 101 ].

3.8. Estimating the Costs of Protecting Health from Climate Change

We did not find any studies that assessed the costs associated with climate change impacts on mental health. However, one study from the United Kingdom found that a social prescribing service for mental health—a service model which supports people to access healthcare resources and psychosocial support, considered to hold potential for reduced cost and carbon-footprint—was associated with reduced financial costs but an increased carbon footprint per patient. However, none of the differences between groups reached statistical significance [ 102 ].

3.9. Quality of Studies

Overall, the studies identified in this review were of sound (fair to good) quality. Out of the 93 studies that were quality assessed, 75% were rated good, 23% fair and 2% poor. It is important to note that we found significant variability in how environmental exposures were measured. Among the quantitative studies, we identified two types of approaches to measure exposure to climate-sensitive environmental hazards: (i) self-reported exposures using questionnaires and interviews (note that all qualitative studies used self-reported exposures) and (ii) interpolated exposures using external sources of data.

Fifty-two studies relied on self-reported information to assign a climate change-related exposure to study participants. We found large variability across the survey questions used to capture self-reported exposures, as no standardised questionnaire exists (in contrast to self-reported mental health outcomes) to measure subjective experience regarding climate-sensitive environmental hazards. Specifically, each study in our selected sample used a different question or metric to capture the environmental exposure. Such variability makes the evaluation of the robustness of used tools and the comparison between studies difficult. To the best of our knowledge, we did not identify any self-reported tool regarding the exposures of interest that were validated beforehand.

In addition, 48 studies relied on interpolated exposures using various types of available meteorological data sources. Some studies used meteorological data (mostly precipitation and temperature) from monitoring stations in the area of interest, often retrieved from the national or regional bureau of meteorology or data service centres. Other studies relied on remote sensing data from various satellite products with reanalysis, including the PRISM Climate Group [ 103 ] or the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Dataset [ 104 ]. While some studies used the meteorological variable directly in their analysis, such as daily maximum temperature, others further calculated indices or metrics to define weather events such as drought and heat waves. Most studies used the finest spatial resolution that was available while some used large-scale measurements when assigning exposure to meteorological variables, which may lead to important misclassification biases and impact effect estimates of interest. Indeed, assigning the same exposure to temperature, for example, on a given day to all individuals in a country or region is unlikely to accurately represent individuals’ exposure given well-documented local variations in microclimates [ 105 , 106 ]. We also found differences in the temporal scales that were used across studies. While most studies relied on daily estimates to capture acute effects on mental health outcomes, other studies used monthly or annual estimates to capture chronic impacts, describing various mechanisms such as economic insecurity or migration. Finally, some studies provided limited details regarding data sources and how indices were calculated, making it difficult to understand how exposures were estimated and hindering reproducibility efforts.

4. Discussion

This scoping review is the first to explore the existing original research literature that investigates climate change and mental health using WHO’s global research priorities as a framework [ 8 ]. We identified 120 original studies published between 2001 and 2020 that specifically referenced climate change impacts, adaptation, mitigation, and other interventions relevant to mental health. Most studies were quantitative, used a cross-sectional design, were conducted in high-income countries, and were concerned with assessing the mental health risks associated with climate change-related exposures.

The literature consistently points to the negative associations that climate change-related events have with individuals’ and communities’ mental health. Climate change-related events were shown to be associated with psychological distress, worsened mental health (particularly among people with pre-existing mental health conditions), increased psychiatric hospitalisations, higher mortality among people with mental illness, and heightened suicide rates. These results are largely in line with the detrimental impacts that climate change has been shown to have on many other aspects of health [ 2 ].

While the overwhelming focus on the mental health risks of climate change is understandable and has generated insight and traction for advocating the importance of considering mental health within climate change, only four studies have focused on protective factors or the coping mechanisms people and communities have used when responding to the detrimental mental health impacts of climate change [ 26 , 38 , 90 , 105 ]. An in-depth understanding of which factors constitute ‘resilience’ in the face of climate change would contribute to a more nuanced picture of the associations between climate change and mental health [ 107 ] and could be useful when devising programs and policies for those most heavily impacted by climate change.

Additionally, the focus on characterising and quantifying the linkages between climate change and mental health has not been matched by applied research on addressing and reducing these associated mental health risks [ 8 ]. Future work should investigate more systematically the possible effectiveness, scalability, and cost-effectiveness of interventions and policies aimed at safeguarding mental health in the face of climate change, including non-mental health interventions. Various health professionals, including nurses [ 108 ], emergency department clinicians [ 109 , 110 ], clinical psychologists, and psychiatrists [ 111 , 112 ], have already outlined ways to address mental health problems related to climate change within clinical practice and broader policy, highlighting the strong willingness to act in the medical community. There is also a growing movement of climate advocacy in the health sector, recognising the responsibility to protect the health of current and future generations and calling for meaningful government action [ 113 ].

The current review points to some important avenues for future research. As mentioned above, one key research priority is to dissect the association between mental health and climate change by investigating possible mediators and moderators as well as risk, vulnerability, and resilience factors in different populations. A systems-thinking approach, as advocated by Berry et al., might be particularly suitable for this endeavour [ 114 ]. This will be aided by more precise operationalization and conceptualization of environmental and mental health variables in the climate change space, another important research priority. Recent work to devise precise measurement instruments for constructs such as climate anxiety [ 115 ] represents an important step in this direction. Additionally, in order to move beyond the assessment of risk, other important research priorities relate to understanding how climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies might impact mental health and wellbeing [ 98 ] and how engagement in different types of pro-environmental behaviours such as climate activism might impact mental health [ 116 ]. A more comprehensive discussion of future directions in climate change and mental health research and practice will be covered in a separate paper by the authors.

