Law proposed to tackle climate change fears in schools

Controversial MP calls for curb on 'extremist ideologies' and for environmentalists to consider impact on 'tender minds'

Tes Reporter

Climate crisis protest: controversial MP calls for law to curb eco-anxiety

A Conservative MP has proposed a bill to tackle the "anxiety" that he says teachers and pupils are experiencing over climate change warnings.

Sir Christopher Chope said he is "concerned" about the "sensitivities" of people towards the climate emergency which is "becoming like a phobia".

He also warned that "extremist ideologies can have a very serious impact upon the ignorant, upon the naive", and has developed two private member's bills that seek to reduce climate concerns.

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The Anxiety in Schools (Environmental Concerns) Bill and Anxiety (Environmental Concerns) Bill are two of 41 private member's bills that Sir Christopher presented in the Commons on Monday.

The former is summarised on the Parliament website as a "bill to make provision for guidance to schools about reducing anxiety about environmental concerns among pupils and staff; and for connected purposes".

Sir Christopher said it is "important" that MPs discuss growing eco-anxiety as it is "affecting some people in a very serious way".

He told the PA news agency: "Eco-anxiety is a recognised mental/medical condition for which you can obtain treatment in Harley Street if you have the money.

"These two bills look to address eco-anxiety and define it.

"This is a new subject for Parliament and I thought these private member's bills are an opportunity to ventilate it and get a response because this eco-anxiety is affecting some people in a very serious way. For example, it is causing some people to say they do not want to have children.

"This is quite a drastic response to an issue that they as individuals have no control over. It is becoming like a phobia."

Eco-anxiety or climate anxiety was defined by the American Psychological Association in 2017 as "a chronic fear of environmental doom", something Sir Christopher said was "increasing and I don't think it's healthy".

He also called for environmental groups such as Extinction Rebellion to "think about how they may impact tender minds".

"What I am concerned about is the sensitivities. There used to be a time when people were terrified by nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, rational people were concerned.

"I just fear that people are becoming...they're not looking at this in the proper context and extremist ideologies can have a very serious impact upon the ignorant, upon the naive, and that's what I'm trying to get at with these bills.

"It's important that we have a discussion about this."

The Christchurch MP added: "Who knows what the response will be. I've had positive responses so far. This is something we need to look into and find out more about."

Sir Christopher's proposed legislation is unlikely to become law without government support or due to a lack of parliamentary time.

He made headlines in June 2018 when he objected to Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse's bill which looked to make upskirting, where people take photos up a victim's skirts without their consent, a criminal offence.

Sir Christopher said his sole aim was to prevent badly thought-out legislation, and the government later fast-tracked the change through its own measures.

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