Embracing The Green Mindset: A Collaborative Approach To Combat Climate Change – Analysis


By Yi Wang and Siang Kim Chia

Droughts, floods, crop reductions, and disease-related deaths – people around the world are deeply experiencing the increasingly widespread impacts of climate change, and no one can remain unaffected. Many are forced to relocate, leaving behind their homes and loved ones. Yet, is the new place they arrive truly a Promised Land? Or perhaps, one day they might become displaced once again, embarking on a path of no return.

A Hotter and Hotter World

Since the beginning of summer this year, the northern hemisphere has witnessed extreme heat waves. From the Arabian Peninsula to North Africa, Southern Europe to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, India, Thailand, Vietnam, China, the central and western United States, and northern Mexico, scorching heat waves have swept across multiple regions. In the span of July 3-6, for four consecutive days, the global average temperature reached record highs. Data from the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) shows that on July 3, the global average temperature was 17.01°C (62.62ºF), reaching an average of 17.18°C (62.92ºF) on July 4 and 5, and soaring to 17.23°C (63.01ºF) on July 6. Since records began in 1979, the global average temperature has never exceeded 17°C. The World Meteorological Organization has issued a warning, “the onset of El Niño will greatly increase the likelihood of breaking temperature records and triggering more extreme heat in many parts of the world and in the ocean”. The effect will likely continue into next year 2024.

Since the 1990s, heat waves caused by global warming have resulted in trillions of dollars in losses worldwide. The International Labour Organization (ILO) predicts that by 2030, extreme heat will reduce global working hours by over 2%, equivalent to the loss of 80 million full-time jobs and costs of USD 2.4 trillion.

In early July, European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans visited China for the Fourth China-EU High-Level Environment and Climate Dialogue. The International Energy Agency (IEA) Director, Fatih Birol, also visited China. Furthermore, John Kerry, the American Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, arrived in Beijing, and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger too traveled to the country. These influential figures, braving the scorching heat, came together from far-flung places, and this not only requires their own physical health but also courage and determination to work together to enhance all people’s well-being.

The impacts of climate change on economic activities are more easily perceived, but its impact on social systems is much more severe. Accurately estimating the direct and indirect social costs of the climate crisis remains challenging.

Health Vulnerability Caused by Climate Change

Species on Earth undergo constant evolution, and humanity has an ongoing battle against diseases and disasters. During such a battle, life continues adapting and evolving. Human activities have contributed to global warming, resulting in the proliferation of extreme weather events, rendering both the natural and social environments more vulnerable, and intensifying the consequences of climate change on human health.

Amidst the array of illnesses, a troubling trend emerges with the rise of “emotional heatstroke” in recent times. This term denotes a psychological health issue triggered by the disruption of the body’s temperature regulation function. Notably, medical experts noted that the incidence of emotional heatstroke sees a significant upsurge, especially when temperatures soar above 35°C, sunshine exceeds 12 hours, and humidity surpasses 80%. Extended exposure to high temperatures, humidity, or scorching environments can lead individuals to experience emotional turbulence, heightened irritability, cognitive disturbances, abnormal behaviors, feelings of pessimism and despair, and, in extreme cases, sudden death or impulsive suicide. During sweltering summer conditions, even animal dispositions become irritable, resulting in increased aggression. Health organizations dedicated to infectious disease prevention have repeatedly urged pet owners to remain vigilant regarding potential dog bites.

In a compelling study by the MIT Media Lab, a close correlation between meteorological conditions and human psychological health was unveiled. The researchers undertook extensive quantitative analysis, drawing from random samples of nearly two million U.S. residents spanning from 2002 to 2012. The findings revealed that when the average monthly temperature ascended from 25°C to 30°C within a 30-day period, the likelihood of mental health deterioration increased by 0.5% (extrapolating this to the entire U.S. population, an estimated 2 million people faced mental health challenges during this period). Over the span of five years, with every 1°C rise in average temperature, the incidence of mental health issues surged by 2%. Notably, Hurricane Katrina led to a 4% spike in psychological disorders. The mounting environmental strain precipitated by climate change poses a tangible threat to human psychological well-being.