The current review has a number of implications for policymakers and intergovernmental organizations such as the World Health Organization. While WHO is increasingly directing its attention to the health impacts of climate change, mental health has generally remained absent from these conversations. For example, as part of the Health and Climate Change Country Profile Project WHO 2019–2020 cycle, WHO reported that only three (i.e., Antigua and Barbuda, United Arab Emirates, and Solomon Islands) out of the 10 recently reviewed countries included mental health and well-being outcomes as part of their climate-sensitive health outcomes monitoring systems [ 117 ]. This is in stark contrast with other conditions such as vector-borne and waterborne disease, for which monitoring systems were in place for nine out of the 10 recently reviewed countries. The current review highlights the need for monitoring systems to systematically include mental health as part of their indicators in order to ensure precise monitoring and availability of data at the national level. Additionally, it indicates the importance of including climate change as an important determinant of mental health in policy documentation and action plans, such as in the future extension of the WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020 [ 118 ] to 2030. Importantly, future work might want to explore whether existing WHO documentation and intervention plans for humanitarian settings such as the mhGAP-HIG [ 119 ], the Building Back Better framework [ 120 ], and scalable psychological interventions [ 121 ] are applicable in the context of climate change or whether more specific adaptations are needed. Finally, WHO’s recent work on the integration of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) within disaster risk reduction efforts [ 122 ] might represent an important opportunity to integrate climate change within MHPSS.

Palinkas et al. have reviewed the preparedness and response strategies from a mental health services perspective across three areas: (1) acute and extreme weather events; (2) sub-acute or long-term events; and (3) the prospect of long-term and permanent changes, such as an uninhabitable physical environment [ 122 , 123 ]. It is these long-term impacts, in particular, which may demand a shift in attention, as we found only one study which examined the mental health impacts of more general and permanent environmental degradation [ 124 ].

A substantial limitation in the surveyed literature concerns the under-representation of research from low- and middle-income countries. The majority of studies identified in this review were conducted in Australia, Canada, and the US. However, evidence indicates that low- and middle-income countries are more at risk of climate change-related events and have fewer resources to respond to these stressors due to pre-existing vulnerabilities [ 125 , 126 ]. For example, according to the Climate Change Vulnerability Index, the five most vulnerable countries in the face of climate change globally in 2016 were Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Liberia, and South Sudan, all low-income countries considered at “extreme risk” in the face of climate change [ 127 ]. These vulnerable regions and populations are among the least responsible for the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet. The concept of climate justice highlights this double inequality of climate change, where there is an inverse distribution between risk and responsibility [ 128 ].

A possible limitation of the current study is that the search strategy used means that studies were included only if the authors explicitly linked the climate-related stressor they were considering and climate change. Indeed, a large amount of literature exists concerning the association between disasters and mental health [ 129 ] (without explicitly linking an increase in frequency and severity to climate change) which is likely to add value to the field. The geographical origin of the literature reviewed in the current paper is skewed towards high-income countries and unrepresentative of many regions of the world. The reasons for the relative abundance of research in countries such as Australia is worth exploring. Perhaps one reason for an under-representation of research from certain regions is that we only assessed studies in English. The decision to not explore non-English studies was related to our limited resources and capacity combined with the anticipation this extended search would yield limited studies.

It is also important to acknowledge that existing quality assessment tools are largely subjective and not perfectly adapted to the designs of studies included in this review and we were not able to assess the quality of studies employing modelling, case report, time-series, case-crossover, panel, or other unique study designs. Overall, our quality assessments highlight a need for improvement in future research—notably concerning improved measures of environmental exposures and mental health outcomes. For example, assessing the sensitivity and specificity of self-reported tools, for a given context and a given environmental hazard exposure, would be beneficial for assessing the reliability of such tools and allowing comparison across populations and studies.

The increasing number of studies on climate change and mental health parallels the growing traction in the broader field of climate change and health. Since 2007, the academic literature on this topic has tripled and media reports have increased by 78% [ 130 ]. However, mental health remains in a secondary position to physical health concerns, reflecting the state of global mental health more generally—despite research advances, the substantial burden of disease attributable to mental disorders has not improved, the quality of mental health services is routinely worse than services for physical health and government investment remains extremely limited [ 131 ]. This neglect is apparent in our findings and results in a continued lack of progress in improving the mental health of populations. The inattention to climate change impacts on mental health found in our scoping review echoes that noted by the Lancet Countdown report in 2018 [ 130 ]. This report noted that of the 16 national health adaptation strategies reviewed, mental health was the least considered climate-sensitive health outcome (mentioned by five out of 16 national health adaptation strategies).

5. Conclusions

The current scoping review has shown that climate change and mental health represents a rapidly growing area of research; however, it is underdeveloped and will need to accelerate and broaden in scope to respond with evidence-based mitigation and adaptation strategies. Most of the research has been devoted to assessing the mental health risks due to climate change, with less applied research investigating practical issues such as identifying the most effective interventions and policies to safeguard mental health in the face of climate change. Most of the research conducted to date is quantitative, cross-sectional, and conducted in high-income countries—therefore somewhat limiting the interpretability and the generalisability of the findings. Despite these limitations, the existing evidence overwhelmingly points to a negative association between climate change and mental health. Future research should aim at producing more robust and methodologically sound evidence on the link between mental health and climate change while also bearing in mind the importance of investigating what interventions, policies, and decision-making mechanisms can be put in place to mitigate the mental health impacts of climate change. This should represent a key priority in mental health research as, just like with physical health, climate change represents the biggest global threat to mental health of the 21st century [ 1 ].

