Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Patient suffered from 'climate change delusion'

Rachel Nowak, Australasian editor for New Scientist Environment blog: Climate change deniers have been having a field day with a recent report of the first known case of a patient diagnosed with "climate change delusion".

The 17-year-old man believed that, due to climate change, his own consumption of water could run supplies dry, leading to the deaths of millions of people. He became suicidal, tried to stop drinking, and had been obsessively checking for leaking taps at home to prevent this happening. The case was reported in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.

Andrew Bolt, a columnist at the Herald Sun here in Australia, got the ball rolling. He claimed that the "17-year-old [was] tipped over the edge by global warming fearmongers." Ultra-conservative US commentator Rush Limbaugh ran with the ball, reading from Bolt's article on his radio show. (Incidentally, Limbaugh's show that day also included a rant about children being encouraged to ride bikes to school rather than be driven because of environmental concerns. Mr Limbaugh: we are talking about riding bikes, not switching off dialysis machines.)

Both Bolt and Limbaugh would, in all probability, be aware that both clinical depression and psychosis - components of the young man's condition - are relatively common. The causes are still unclear, although genes, brain chemical imbalances, drug abuse and environmental stresses - things like domestic violence, not concerns about climate change - may all play a role.

…Of course, this case might just illustrate something that climate change deniers may be anxious to deny: in many parts of the world, concerns about climate change are no longer limited to a small group of professionals, but are a societal concern that is widespread enough to become part of 17-year-old's delusions….

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