Furthermore, research indicates that flood events have significant impacts on mental health. In 2017, six months after a severe flood disaster in the rural areas of the northern basin of New South Wales in Australia, local medical researchers conducted a large-scale survey involving 745 business owners. Based on this sample group, the estimated prevalence of depression was 17.0%, highlighting the substantial influence of flood risks and related financial factors on the mental well-being of business owners. In 2020, the University of York in the UK published a research paper that systematically reviewed common mental health issues within 12 months after extreme weather events in the country. The study revealed that the mental health of the British population affected by storms or flooding was notably poorer. Among those impacted by floods, the incidence of anxiety was 19.8%, depression reached 21.35%, and PTSD reached 30.36%. These rates were so high that they even surpassed the lifetime prevalence of mental health issues in the general population. Furthermore, even years after the flood disaster, those affected still experienced anxiety during heavy rainfall periods.

The influence of weather on human emotions is a subject of interest to researchers and scientists. One prominent theory is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which suggests that changes in meteorological conditions not only impact our physical well-being but also significantly influence our psychological state. Notably, studies have shown a correlation between human serotonin levels and mood disorders like depression. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter found in the brain, is linked to positive emotions and feelings of happiness. Interestingly, its levels have been found to be lower on cloudy days compared to sunny ones.

These mental health issues highlight the increased vulnerability of humans exposed to extreme weather. This serves not only as a reminder for national public health agencies to pay attention but also emphasizes the need for enhanced support in disaster prevention and mitigation within the realm of social services. Planning and implementing systematic solutions to address climate risks should involve the integration of social capital, basic infrastructure, and coordinated efforts within the medical and educational sectors.

Man Plans, and God Laughs

There is an old Yiddish adage that goes “Der Mensch Tracht, un Gott Lacht”, which means “Man Plans, and God Laughs”. The maxim posits uncertainty in the world, and it rings truer this day considering the disruptions experienced by the human society due to climate changes. If this is not effectively addressed, it will not only cause physical harm and psychological trauma to individuals but also give rise to collective anxiety, mental disorders, and widespread social unrest. The burden on healthcare, education, and social welfare systems will consequently increase significantly, which lead to social infrastructure falling in malfunction. That would be the big test for the governance capacity everywhere.

The fundamental responsibility of a governance is to serve the survival and development of humanity, with public administrators prioritizing the well-being and happiness of the people as the central goal of sustainable development. As human suffering extends beyond borders, surpassing the limits of what normal senses of security and morality can bear, caring for one another becomes an obligation.

Climate Cooperation Requires Real Actions

The 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) will take place from November 30 to December 12 in the United Arab Emirates. The negotiation agenda will focus on four major issues, namely accelerating global energy transition, addressing climate financing, prioritizing life and livelihoods, and ensuring inclusivity. Currently, there are significant differences in climate action between the Global North and the Global South, leading to ongoing disputes over resource mobilization and funding allocation.

I believe that to enhance efficiency, climate policies and action plans should emphasize the following key points. By doing so, all parties can explore feasible new approaches and facilitate mutually beneficial multilateral agreements.

1. In the development of financial risk regulation policies and related standards, climate information sharing between organizations, governments, and the public and private sectors should be strengthened. This will enhance market transparency, ensure financial stability, and meet the growing demand for climate investments.

As of now, central banks and financial regulatory institutions in major economies, including the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan, and the People’s Bank of China, have each initiated their climate stress tests. Recognizing climate change as a major source of financial risk, they aim to implement micro-prudential tools to bolster climate risk management within financial institutions. However, countries still face challenges in areas such as quantifying and valuing climate risks and employing capital frameworks to control risks.

Climate risks extend beyond traditional geographic boundaries and can easily spread globally, creating interconnected global crises. Previous effective financial management practices and customary behavior may no longer be sufficient to address issues affecting the future of humanity and the livelihoods of millions. It is crucial for all sides to reshape their understanding and improve “feedback loops,” jointly shouldering responsibility. In 2021, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) led the development of a roadmap to address climate-related financial risks, emphasizing four key areas: disclosure of information, data gaps, vulnerability analysis, and regulatory requirements.