Appendix A.1. Protecting Health from Climate Change—Global Research Priorities from the World Health Organization (WHO 2009)

  • Improved evaluation of current climate-related health risks, rather than a primary focus on risks over very long timeframes
  • Identification of vulnerable populations and life stages
  • Quantification of the fraction of morbidity and mortality attributable to climate hazards, and to climate change
  • Better assessment of neglected climate-mental health linkages
  • Systematic reviews of the evidence base for interventions
  • Methodological research to improve analytical tools for cost-effectiveness analysis
  • Improved methods for assessment of the health implications of decisions in other sectors
  • Health implications of climate change mitigation: energy and transport sectors
  • Health implications of climate change adaptation: water, food and agriculture sectors
  • Improved integration of climate change mitigation, adaptation, and health through “settings-based” research
  • Research to improve vulnerability and adaptation assessments
  • Improvement of operational predictions
  • Improved understanding of decision-making processes
  • Definition of harmonized methods to estimate costs and benefits
  • Assessment of the health costs of inaction and the costs of adaptation
  • Improved economic assessment of the health co-benefits of climate change mitigation

Appendix A.2. Search Strings by Online Database

PsycINFO: ((( IndexTermsFilt : (“Atmospheric Conditions”) OR IndexTermsFilt : (“Climate Change”) OR IndexTermsFilt : (“Global Warming”)) OR ( title : (“global warming”)) OR ( abstract : (“global warming”)) OR ( title : (“climate change”)) OR ( abstract : (“climate change”)) OR ( title : (“greenhouse effect”)) OR ( abstract : (“greenhouse effect”)) OR ( title : (weather)) OR ( abstract : (weather))) AND (( Year : [2001 TO 2019]) AND PublicationTypeFilt : “Peer Reviewed Journal” AND (( PopulationGroupFilt : (“Human”))))) AND ((( IndexTermsFilt : (“Mental Disorders”) OR IndexTermsFilt : (“Mental Health”)) OR ( title : (“mental disorders”)) OR ( abstract : (“mental disorders”)) OR ( title : (“mental disorder”)) OR ( abstract : (“mental disorder”)) OR ( title : (“mental illness”)) OR ( abstract : (“mental illness”)) OR ( title : (“mental illnesses”)) OR ( abstract : (“mental illnesses”)) OR ( title : (“mental health”)) OR ( abstract : (“mental health”))) AND (( Year : [2001 TO 2020]) AND PublicationTypeFilt : “Peer Reviewed Journal” AND (( PopulationGroupFilt : (“Human”)))))

EMBASE: (‘climate’/exp OR ‘greenhouse effect’/exp OR ‘weather’/exp OR ‘high temperature’/exp OR ‘climate change’:ab,ti OR ‘global warming’:ab,ti OR ‘greenhouse effect’:ab,ti OR ‘weather’:ab,ti) AND (‘mental disease’/exp OR ‘mental health’/exp OR ‘mental disorders’:ab,ti OR ‘mental disorder’:ab,ti OR ‘mental illness’:ab,ti OR ‘mental illnesses’:ab,ti OR ‘mental health’:ab,ti) AND [english]/lim AND [embase]/lim NOT [medline]/lim AND [2001–2020]/py

Web of Science: TS=(global warming OR climate change OR greenhouse effect OR weather) AND TS=(mental disorder OR mental disorders OR mental illness OR mental illnesses OR mental health) AND LANGUAGE: (English) Indexes=SCI-EXPANDED, SSCI, A&HCI, CPCI-S, CPCI-SSH, BKCI-S, BKCI-SSH, ESCI, CCR-EXPANDED, IC Timespan=2001–2020

Scopus: ((TITLE-ABS-KEY (“climate change”) OR TITLE-ABS-KEY (“global warming”) OR TITLE-ABS-KEY (“greenhouse effect”) OR TITLE-ABS-KEY (weather) AND (( TITLE-ABS-KEY (“mental disorder”) OR TITLE-ABS-KEY (“mental illness”) OR TITLE-ABS-KEY (“mental health”)) AND PUBYEAR > 2000 AND PUBYEAR < 2021)

CINAHL: (MH “Weather+”) OR (MH “Climate+”) OR TI(“climate change” or “global warming” or “greenhouse effect” or weather) OR AB(“climate change” or “global warming” or “greenhouse effect” or weather) AND (MM “Mental Health”) OR (MH “Behavioral and Mental Disorders+”) OR TI (“mental disorders” or “mental disorder” or “mental health” or “mental illness” OR “mental illnesses”) OR AB (“mental disorders” or “mental disorder” or “mental health” or “mental illness” OR “mental illnesses”) Limiters - Published Date: 20010101-20201231; English Language; Peer Reviewed; Exclude MEDLINE records

Summary of original research (N = 120).

Abbreviations—NR: not reported; NSW: New South Wales; USA: United States of America; WA: Western Australia.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization: F.C., T.B., M.P., and S.A.; methodology: F.C., S.A., and T.B.; validation: F.C. and S.A.; formal analysis: F.C., S.A., T.B., and M.P.; data curation: F.C., S.A., T.B., and M.P.; writing—original draft preparation: F.C., S.A., and T.B.; writing—review and editing: F.C., S.A., T.B., M.P., J.A., A.M., and J.G.S.; supervision: J.G.S. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

F.C. is supported by an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Early Career Fellowship (APP1138488).

