Climate change is one of the major challenges mankind is facing. 2019 was the second warmest year on record (NASA, 2020). Rising sea levels, droughts, extinction of species, containment of the living space, loss of agricultural production and even direct health problems for humans are only the tip of the iceberg, when we assume that these effects of climate change will even become more extreme in the future (NOAA, 2019). There is a consensus among scientists that the cause of climate change is man-made (Cook et al., 2013), with large implications for how we live, work, eat, and act as individuals as well as a whole society. In the past years, there have been increasing numbers in grassroots movements and NGOs who are demonstrating for a radical shift in climate policies by governments. For example, the “Fridays for future” movement has mobilized the world´s largest demonstration with approximately 7.6 million participants worldwide (Wahlström et al., 2020). As internationally accepted climate goals cannot be achieved with the current course of the governments, these activists want to continue demonstrating until the governments adapt their goals to the demands of the strikers.
Considering that climate change is a product of many human factors, such as the way we spend our money, make political decisions, and consume every day, it is clear that experts who are well versed in human psychology can make a decisive contribution to a behavioral change towards a more climate-neutral way of living, through changing attitudes, motivations, and perceptions of people (Osbaldiston & Schott, 2011). Although one branch of psychology, i.e. environmental psychology, has dealt with questions surrounding environmental behavior, many psychologists are not aware of the impact they could have in the field of climate protection. At the same time, many psychology students are mostly unaware of environmental psychology as such as it is only taught at few European universities, making climate change psychology a niche within a niche. Yet, there are many branches of psychology that have not been linked to the climate change debate, but if psychology’s role is seen a little broader, many of these more traditional branches provide exciting perspectives. For example, social psychology can provide many interesting insights into the group processes of climate activists. Similarly, industrial and organizational psychology can analyze human behavior relating to volunteer work in NGOs and grassroots movements to provide recommendations on how to make volunteer work more attractive and better supported by organizations.
Although some of the psychological perspectives mentioned before are already being taught in traditional ways, other perspectives, such as the industrial and organizational perspectives, are currently completely lacking. Climate change psychology being a niche topic within a niche creates a great challenge to engage more psychologists in the topic from a diverse range of psychological backgrounds. Furthermore, as climate change psychology can be conceived as an applied field of psychology, it is also necessary to have an applied training of psychology students so that they are able to not only be knowledgeable on climate change psychology, but actually are able to have the skillset to solve pressing issues of climate change. Given the niche status and a limited number of experts across the world, digital education created by a team of psychologists with diverse expertise and skillset provides the unique opportunity for the topic of climate change psychology to expand its reach to psychology students across Europe, while at the same time focusing on creating a visible real-world impact.
Therefore, in this project we will create a novel digital educational toolkit that will help establishing climate change psychology as work domain for psychology graduates. Starting off with an in-depth analysis of challenges and needs in climate change activism groups, NGOs and research, which will help convince teachers and researchers in psychology about the need to focus on this field, we will develop four intellectual outputs that will address climate change psychology topics from environmental, social, work, and organizational psychology perspectives and utilize the broad range of digital educational possibilities, such as e-learning, flipped classroom, and blended-learning approaches. At the same time, to make sure that theoretical knowledge is connected with the development of applied skills, we will focus on developing concepts that include the collaboration with NGOs and grassroots movements, enabling students to try out their knowledge in real-world settings. To engage these organizations to collaborate with higher education institutions in the long run, we shall additionally develop a free innovative digital coaching toolkit that displays the potential of psychological knowledge for the effective management of climate activism.