Preventing and managing climate risks hinge on information disclosure. Limited awareness of climate risks among people may hinder proactive actions for prevention. Climate information sharing, expanded cooperation, and a wide range of aspects, such as risk exposure data, carbon assets, stress test methods, and experience in scenario analysis, should be readily available. By sharing information and exploring best practices, all sides can enhance problem-solving effectiveness, contributing to both localized and overall financial stability.

2. Encouraging collaboration among climate technology-related enterprises to establish a “Climate Joint Fund” is important to promote scientific development and stimulate global innovation.

Given the destructive consequences of climate change affecting all of humanity, scientific technology serves as a powerful weapon to overcome such disasters. Advancements in technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, drones, the Internet of Things (IoT), clean energy, and smart agriculture are beneficial in mitigating climate risks and addressing climate issues. To achieve this, old grievances must be set aside, and conventional practices should be transcended to facilitate cooperation and expedite global innovation. International technological collaboration and scientific innovation need to be shielded from increasing political interference, ensuring that science and technology benefit impoverished and vulnerable populations.

Tech companies and investors worldwide should support global efforts to address climate risks independently and through diverse funding channels. Doing so serves both long-term returns and corporate social responsibility. Investors in the “Climate Joint Fund” can include enterprises and business leaders from different countries, as well as international banking organizations, investment funds, insurance companies, and philanthropic institutions. In the process of asset allocation in the market, collaboration between the fund and professional institutions, industry organizations, and social partners can provide policymakers with climate technology roadmap guidance and participate in the formulation of rules and standards suitable for local conditions, effectively promoting carbon reduction. Examples include efficient waste and drainage systems, smart grids, electric vehicle charging facilities, energy-efficient buildings, and lighting technologies.

The corporate world increasingly emphasizes achieving “environmental, social, and governance (ESG)” goals, ensuring that company actions can withstand future challenges, focusing on long-term benefits rather than being swayed by short-term interests or individual shareholders. However, many companies in emerging markets and developing countries still struggle to grasp the benefits of investing in climate change and fear high investment risks. Expanding private climate financing requires policy guidance and incentive measures to assist enterprises in pursuing the high-end route and high-skilled productivity while moving towards the upstream of the value chain (International Labour Organization, 2014).

3. Global North and Global South should engage in extensive exchanges on climate change education, broaden global talent and skill supply, and build capacity for climate project implementation.

Climate action impacts all professions globally. Hence, it necessitates adjustments to national economic structures. Such an issue goes beyond environmental concerns and involves complexity, encompassing interdisciplinary knowledge and technology, including climate science, economics, sociology, public policy, international politics, and journalism, among others. Strengthening exchange between global academic and research institutions enables a better understanding of domestic and international progress in climate-related research and comprehending specific challenges in climate change negotiations. Concrete research support is instrumental in minimizing policy failures and advancing toward targets.

To garner social consensus for climate change objectives and policies, gaining strong support from the general populace and communities is crucial. Across numerous countries, including China, there remain widespread cognitive limitations regarding the social impact of climate change, leading to a lesser willingness to participate and take action. From primary and secondary education to vocational skill training, proactive climate change-related learning should be promoted. Environmental change and mental health services should be provided within communities, facilitating international exchanges between cities. Nurturing the next generations with broader perspectives and enhanced capacities to address climate change will collectively drive green development and orderly industrial transformation, leading them to actively participate in climate action.

The advancement of human civilization hinges on continuous reflection and learning from our experiences. It is imperative for each individual to embrace a green mindset and actively contribute efforts toward environmental improvement in response to the challenges posed by climate change.

Yi Wang and Siang Kim Chia are researchers at ANBOUND


Anbound Consulting (Anbound) is an independent Think Tank with the headquarter based in Beijing. Established in 1993, Anbound specializes in public policy research, and enjoys a professional reputation in the areas of strategic forecasting, policy solutions and risk analysis. Anbound's research findings are widely recognized and create a deep interest within public media, academics and experts who are also providing consulting service to the State Council of China.

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