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Climate Crisis Considered Our Greatest Challenge — and We're Overwhelmed

A Vattenfall survey has found that the public see climate change as the main challenge of our age; while doomsday media coverage is compounding our anxiety about it, we're still looking to business and governments to save us.

In a recent survey, Swedish multinational energy firm Vattenfall polled people in Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, France and the UK about the emotions they experience in relation to climate change. More than a third believe that climate change is the most pressing global issue of our time, and more than 40 percent of respondents admitted to feelings of anxiety.

The report also analyzed media coverage of climate change in the last year; and the fact that the majority of it focuses on the severity of the issue and therefore is negative in tone, which can create feelings of powerlessness and understandably compound the public’s anxiety.

“It is clear that our emotions towards climate change have passed a tipping point in society. As a company that produces and supplies energy, our ability to make an impact is considerable and this report highlights that,” said Vattenfall President and CEO Magnus Hall.

Last month, Vattenfall created what looked like an ordinary, yet incredibly expensive, crib to illustrate the current difficulty in manufacturing everyday household items without the use of fossil fuels. The company painstakingly rethought the entire design and production process, combining futuristic and ancient methods, tools and materials to make the crib without any fossil-based materials or energy — so, it cost over $28,000 to produce.

The energy company is on a mission to make fossil-free living not only possible, but practical and affordable within one generation.

For this new report, Vattenfall consulted psychologist Renée Lertzman, who has long studied the phenomenon of “climate anxiety” or “eco anxiety.”

Many respondents also felt that a balanced climate conversation can inspire action, with which Lertzman agrees.

“A balanced conversation on climate change allows for all responses: we can be both vulnerable and scared, and brave and activated. A balanced public conversation allows us to acknowledge the full spectrum of these responses,” Lertzman said. “We no longer have to play the ping-pong game between hope, optimism and despair. We can hold both and many more of these truths together, knowing that our attempts to put our feelings and responses into boxes is set-up for failure.”