Climatic Change

, Volume 149, Issue 2, pp 173–187 | Cite as

Climate change communication from cities in the USA

  • Constantine BoussalisEmail author
  • Travis G. Coan
  • Mirya R. Holman


Cities in the USA engage in action on climate change, even as the federal government remains resistant to comprehensive climate policy. While experts generally agree that local level adaptation and mitigation policies are critical to avoiding the worst climate impacts, the degree to which cities communicate climate change issues to their constituents has yet to be fully explored. In this article, we evaluate how US cities communicate climate change-related issues, problems, and policies. We use a computer-assisted approach to evaluate climate change efforts by cities by examining the full text of press releases of 82 large cities in the USA. We first identify who discusses climate change, finding that many large cities in the USA address climate change in their public communication. Second, we examine the content of these discussions. Many cities discuss weather-related concerns in conjunction with broad collaborative efforts to address global warming, while city-based policy discussions focus more on energy and transportation efforts. Third, we evaluate the local factors associated with these discussions. We find that the city’s climate vulnerability is particularly influential in shaping the level and timing of climatic communication.



For helpful comments, we wish to thank Anna Harper and participants at the 2017 Text in Politics Workshop, PolitcologenEtmaal, University of Leiden; the 2017 European Political Science Association Annual Conference, Milan; the 2017 American Political Science Association meeting, San Francisco, CA; and the 2017 Political Studies Association of Ireland meeting, Dublin. Any remaining errors are the authors’ exclusively.

Supplementary material

10584_2018_2223_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (207 kb)
(PDF 207 KB)


