Climate Emergency and the Impact on Students’ Wellbeing

On Monday 17 April, a University of Exeter student protested at the Snooker World Championship as part of the Just Stop Oil campaign. This has reached national coverage and along with other action, put the conversation about fossil fuels at the forefront of many people’s minds.

We want to make it clear that this is not a statement about what our student did, but instead this is a strong statement about why our student might have done it. Students are increasingly worried about the state our world is in and what it means for their futures, therefore the impact of the climate emergency on students’ mental health and wellbeing cannot be ignored.

Burning fossil fuels produces 89% of all our carbon emissions and approximately 36% of all our methane emissions and together with deforestation is the primary cause of human-induced climate change. Climate change is widespread, rapid, and accelerating. At only 1.2°C of warming we are already seeing the dangerous impacts of the climate crisis unfolding around the world in the form of floods, wildfires, extreme heat events, drought and famine. The IPCC’s latest findings indicate that 1.5℃ warming from pre-industrial times will be reached or exceeded in the early 2030s regardless of the emissions path taken, while current climate model simulations suggest that temperature could be reached as early as 2026-2029. (Tebaldi et al., 2021).

World leading research from climate scientists, including those based at the University of Exeter, are warning that we have already passed several key climate tipping points and are dangerously close to reaching others. (Lenton et al, Nature 2019). 

The mental health implications of the climate crisis on young people are hugely significant. According to a survey led by the University of Bath, most young people are worried and angry about what they see ahead. Overall, 75% of young respondents said,“ the future is frightening. Additionally, 45% said that worry about climate change is affecting their daily lives and functioning. And 59% characterised themselves as extremely worried, while 84% said they were moderately worried. The survey tied young people’s concerns to governmental inaction — 58% of respondents said governments are “betraying me, future generations, [or both].” 

Climate change is affecting a majority of our students, and this worry about the future of our planet influences their mental health and wellbeing, which could also negatively impact their ability to both study and work whilst at university. It’s an important issue, and one that cannot be ignored by institutions.

We’re publishing this because we’re an education charity, and we encourage you to reflect on the impact this is having on our student community. We’d welcome any further conversations with the University of Exeter about how we can tackle this important issue together.

The wellbeing of the student is our primary concern, and we want to remind everyone in our community that harassment, discrimination, and threatening behaviour to other members of our community will not be tolerated.


Eco-anxiety: 75% of young people say 'the future is frightening'

IPCC Report AR6 

ESD - Peer review - Climate model projections from the Scenario Model Intercomparison Project (ScenarioMIP) of CMIP6 

Analysis: Fossil-fuel emissions in 2018 increasing at fastest rate for seven years - Carbon Brief. 

Climate tipping points — too risky to bet against 

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