Who Cares About Climate Change?: The Green Fatigue.


If you were asked to list the types of fatigue you are familiar with what would your answer be? Would it be physical and emotional fatigue? Or maybe the highly publicized donor and voter fatigue? Well make room for a new type fatigue that is about to become all the rage, The Green Fatigue.

According to recent studies, completed by GlobScan, the world has cooled down on global warming (see what I did there?).  Worldwide concerns about climate change have dropped dramatically since 2009, marking the setting in of the Green Fatigue.  From the 22,812 people surveyed from 22 different countries, fewer people consider things such as pollution, species loss and water shortage to be very serious.  Environmental concerns among citizens around the world have been falling and have now reached a twenty year low.  Along with the drop in concern, environmental reporting has taken a hit and has been declining in recent years. With climate change being ranked as the lowest concern, worries may have gone away but the problem has not.

Bad news for all of us on earth:


Evidence of environmental change is stronger now than ever. A few days after the GlobScan results became public; another press release emerged and caught my attention. Last year, the world became the hottest it has been since the end of the ice age, 11,300 years ago. Findings from the study, which was supported by the National Science Foundation, stated that the world’s temperature is still rising and will continue to reach a record high. The study highlighted that the most rapid change has occurred in the past century.

The emergence of evidence showing that

last year

earth scored the hottest temperature since the ice age puts to rest scepticism that global temperatures are no higher than they were in previous centuries, long before the increase in industrial emissions of carbon dioxide.  Another recent press release, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, noted the second biggest leap in carbon emissions since 1959 (the year record keeping began). The study states that the amount of heat trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere jumped “Dramatically” in 2012.

So why is the Green Fatigue setting in when climate change and global warming are at their worst?

Through some research the most obvious answer that came about is the timing of the Green Fatigue and the economic crisis. With concern about the environment declining in 2009, shortly after the recession hit, people began worrying more about the present economic situation and neglected future environmental issues. The drop in concern also coincides with the timing of the unsuccessful UN climate change summit in Copenhagen, which took place in December 2009. The conference created an air of confusion, disagreement as politicians failed to reach a deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The survey conducted by GlobScan also comes into question since it only surveyed 22 countries around the world. By examining the list of countries you will notice that only a few environmentally friendly countries such as Germany and France made an appearance. While the list was dominated by  some notorious environment bad boys such as China, U.S.A, India and good old Canada, which could have created unbalanced research results.

Share your thoughts! Is Green Fatigue here to stay? What factors do you think are contributing to it? Will environmental concern regain momentum in the future?


17 thoughts on “Who Cares About Climate Change?: The Green Fatigue.

  1. It blows my mind the number of people who are still either unaware or choose to ignore the reality of climate change and it’s implications. A recent article released in the the New York Times last week had the title “So, this climate change thing is real, science confirms”. The fact that it took this long for them to figure it out astounds and angers me.

    I think the initial green/climate movement started back when Al Gore released “An Inconvenient Truth”, it got people talking and sort of stirred the pot so to say. However, as with most “hot topics” in today’s society, something new came along to replace it in everyone’s mind. While I would like to be optimistic, I really feel it will take something drastic (think sea level rise, crop decline, spread of diseases) to start to wake people up to the realities we have brought upon ourselves.

  2. I think Green Fatigue is incredibly frightening, especially since climate change and its consequences are most likely going to make our economy even worse. It seems like we’re in a vicious circle of destruction with our environment and I agree with Danielle, humanity really needs a wake up call.

    Yet, on a happy note, hopefully insightful blogs like this will help open some people’s eyes 🙂

    • I agree – the implications of ignoring the effects of climate change are vastly experienced in many other areas, such as poverty for one.
      I do think that there is hope for green fatigue to lessen from time to time. Like many trends, they come in waves, so I think there is the possibility for people to ‘wake up’ again to the problems.

  3. Rasha- this was an fantastic post!! Especially liked the pun!
    I happen to agree with Dani, I think that it will require something drastic to wake up our “sleepy” population which is not only scary but extremely depressing! I just wish that inspiring folks like you and the Indevours could suddenly wake up everyone!
    Green fatigue terrifies me especially when it is the time for us to be most concerned. I think that this also has a connection with voter fatigue. The more interested and involved you are with voting (and potentially the environment), the more likely that you will not suffer from green fatigue. What do you think? Is there a connection? and how do we get away from Green Fatigue?

    • To be honest, I have never linked these two fatigues together. However, now that you mention it, I see a clear trend in both aspects. People who vote tend to be more involved in societal and political issues, therefore, most of those voting would definitely have their own take on the environment as well. But does this mean that all fatigues are linked together, and if one is solved then the rest of the fatigues are solves as well? I find that to be a very positive way of viewing the situation, I like it!