  1. Bambrick HJ, Capon AG, Barnett GB, Beaty RM, Burton AJ (2011) Climate change and health in the urban environment: adaptation opportunities in australian cities. Asia-Pac J Publ Health 23(2):67S–79SCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bohr J (2017) Is it hot in here or is it just me? Temperature anomalies and political polarization over global warming in the American public. Clim Chang 142(1-2):271–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boussalis C, Coan TG, Poberezhskaya M (2016) Measuring and modeling russian newspaper coverage of climate change. Glob Environ Chang 41:99–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boykoff M, Daly M, Gifford L, Luedecke G, McAllister L, Nacu-Schmidt A, Andrews K (2015) World newspaper coverage of climate change or global warming, 2004–2015. Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado.
  5. Bromley-Trujillo R, Stoutenborough JW, Kirkpatrick KJ, Vedlitz A (2014) Climate scientists and environmental interest groups: the intersection of expertise and advocacy. Polit Groups Identities 2(1):120–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bromley-Trujillo R, Butler JS, Poe J, Davis W (2016) The spreading of innovation: state adoptions of energy and climate change policy. Rev Policy Res 33 (5):544–565CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brulle RJ, Carmichael J, Jenkins JC (2012) Shifting public opinion on climate change: an empirical assessment of factors influencing concern over climate change in the US, 2002–2010. Clim Chang 114(2):169–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Badger E, Bui Q, Pearce A (2016) The election highlighted a growing rural-urban split. The New York Times.
  9. Coan TG, Holman MR (2008) Voting green. Soc Sci Q 89(5):1121–1135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Comrie M (1997) Media tactics in New Zealand’s crown health enterprises. Public Relat Rev 23(2):161–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dunlap RE, McCright AM, Yarosh JH (2016) The political divide on climate change: partisan polarization widens in the US. Environ Sci Policy Sustain Dev 58 (5):4–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Egan PJ (2013) Partisan priorities: How issue ownership drives and distorts American politics. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Foran C (2016) Donald Trump and the triumph of climate-change denial. The Atlantic.
  14. Franzen A, Vogl D (2013) Two decades of measuring environmental attitudes: a comparative analysis of 33 countries. Glob Environ Chang 23(5):1001–1008CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Füssel H-M (2007) Vulnerability: a generally applicable conceptual framework for climate change research. Glob Environ Chang 17(2):155–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gelissen J (2007) Explaining popular support for environmental protection a multilevel analysis of 50 nations. Environ Behav 39(3):392–415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Genovese F (2014) States’ interests at international climate negotiations: new measures of bargaining positions. Environ Polit 23(4):610–631CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Golitsynskiy S (2013) Computational methods applied to mass communication research: the case of press release content in news media (Doctoral dissertation)Google Scholar
  19. Greene Z, O’Brien D (2016) Diverse parties, diverse agendas? Female politicians and the parliamentary party’s role in platform formation. Eur J Polit Res 55(3):435–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Grimmer J (2010) A Bayesian hierarchical topic model for political texts: measuring expressed agendas in Senate press releases. Polit Anal 18(1):1–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grimmer J, Messing S, Westwood SJ (2012) How words and money cultivate a personal vote: the effect of legislator credit claiming on constituent credit allocation. Amer Polit Sci Rev 106(4):703–719CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Grimmer J (2013a) Appropriators not position takers: the distorting effects of electoral incentives on congressional representation. Am J Polit Sci 57(3):624–642Google Scholar
  23. Grimmer J (2013b) Representational style in congress: what legislators say and why it matters. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  24. Grimmer J, Stewart BM (2013) Text as data: the promise and pitfalls of automatic content analysis methods for political texts. Polit Anal 21(3):267–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Guber DL (2003) Grassoots of the green revolution: polling America on the environment. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  26. Hallegatte S, Green C, Nicholls RJ, Corfee-Morlot J (2013) Future flood losses in major coastal cities. Nat Clim Chang 3(9):802–806CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Herrnstadt E, Muehlegger E (2014) Weather, salience of climate change and congressional voting. J Environ Econ Manag 68(3):435–448CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Holman MR (2015) Women in politics in the American city. Temple University Press, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  29. Inglehart R (1995) Public support for environmental protection: objective problems and subjective values in 43 societies. PS: Polit Sci Polit 28(01):57–72Google Scholar
  30. Jones C, Kammen DM (2014) Spatial distribution of us household carbon footprints reveals suburbanization undermines greenhouse gas benefits of urban population density. Environ Sci Technol 48 (2):895– 902CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kahn ME, Kotchen MJ (2011) Business cycle effects on concern about climate change: the chilling effect of recession. Clim Chang Econ 2(03):257–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. King G, Pan J, Roberts ME (2013) How censorship in China allows government criticism but silences collective expression. Amer Polit Sci Rev 107(02):326–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kiousis S, Mitrook M, Wu X, Seltzer T (2006) First- and second-level agenda-building and agenda-setting effects: exploring the linkages among candidate news releases, media coverage, and public opinion during the 2002 Florida gubernatorial election. J Public Relat Res 18(3):265–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kjellstrom T, Mcmichael AJ (2013) Climate change threats to population health and well-being: the imperative of protective solutions that will last. Global Health Action 6(1):20816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Koronowski R (2017) The climate denier caucus in Trump’s Washington.
  36. Krause RM (2011) Policy innovation, intergovernmental relations, and the adoption of climate protection initiatives by US cities. J Urban Aff 33(1):45–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Li Y, Johnson EJ, Zaval L (2011) Local warming daily temperature change influences belief in global warming. Psychological Science 22(4):454–459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Liu X, Lindquist E, Vedlitz A (2011) Explaining media and congressional attention to global climate change, 1969–2005: an empirical test of agenda-setting theory. Political Research Quarterly 64(2):405–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lubell M, Feiock RC, La Cruz D, Ramirez EE (2009) Local institutions and the politics of urban growth. Am J Polit Sci 53(3):649–665CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lutsey N, Sperling D (2008) America’s bottom-up climate change mitigation policy. Energy Policy 36(2):673–685CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Marquart-Pyatt ST, McCright AM, Dietz T, Dunlap RE (2014) Politics eclipses climate extremes for climate change perceptions. Glob Environ Chang 29:246–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McCormick S (2016) Assessing climate change vulnerability in urban America: stakeholder-driven approaches. Clim Chang 138(3):397–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Norman J (2017) Democrats drive rise in concern about global warming.
  44. Palser B (2006) Artful disguises. Amer J Rev 28(5):90–90Google Scholar
  45. Picard RR, Cook RD (1984) Cross-validation of regression models. J Am Stat Assoc 79(387):575–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Reckien D, Flacke J, Dawson RJ, Heidrich O, Olazabal M, Foley A, Hamann JJ-P, Orru H, Salvia M, Hurtado SDG, Geneletti D, Pietrapertosa F (2014) Climate change response in europe: what’s the reality? analysis of adaptation and mitigation plans from 200 urban areas in 11 countries. Clim Chang 122(1):331–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rosenzweig C, Solecki W, Hammer SA, Mehrotra S (2010) Cities lead the way in climate-change action. Nature 467(7318):909–911CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Scruggs L, Benegal S (2012) Declining public concern about climate change: can we blame the great recession?. Global Environmental Change 22(2):505–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sharp EB, Daley DM, Lynch MS (2011) Understanding local adoption and implementation of climate change mitigation policy. Urban Aff Rev 47(3):433–457CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Shum RY (2012) Effects of economic recession and local weather on climate change attitudes. Clim Pol 12(1):38–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Vavreck L (2009) The message matters: the economy and presidential campaigns. Princeton University Press, PrincetonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Waters RD, Tindall NTJ, Morton TS (2010) Media catching and the journalist–public relations practitioner relationship: how social media are changing the practice of media relations. J Public Relat Res 22(3):241–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Constantine Boussalis
    • 1
    Email author
  • Travis G. Coan
    • 2
  • Mirya R. Holman
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceTrinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland
  2. 2.Department of Politics and Exeter Q-Step CentreUniversity of ExeterExeterUnited Kingdom
  3. 3.Department of Political ScienceTulane UniversityNew OrleansUSA

Personalised recommendations