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Conflicts of interest.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

America’s Climate Boomtowns Are Waiting

Rising temperatures could push millions of people north.

The Detroit skyline seen from empty train tracks

As my airplane flew low over the flatlands of western Michigan on a dreary December afternoon, sunbursts splintered the soot-toned clouds and made mirrors out of the flooded fields below. There was plenty of rain in this part of the Rust Belt—sometimes too much. Past the endless acres, I could make out the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, then soon, in the other direction, the Detroit River, Lakes Huron and Erie, and southern Canada. In a world running short on fresh water in its lakes and rivers, more than 20 percent of that water was right here. From a climate standpoint, there couldn’t be a safer place in the country—no hurricanes, no sea-level rise, not much risk of wildfires. That explains why models suggest many more people will soon arrive here.

My destination was the working-class city of Ypsilanti, and a meeting with Beth Gibbons, an urban planner and specialist in climate adaptation. Gibbons served as the founding executive director of a planning consortium called the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP), which was formed in part to consider how the country could anticipate and prepare for large-scale American climate migration. Gibbons believes that sooner or later a growing chunk of the nation’s population will be arriving in the Great Lakes region. Ypsilanti was an interesting place for us to meet: Many Black migrants from the South had moved here in the 20th century, and during World War II, some were employed building military aircraft. Now the city stands to be transformed again, this time by a great climate migration.

Across the Great Lakes region, cities were in their prime six decades ago as America forged its industrial might. But places such as Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Duluth have been in a steady decline ever since. And Ypsilanti, with its nest of underutilized streets, relatively cheap housing, and sprawling industrial spaces still belying the fact that its population peaked in 1970, is little different. That means—at least in theory—these cities have, in a word favored by planning types and scientists, “capacity” for more people.

Read: Every coastal home is now a stick of dynamite

As climate change brings disasters and increasingly unlivable conditions to growing swaths of the United States, it also has the potential to remake America’s economic landscape: Extreme heat, drought, and fires in the South and West could present an opportunity for much of the North. Tens of millions of Americans may move in response to these changes, fleeing coasts and the countryside for larger cities and more temperate climates. In turn, the extent to which our planet’s crisis can present an economic opportunity, or even reimagining, will largely depend on where people wind up, and the ways in which they are welcomed or scorned.

Gibbons, who now works at the climate consulting firm Farallon Strategies, sees Michigan’s future in the Californians unsettled by wildfire. Those people are going to move somewhere. And so they should be persuaded to come to Michigan, she says, before they move to places like Phoenix or Austin. The Great Lakes region should market itself as a climate refuge, she thinks, and then build an economy that makes use of its attributes: the value of its water, its land, its relative survivability. In her vision, small northern cities, invigorated by growing populations, somehow manage to blossom into bigger, greener, cleaner ones.

“There’s no future in which many, many people don’t head here,” Gibbons told me. The only question is whether “we don’t just end up being surprised by it.” And so Gibbons wants to see the Great Lakes states recruit people from around the country, as they did during the Great Migration. Back then, recruiters spread across the South to convince Black people there that opportunity awaited them in the factories of the North: That’s what helped make Ypsilanti.

Today, long after the bomber factory was reduced to weed-riddled expanses of abandoned pavement, the town lives on. This time, the Great Lakes’ water is what will persuade people to move here: Humans have long migrated in pursuit of fresh water. Temperature will also make Michigan an attractive destination for climate migrants. For the coldest places, global warming promises newfound productivity and economic growth. The research connecting economic activity to cool temperatures suggests that there is an optimum climate for human productivity, and as ideal conditions for humans shifts northward, some places may soon find themselves smack in the middle of it. The same research suggests that when that happens, people are bound to follow.

These are the findings of Marshall Burke, the deputy director of the Center for Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University. A notable 2015 paper he co-authored in the journal Nature earned international attention for predicting that most countries will see their economies shrivel with climate change. Less noticed, however, was what Burke found would happen on the northern side of that line: Incredible growth could await those places soon to enter their climate prime. Canada, Scandinavia, Iceland, and Russia could see their per capita gross domestic products double or even quadruple.

The United States is on the cusp of this dividing line between economic loss and fortune—its southern regions more imperiled, its northern latitudes much better positioned to capitalize on climate change. Proprietary climate models from the Rhodium Group, an environmental- and economic-research firm I collaborated with for this book , forecast that even as commercial crop yields free-fall across the Great Plains, Texas, and the South, those closer to the Canadian border will steadily increase. By as soon as 2040, yields in North Dakota could jump by 5 to 12 percent. In Minnesota and Wisconsin and northern New York, the rise could be closer to 12 percent. By the end of the century, should climate change be severe, those increases could jump by 24 to 30 percent. Shaded on Rhodium’s map, the data show a dark hot spot where agricultural improvements will far outpace anywhere else in the country. It is centered like a bull’s-eye right over the Great Lakes.

Read: Climate change is already rejiggering where Americans live

Indeed, big commercial agricultural companies and other land investors may already be anticipating this. Over the past several years, land values have skyrocketed across the upper Midwest, as buyers including Bill Gates have snatched up thousands of acres of farmland. To the south, they see the Ogallala Aquifer being depleted, and in California, regulatory mandates potentially reducing water consumption in the Central Valley by 40 to 50 percent, while in northern Michigan, there is more water than anyone knows what to do with.

