Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version

Fall 10-14-2022


Lange, Rachael. Emotional Perspectives on Existential Threat: Evaluating the Rationality of Climate Anxiety. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. October 2022.


Copyright Rachael Lange 2022.


This thesis seeks to answer the following question: Is climate anxiety a rational emotion? In order to arrive at an answer, several queries embedded in the main question must be addressed. This paper will outline a theory of emotion in order to define anxiety, assess climate change as a specific emotional object, and compare the rationality of anxiety using two evaluative standards. Climate anxiety is an emerging emotional phenomenon experienced in response to the perceived detrimental effects of a warming climate. Due to the novel identification of this contemporary emotional phenomenon with the established emotion of anxiety, there has thus far been little philosophical inquiry into the nature and rationality of climate anxiety. This paper will argue that this emotional phenomenon is rational up to a certain threshold, which varies depending on unique individual experience and the evaluative standard being used. Emotional and behavioral changes initiated in response to rational beliefs about climate change beyond the threshold of rationality become irrational detriments to the agent’s welfare.