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Title: Communicating, tailoring and using climate projections in adaptation planning
Author: Lorenz, Susanne
ISNI:       0000 0004 5371 3872
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2015
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Abstract:
Planning for adaptation to climate change is often considered to be more effective if grounded on a solid evidence base and recognisant of relevant climate projections. How these climate projections are communicated, perceived and used is thus a key part of the adaptation process. The process of creating communications and communication tools that are considered usable by the intended users and therefore considered to be effective decision support is impacted by a range of complex factors that need to be considered in conjunction with each other. The aim of this thesis is to examine the challenges for the communication, tailoring and use of climate projections for adaptation planning in Germany and the UK, both considered leaders on climate change adaptation, and suggest how cross-level insights from the individual, local and national scale can help to advance a more comprehensive understanding of the usability of communication tools for adaptation planning. This research adopts a multi-level perspective by exploring scientific uncertainty communication in national level adaptation strategies, usability of climate projections for local adaptation planning and comprehension and use of tailored information at the individual level. The thesis takes a mixed methods approach combining qualitative analysis from documentary and interview research with quantitative analysis using survey results. Climate projections are inherently uncertain and their communication is thus always linked to the challenge of communicating physical science uncertainty. Based on the development of a new uncertainty assessment framework for comparing approaches to the inclusion and communication of physical science uncertainty, marked differences between the National Adaptation Strategies (NAS) of ten European countries are found. Through the examination of the English and German NAS in particular, this thesis theorises that similar stages of development in adaptation policy planning can nevertheless result in differences in the handling and communication of physical science uncertainty. In addition, the results show that the wider socio-political context within which the NAS are framed affects the extent to which physical science uncertainties are communicated comprehensively. This socio-political and wider regulatory and legal context is also found to impact the demand for and use of climate projections for local adaptation planning in both England and Germany. Local planning in England has not only experienced a decline in use of climate projections, but the waning of the adaptation agenda more widely, amidst local government budget cuts and other adverse policy changes. In Germany, spatial planning makes substantial use of current climate information but the strictly regulated nature of planning prevents the use of climate projections, due to their inherent uncertainties. These findings highlight that the communication of climate projections is more effective at the local level when it is mindful of the wider context within which planning decisions are made, as this will impact the usability of provided tools and information. As the adaptation agenda within the local government planning context is often the predominant responsibility of only very few people within a given local authority, this thesis also empirically tests a number of different graph formats for the provision of climate projection information. The findings show that respondents appear to use the graph formats for their own planning decisions or for communicating with other staff within the council that they think they understand the best, rather than the ones they actually understand the best. There is no consistent association between users’ assessed comprehension and perceived comprehension, which highlights that effective information tailoring according to user needs, will require a more individualised approach and more systematic empirical testing. These findings highlight that audience specific targeted communication to support well-informed adaptation planning may be more challenging than previously thought. If the aim is to increase usability of climate projections through tailored communication, it is important to jointly consider the particular constraints or requirements of the wider socio-political and institutional context within which adaptation planning takes place as well as recognise the varying needs, demands and preferences of the individual adaptation practitioner. This research helps to provide key considerations for the provision and design of more usable tools for communicating climate change projections within their intended adaptation planning context.
Supervisor: Forster, Piers M. ; Dessai, Suraje ; Paavola, Jouni Sponsor: NERC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.675525  DOI: Not available
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