Collage of images showing the climate crisis

Signs of climate breakdown are evident across the globe. From wildfires in the US and Europe to heatwaves in India and Pakistan and heavy rainfall in the UK, record-breaking extreme weather events are occurring in every continent and increasing in frequency and intensity. What is unexpected, however, is the speed with which global warming even at the current level of 1C is resulting in climate chaos. Contrary to earlier scientific forecasts that temperatures would rise to over 40C by 2050 in the UK, this record has already been reached by the summer of 2022, prompting leading climate scientists to warn that the future is already here. We are informed that climate breakdown is inevitable and global leaders acknowledge that they are scared, as avoiding the most catastrophic outcomes is the best we can now do.

The fact that climate change is the biggest threat to global public health was recognised more than a decade ago but carbon emissions have simply continued to increase. Estimations of the direct health effects of aspects of climate change such as heat stress, floods, air pollution, food insecurity and the spread of vector-borne disease demonstrate that the global burden of morbidity and mortality is also increasing steeply on every continent. But, despite the recognition that the mental health toll is likely to be as severe, few efforts have been made to quantify this burden, study its extended impact on society, forecast its effects on socio-economic trends of the future or to explore ways by which the negative impacts could be addressed and hope could be harnessed to ensure the best societal outcomes for the future. This collection of research studies, commentaries and analyses attempts to remedy this gap, as it shines a light on this hitherto neglected area of the mental health and wellbeing impacts of climate change.

Join the guest editor Professor Mala Rao (Imperial College London), Dr Adrian James (President, Royal College Psychiatrists) and authors from around the world for a one-hour webinar to mark the launch of a special issue of the International Review of Psychiatry on the climate crisis and mental health.

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