The Rust Belt arguably led America’s industrial revolution, and with the push of new government support, this same region could help lead a green revolution. The Inflation Reduction Act, President Joe Biden’s historic climate legislation, has promised roughly $370 billion in subsidies for electric vehicles and clean energy, an injection of cash that has already spurred many billions more in private investment and revitalized the country’s manufacturing base. As of late last year, Michigan was the third-largest recipient of that investment. Following the IRA incentives, automakers have collectively invested tens of billions of dollars in the electric-vehicle supply-chain, and the federal government has made some $2 billion in grants available to retrofit and modernize old factories to produce electric vehicles.

Imagine the economic center of gravity of the United States shifting north, and the seesaw effects of that change on the geographic locus of American society. Consider again the lasting cultural implications—for music and arts and sports and labor—of the previous century’s Great Migration out of the South, and what doubling it could mean. One day, a high-speed rail line may race across the Dakotas, through Idaho’s up-and-coming wine country and the country’s new bread basket, to the megalopolis of Seattle, which will have grown so big as people move north that it has nearly merged with Vancouver, at the southern edge of Canada. Never mind that roughly half the country will likely have to experience total upheaval or extreme discomfort—or both—to arrive at this point, or the fact that by the time the Great Lakes region reaches its apex, much of the nation’s southern half will have withered. And of course, every place in America will experience dramatic change and disruption from warming—just look at Canada’s wildfires last summer. But the northern part of the U.S. is more shielded from the primary threats of sea-level rise, hurricanes, drought, and extreme heat. The vision amounts to what Beth Gibbons describes as a chance to shift the climate narrative away from one of exclusive failure. And it suggests that the displacement erupting from climate stress in some places will put others on track toward greater security, wealth, and prosperity.

Read: Vermont was supposed to be a climate haven

An economic boom projected for warming regions, though, Burke told me, will also likely depend on a growing population in the region, which means peacefully resettling large numbers of climate migrants. That’s easier said than done. In Ann Arbor, an affluent city hoping and preparing for climate-driven population growth, I talked with the city’s sustainability director, who counted herself with Beth Gibbons among the optimists. She told me she thought Ann Arbor could be turned into a climate destination, but she was surprised to find that even in her hyperliberal, upper-class college town, some people didn’t necessarily want that.

Gibbons, too, was running into resistance at every turn. Michigan’s Native American tribes, corralled into a tiny sovereign territory, told ASAP focus groups that they see climate change not only affecting their hunting and fishing grounds but potentially bringing new people and economic forces into conflict with their tribal rights. Rural communities from northern Wisconsin to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula fear something similar; the migration during the coronavirus pandemic showed them how little newly relocated second-home owners are simpatico with longtime locals who depend on harvesting timber and working large farms to make a living.

Elsewhere in the United States climate migration is already leading to rising tensions between old and new, as smaller communities confront incoming numbers and rapidly urbanize. The seemingly best places have begun to attract the wealthiest and most mobile to resettle, even while the worst consequences of climate change in the U.S. disproportionately affect minorities and the poor. In Michigan, even some progressives worry that climate migration today will amount to climate gentrification; not so far down the line, forced migration could instead yield fears of newcomers as economic burdens.

Migration can be thought of as the decision to leave, the choice of where to go, and the arrival at the destination. But what history shows is that the most friction occurs in the transitions leading up to and following these things. There is the separation, a breakdown, like paper being torn. And there is the integration of new people into an existing community, a community that could receive that change as an injection of vitality and energy and economic investment, or as a burden and a stressor.

In part, that outcome depends on who is displaced. As Carlos Martín, then a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, told an audience of planners who had gathered to discuss migration in 2020, it often takes time to know whether a place will welcome new settlers. Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, people who resettled in Texas and elsewhere were greeted with empathy. A year later, though, talk of providing aid had shifted to questions about crime and competition for housing, code words for racial tensions. The sympathy turned to finger-pointing and anger. Sometimes it depends on who it is that’s arriving. Are they white or Black? Are they buying glass-curtain-walled condos, perhaps fueling gentrification but also goosing an economic boom? Or are they unemployed refugees looking for housing in the low-income suburbs? The answers shouldn’t matter, Martín says, but they do.

This article has been adapted from the book On the Move: The Overheating Earth and the Uprooting of America by Abrahm Lustgarten.

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In a boost for EVs, EPA finalizes strict new limits on tailpipe emissions

Camila Domonoske square 2017

Camila Domonoske

Michael Copley

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Morning traffic fills the SR2 freeway in Los Angeles, California. The EPA released new rules for vehicle emissions that are expected to cut tailpipe pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, which are fueling climate change. David McNew/Getty Images hide caption

Morning traffic fills the SR2 freeway in Los Angeles, California. The EPA released new rules for vehicle emissions that are expected to cut tailpipe pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, which are fueling climate change.

After nearly a year of frantic lobbying and debate, the EPA has finalized strict new rules on vehicle emissions that will push the auto industry to accelerate its transition to electric vehicles.

The EPA expects that under the new rules, EVs could account for up to 56% of new passenger vehicles sold for model years 2030 through 2032, meeting a goal that President Biden set in 2021 .

The regulations are a cornerstone of the Biden Administration's efforts to fight climate change.

Combined with investments the U.S. is making in battery and electric vehicle manufacturing, the auto regulations will help shift the U.S. away from relying on fossil fuels for transportation, a senior administration official said during a call with reporters.

"Three years ago, I set an ambitious target: that half of all new cars and trucks sold in 2030 would be zero-emission," Biden said in a statement, adding that the country will meet that goal "and race forward in the years ahead."