  4. I think that Green Fatigue will ebb and grow over the next few years as environmental crises hit. I think out of sight, out of mind is an apt representation of our relationship with environmental responsibility. However, I have great hope that in the near future, (when our generation has more control over the big stuff – governments and corporations), there will be a cultural shift that will result in more action than reaction in reference to environmental responsibility.

  5. Siba Ghrear says:

    I think your point about the economic crisis being related to the ‘Green Fatigue’ is very interesting. Many people maybe overwhelmed by the current global issues, and maybe, it is a sense of helplessness that has led to the ostensible lack of concern about climate change. I really do think we need to focus on the psychology of people in order to encourage change.. Maybe work on the ways we frame environmental issues, as well as, the way we discuss the proactive steps we can take at this point.

    • That point kind of relates to Omar’s point of “humanizing” the issue. Focusing on the psychology of people to change their views and cultivate more insight on the aspect of green fatigue is a great idea!

  6. I think Green Fatigue stems from from the fact that the environmental issue is unique in a number of ways:
    1. It lacks a “humanizing” image, for lack of a better word. If it is compared to several of the most recent events where people felt an urge to act, for instance, Haiti or (as much as I hate to use it) Kony 2012, where there were faces associated with the event; people felt motivated about doing something to help. However, telling people that the Arctic ice is melting would probably not draw the same reaction.
    2. Climate change is a long term issue, arguably taking place over a significantly longer period than any other event that has impacted peoples lives, while, generally, people live a day-to-day type of life. If I’m not seeing the immediate impact of the issue I’m being warned about, maybe it isn’t important enough for me to worry about it immediately.

    • The issue of Green Fatigue is definitely lacking a certain humanizing approach. People seem to disassociate themselves from the environment. Some, not all, tend to view it as a few trees and rivers and completely disregard it. On the other hand, effects of climate change on poverty and human survival are becoming more publicized, which adds a “humanizing” factor to the issue. But this approach remains relatively new, therefore, it will be interesting to see if future studies prove different results.

  7. You’re very right Rasha, green fatigue is coming at the worst possible time. We are facing an environmental crisis, but we don’t really know it yet. People in the developing world clearly feel the effects of climate change more than we do, which is another reason I think there’s green fatigue (because we talk about climate change all the time, but in reality it’s only affecting our lives minimally right now). I think we need to wake the world up before the environmental crisis gets to the point of impacting our survival… which it already has in a way. People can make the argument for the economy all they want, but in the end we can have no economy without an environment first! This is argument we might have to use to get people to pay attention, which is sad because the environment has intrinsic value and we shouldn’t need to put a price tag on to make us care about it. What do you think we need to do then to get people out of green fatigue and do something about climate change?

    • As Darrelle mentioned, I think that it is difficult to get people involved in any environmental movement if it requires a shift in their actions and daily attitudes. As much as I would love to provide an answer for your question, I feel like people will not become motivated till it’s too late and their lives are directly influenced by the issue.

  8. I actually disagree with Omar. I think people have fatigue for many human issues as much as environmental. However, many of the human issues don’t require them to change their behaviour quite as much. People can just give money to make themselves feel better about poverty in the world, whereas with climate change, it requires people in Canada and other environmentally unfriendly countries to drastically change our behaviour. People would rather ignore the problem than change their comfortable life. I agree with some of the others. It is going to take a drastic event to shove it in people’s faces. My fear is that it’ll be too late by then.

    • That is a great point. I feel like people are willing to support environmental or humanitarian movements as long as they do not have to change their lives. They are willing to tweet about it, share links on fb etc. but when it comes to real life action, very few are willing to follow up.

  9. Iman Arab says:

    Rasha ,the “negative attitude’ people are practising is evident in every reaction toward any concern. For example, international conflicts,disasters,wars and ofcourse environment. Unless something is really affecting their life they won’t take it seriously. All these areas, not only green fatigue, require more advocacy. I am worried that we will reach the point where there will not be enough population to be affected by these fatigues.

    • It is very worrying to think of the fact that at some point, it will be too late for people to change their attitudes and approach towards certain issues. Hopefully, a certain solution can be found, maybe something similar to the ones mentioned above like using psychology or humanizing the issue.

  10. A very interesting topic for sure! Maybe one aspect of green fatigue could be related to how overwintering environmental issues are. I think people feel very tied down when it comes to dealing with climate change. Little changes that people make such as recycling, might make them feel like the difference they are making is very insignificant. On the other hand, a big change such as a smaller reliance on the automobile seems like too big of a lifestyle change. I often sense that people have almost given into climate change. “It’s going to happen, might as well deal with it.” It’s really easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to an issue with this large of a scale. I believe for us to affect climate change, either a government led initiative has to be implemented or voting power. As students of the environment faculty, I think it is important for us to bring these environmental issues to a level that matters to the average citizen. What do you think?

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