Effective Public Service Communication Networks for Climate Change Adaptation

Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)


Climate change adaptation is fundamentally linked to the suitability and adaptability of communication networks to confront consequences of climate change and climate-related extreme events. Communications often receive less attention yet are critical to managing adverse outcomes of climate change by emphasizing human and technological interfaces. Several cases of communication failures and ultimate successes in extreme events are diagnosed uniquely using network concepts. In these cases, communications influenced the magnitude and direction of consequences and illustrate successful learning efforts and best practices across disciplines to address communication deficiencies. The overarching research question is how two critical components of risk communication—messaging and the adequacy of communication technology—can be shaped to support adaptations to climate change to reduce its adverse consequences. Messaging and technologies act together at human-technology interfaces. One case involved the interplay of communication technology, human capacity for understanding warnings, and mortality in a record mid-West tornado, and improvements were recommended at human and technological interfaces for more effective communication. A second case involved communications among weather scientists, government operators, system users, and other groups about transit services in a severe New York City snowstorm, and learning from those experiences contributed to reduced human exposures and addressed operational changes for transit services in subsequent storms. A third case addressed communication failures in getting services to New York City’s populations in record-breaking storm-related flooding of the New York City subway system, which resulted in recommendations about information access and accuracy. The methodological approach follows case-based research techniques supported by network concepts. These failures and the lessons learned provide key, transferrable strategies and methodologies for climate change adaptation in terms of a multi-disciplinary, network approaches for communication. Although many of the analyses emphasize technology for communications improvements, these are embedded in a larger framework of societal and inter-organizational networks that reflect human-technological interfaces.


Risk communication Climate change Extreme events Infrastructure Adaptation 



The following US National Science Foundation (NSF) research grants are acknowledged for their support of this work: NSF grant number 1444755 (Arizona State University lead)—Urban Resilience to Extreme Weather Related Events Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN); NSF grant number 1441140 Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Processes and Systems (RIPS) Type 1—A meta-network system framework for resilient analysis and design of modern interdependent critical infrastructures; NSF grant number 1541164 Critical Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Systems and Processes (CRISP) Type 1—Reductionist and integrative approaches to improve the resiliency of multi-scale interdependent critical infrastructure; and NSF grant number 1316335 RAPID/Collaborative Research: Collection of Perishable Hurricane Sandy Data on Weather-Related Damage to Urban Power and Transit Infrastructure. Disclaimer: Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public ServiceInstitute for Civil Infrastructure Systems, New York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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