Biden added that U.S. workers "will lead the world on autos making clean cars and trucks, each stamped 'Made in America. '"

The new rules require auto manufacturers to slash emissions of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide that are heating the planet, as well as air pollutants that contribute to soot and smog. The administration says the new standards will avoid more than seven billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions and deliver almost $100 billion in annual benefits, including $13 billion in health benefits as a result of less pollution.

"That's going to have immediate benefits in improving air quality, but also improving people's health," Cara Cook, director of programs at the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, told reporters ahead of the EPA's announcement. "So they're not breathing in dirty air, especially for those who are living near major roadways and highways, heavy traffic [areas]. Those are the ones that are going to really experience a significant amount of benefits from these rules."

Entire fleets, not individual cars, must meet strict rules

The rules cover light- and medium-duty vehicles — cars, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks, but not 18-wheelers — from model years 2027 to 2032.

For light-duty vehicles, the EPA expects the rules will result in an industry-wide average emissions target of 85 grams of carbon dioxide per mile, representing an almost 50% reduction compared to existing standards for model year 2026 vehicles. The agency expects the average CO2 emissions target for medium-duty vehicles to fall by 44%.

The EPA rules are not written as an EV mandate or a ban on the sale of gas cars, like some states and other countries have adopted. Instead, the EPA sets standards that apply across an entire fleet — meaning an automaker still can make vehicles with higher emissions, as long as they also make enough very low or zero-emission vehicles that it averages out.

That means over the next decade, automakers can continue to offer a range of vehicle types, but the "menu" that's available to consumers will shift to be cleaner overall.

The rules will likely drive a shift not just among automakers, but among their suppliers and in infrastructure, says Thomas Boylan, regulatory director at the Zero Emission Transportation Association, which advocates for electric vehicles.

"I think it creates a substantial tailwind in the EV market itself, but I think it's even more pronounced throughout the supply chain" for things like parts manufacturing and charging infrastructure, Boylan said.

"It's really that full supply chain that has an additional level of certainty with these types of rules."

The EPA says consumers will also be able to opt for gas-powered vehicles with particulate filters and gas-electric hybrids.

Electric vehicles have higher price tags, on average, than gas-powered vehicles, although the gap has been narrowing and federal tax credits sometimes exceed the difference. Consumer groups have expressed support for the EPA's rules, noting that EVs save drivers money over the life of the vehicle because it's almost always cheaper to charge than to fuel up. Researchers last year found the proposed rule would save all drivers money , with the biggest savings for lower-income Americans.

The EPA says it expects the new rules will deliver fuel savings to consumers of up to $46 billion annually, plus savings on maintenance and repairs that the agency values at $16 billion annually.

"This is one of the biggest pieces of climate regulation in history," Chris Harto, senior policy analyst for transportation and energy at Consumer Reports, said on a call with reporters.

"It's going to have opponents," Harto added, because the money consumers will save is "coming out of the pockets of the oil industry."

In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the rules also call for a reduction in other types of tailpipe pollution. A senior Biden administration official said those pollution regulations will reduce hospitalizations and prevent 2,500 premature deaths in 2055.

Auto industry asked for a slower start

The auto industry is in the midst of a dramatic transformation, with virtually all major companies pivoting toward making electric vehicles — albeit at different speeds.

In the U.S., EV sales increased by 50% last year, to just under 10% of new car sales. Automakers are also looking to Europe and China, which have embraced the idea of an electric future, and shifting their global plans accordingly.

But U.S. charging infrastructure is not increasing fast enough to keep pace with EV growth. Most EVs for sale right now are luxury vehicles, with relatively fewer options on the cheaper end of the scale. And, significantly, legacy automakers are making far more money on their gas-powered vehicles than their EVs, some of which are not yet profitable at all.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group representing auto manufacturers, asked the EPA to adjust the timeline for the new rules, dialing down the ambition for the next few years and then cranking up the pace toward the end of the time frame. The United Auto Workers union made a similar appeal.

The approach reflected what the Alliance calls a "Goldilocks problem": automakers see huge risks if they move too slowly or too quickly toward EVs.

Of course, the auto industry is not a monolith. All-electric automakers like Tesla and Rivian encouraged the EPA to set even more stringent rules. Dealers, who have generally been more skeptical of EVs than manufacturers, sharply criticized the EPA's original proposed rules.

The final rules the EPA settled on reflect the input from auto makers, labor unions and car dealers, a senior administration official said. Manufacturers will be able to make more gradual cuts to emissions in the early years, the official said, but the rules will ultimately deliver the same reductions as the agency's initial proposal.

The oil industry is fundamentally opposed

The oil industry, meanwhile, has been an even more vocal critic of these rules and other policies promoting EVs. Rising adoption of electric vehicles is expected to reduce oil demand over time, although it will take decades for the global fleet of vehicles to turn over.

Oil trade groups call the new EPA rule a ban on gas-powered cars, although the regulations allow the continued sale of gas vehicles. The American Petroleum Institute has said the rule "threatens consumer freedom, energy reliability and national security."

The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, which has spent millions on ads against the EPA rules and other policies, also criticized the EPA for not considering the environmental impact of manufacturing a giant battery or charging an EV. A large body of research has found that even with those impacts factored in , EVs are still vastly better for the planet than comparable fossil fuel vehicles. It's true, however, that larger, less efficient EVs have a bigger environmental footprint than smaller ones.

But the oil industry's opposition goes even further. The attorney general of Texas has previously filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA's authority to set rules designed to promote electric vehicles. Multiple oil trade groups backed Texas in the case. The auto industry sided with the EPA, noting that carmakers are investing billions in going electric and that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a "national priority."

In fact, cutting greenhouse gas emissions is a global priority. The world has now agreed that transitioning away from fossil fuels is key to reducing the devastating impacts of climate change that, even in the best-case scenario, will disrupt ecosystems and human lives around the world.

And as the EPA sets rules designed to accelerate the shift away from fossil fuels, carmakers and oil producers are responding very differently.

The auto industry sees a profitable zero-emissions future for itself — if it can figure out how (and when) to get there. The oil industry is fighting to defend its core product.

On a call with reporters earlier this month, Chet Thompson, the CEO of the AFPM, lambasted media reports that the EPA was considering a "compromise" that would give the auto industry a few more years of more lenient standards, buying companies time to prepare for the EV transition.

Thompson emphasized that the EPA rules would still be, fundamentally, aimed at making most cars sold in the U.S. run on batteries.

"At 2032, it's the same outcome," Thompson said, frustrated. "This administration should not be calling that a compromise when in fact, they want to take us to the same place."

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In Lake Erie, climate change scrambles zooplankton's seasonal presence

by Tatyana Woodall, The Ohio State University

In Lake Erie, climate change scrambles zooplankton's seasonal presence

A new analysis of zooplankton in western Lake Erie shows that their biomass and seasonal behavioral patterns have been drastically altered by human-driven changes in water temperature and food webs.

Zooplankton, aquatic microorganisms that reside in nearly all bodies of water, are extremely sensitive to changes in their ecosystem. This hypersensitivity makes them important bioindicators of water quality, and studying how they interact with their environment can provide researchers with detailed snapshots of a region's present ecological condition.

By taking a new look at more than two decades of plankton monitoring data, researchers at Ohio State University found that in western Lake Erie, zooplankton communities are undergoing a substantial change in the timing of certain events in their life cycles .

Using data collected from previous studies, the team examined the behavior patterns of four common types of zooplankton populations in Lake Erie between 1995 and 2022. Their analysis showed that due to factors like rising temperatures, the presence of invasive species, and the availability of high-quality food, the period when zooplankton concentrations are at their highest now varies by as much as three weeks in the summer months.

"Warming is making natural events happen earlier, as we can see across basically all ecosystems," said Jim Hood, lead author of the study and an associate professor in evolution, ecology, and organismal biology at Ohio State. "These systems are really complex, and any disruption is likely to have unseen negative effects."

Even in lakes, zooplankton plays a central role in the local freshwater food web, from determining which types of algae thrive to helping sustain local fish populations, said Hood. Yet, as the research notes, early warming can often advance the emergence of spring plankton while delaying fall populations, which can have a big impact. Because of their vital place in the food chain, major changes in plankton behavior could cause damage to other top-down and bottom-up processes that rely on them.

The study, recently published in the journal Limnology and Oceanography Letters , marks one of the first times scientists have tried to unpack the complexity of these dynamics in Lake Erie and the Great Lakes region.

Some of the most dominant changes observed in the timing of zooplankton emergence were caused by temperature variation as well as an invasive phytoplankton species called B. longimanus, which was likely carried over from Europe by shipping boats, said Hood.

"It's this invasive predator and the increase in harmful algae blooms that are really altering the timing of zooplankton concentrations," he said. "In some cases, they're causing them to move in earlier; in some cases, they're moving them in later."

Though harmful algal blooms have plagued Lake Erie for decades, warmer temperatures during the summer cause the organisms to grow thicker and faster. Because large blooms release toxins that endanger the health of humans and other animals and threaten important utility infrastructures, environmental scientists have been steadily working toward ways of addressing the multiple causes of their excess growth.

"It's not just climate change," said Hood. "All of the things humans are doing to these systems, like bringing in invasive species, are creating a complex series of interactions that are going to influence big things that people care about, like harmful algal blooms and fisheries."

This study's analysis period took place between May and September of each year when the four zooplankton species whose behavioral patterns were being surveyed were especially abundant. Though they all had different diets and life histories, they surprisingly each had varying reactions to B. longimanus and its effects on the ecosystem, revealing that the mechanisms that drive the timing of certain plankton behaviors are more sophisticated than they seem, said Hood.

"It was really noteworthy how these four taxa that we focused on all had different responses to this invasive species , which really highlights the need for more research on them," he said.

Hood and co-author Jenna Bailey suggested that further research should aim to extend monitoring in temperate lakes to learn how winter conditions influence zooplankton life cycles, offering insight into other freshwater ecology issues related to climate change.

"It's difficult to predict the effects human activity has on our ecosystems," said Hood. "But we need to step back and understand how all of these things that we're doing are interacting with one another and incorporate that into our management."

Journal information: Limnology and Oceanography Letters

Provided by The Ohio State University

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UN weather agency issues ‘red alert’ on climate change after record heat, ice-melt increases in 2023

The U.N. weather agency is sounding a “red alert” about global warming, citing record-smashing increases last year in greenhouse gases, land and water temperatures and melting of glaciers and sea ice, and is warning that the world’s efforts to reverse the trend have been inadequate.

Celeste Saulo, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General, speaks about the state of Global Climate 2023, during a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, March 19, 2024. The U.N. weather agency is sounding a “red alert” about global warming, citing record-smashing increases last year in greenhouse gases, land and water temperatures and melting of glaciers and sea ice, and warning that the world's efforts to reverse the trend have been inadequate. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

Celeste Saulo, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General, speaks about the state of Global Climate 2023, during a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, March 19, 2024. The U.N. weather agency is sounding a “red alert” about global warming, citing record-smashing increases last year in greenhouse gases, land and water temperatures and melting of glaciers and sea ice, and warning that the world’s efforts to reverse the trend have been inadequate. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

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FILE - A strip of snow makes a ski slope in Saalbach, Austria, Sunday, March 17, 2024. The U.N. weather agency is sounding “a red alert” about global warming last year and beyond, citing in a new report record-smashing statistics when it comes to greenhouse gases, temperatures of land and oceans, and melting glaciers and sea-ice — even if countries, companies and citizens are getting greener. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati, File)

FILE - A man walks on the cracked ground of the Sau reservoir, which is only at 5 percent of its capacity, in Vilanova de Sau, about 100 km (62 miles) north of Barcelona, Spain, on Jan. 26, 2024. The U.N. weather agency is sounding “a red alert” about global warming last year and beyond, citing in a new report record-smashing statistics when it comes to greenhouse gases, temperatures of land and oceans, and melting glaciers and sea-ice — even if countries, companies and citizens are getting greener. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. weather agency is sounding a “red alert” about global warming, citing record-smashing increases last year in greenhouse gases, land and water temperatures and melting of glaciers and sea ice, and is warning that the world’s efforts to reverse the trend have been inadequate.

The World Meteorological Organization said there is a “high probability” that 2024 will be another record-hot year.

The Geneva-based agency, in a “State of the Global Climate” report released Tuesday, ratcheted up concerns that a much-vaunted climate goal is increasingly in jeopardy: That the world can unite to limit planetary warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels.

“Never have we been so close – albeit on a temporary basis at the moment – to the 1.5° C lower limit of the Paris agreement on climate change,” said Celeste Saulo, the agency’s secretary-general. “The WMO community is sounding the red alert to the world.”

The 12-month period from March 2023 to February 2024 pushed beyond that 1.5-degree limit, averaging 1.56 C (2.81 F) higher, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Service. It said the calendar year 2023 was just below 1.5 C at 1.48 C (2.66 F) , but a record hot start to this year pushed beyond that level for the 12-month average.

Residents collect drinking water that falls naturally down a mountain in the Rocinha favela of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, March 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

“Earth’s issuing a distress call,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. “The latest State of the Global Climate report shows a planet on the brink. Fossil fuel pollution is sending climate chaos off the charts.”

Omar Baddour, WMO’s chief of climate monitoring, said the year after an El Niño event — the cyclical warming of the Pacific Ocean that affects global weather patterns — normally tends to be warmer.

“So we cannot say definitively about 2024 is going to be the warmest year. But what I would say: There is a high probability that 2024 will again break the record of 2023, but let’s wait and see,” he said. “January was the warmest January on record. So the records are still being broken.”

The latest WMO findings are especially stark when compiled in a single report. In 2023, over 90% of ocean waters experienced heat wave conditions at least once. Glaciers monitored since 1950 lost the most ice on record. Antarctic sea ice retreated to its lowest level ever.

“Topping all the bad news, what worries me the most is that the planet is now in a meltdown phase — literally and figuratively given the warming and mass loss from our polar ice sheets,” said Jonathan Overpeck, dean of the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, who wasn’t involved in the report.

Saulo called the climate crisis “the defining challenge that humanity faces” and said it combines with a crisis of inequality, as seen in growing food insecurity and migration.

WMO said the impact of heatwaves, floods, droughts, wildfires and tropical cyclones, exacerbated by climate change, was felt in lives and livelihoods on every continent in 2023.

“This list of record-smashing events is truly distressing, though not a surprise given the steady drumbeat of extreme events over the past year,” said University of Arizona climate scientist Kathy Jacobs, who also wasn’t involved in the WMO report. “The full cost of climate-change-accelerated events across sectors and regions has never been calculated in a meaningful way, but the cost to biodiversity and to the quality of life of future generations is incalculable.”

But the U.N. agency also acknowledged “a glimmer of hope” in trying to keep the Earth from running too high a fever. It said renewable energy generation capacity from wind, solar and waterpower rose nearly 50% from 2022 — to a total of 510 gigawatts.

“The target of 1.5C degree warming still holds, just like a speed limit on the highway still holds even if we temporarily exceed it,” said Malte Meinshausen, a professor of climate science at the University of Melbourne in Australia. “What is more urgent than ever is to grasp the economic opportunities that arise due to the low-cost renewables at our disposal, to decarbonize the electricity sector, and electrify other sectors.”

“We need to step on the brakes of ever-increasing GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions,” said Meinshausen, who also was not involved in the report. “And hopeful signs are there, that GHG emissions are about to peak.”

The report comes as climate experts and government ministers are to gather in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, on Thursday and Friday to press for greater climate action, including increased national commitments to fight global warming.

“Each year the climate story gets worse; each year WMO officials and others proclaim that the latest report is a wake-up call to decision makers,” said University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver, a former British Columbia lawmaker.

“Yet each year, once the 24-hour news cycle is over, far too many of our elected ‘leaders’ return to political grandstanding, partisan bickering and advancing policies with demonstrable short-term outcomes,” he said. “More often than not everything else ends up taking precedence over the advancement of climate policy. And so, nothing gets done.”

Borenstein reported from Washington, D.C.

The Associated Press’ climate and environmental coverage receives financial support from multiple private foundations. AP is solely responsible for all content. Find AP’s standards for working with philanthropies, a list of supporters and funded coverage areas at .



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