Factors that Influence the Extent to which Cities on Florida’s Atlantic Coast are Preparing for Climate Change: A multiple regression analysis and learning opportunities for policymakers
Young, Sheila Ann
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This study involved a survey (Appendix A) to leaders of 158 cities inside the counties that border the Atlantic coast of Florida. The impetus behind this study was to identify how policymakers were obtaining, understanding, and sharing information about climate change in order to help inform the policymaking process about adaptation. We cannot only train students at the secondary and university levels about climate change and expect policies to change right away. Those students, for the most part, will not be in policymaking leadership positions for years or decades. What is needed now are strategies to address the climate change learning needs of current policymakers so that targeted messaging from trusted sources can reach those individuals. This study was designed to build a foundation of knowledge that would lead to improved strategies to teach policymakers about climate change science and adaptation measures to protect their cities from current and future impacts. The survey questions focused on perceptions of the importance of climate change with regard to public health, the economy, and the environment; actual knowledge of what each community has in place in terms of plans for climate adaptation measures; and actual knowledge of information exchange between city leadership and their constituents about climate change. Online software was used through the Florida Institute of Technology’s subscription to qualtrics.com to develop the electronic survey. This research contained the following four research questions (RQs): RQ1 What perceptions do Florida's coastal community leaders hold toward the potential climate change-related risks to their communities’ health, economy, and environment? RQ2 To what extent do Florida coastal community leaders communicate with their constituents regarding climate change and the need for adaptation measures? RQ3 To what extent are Florida coastal communities implementing adaptation measures to combat impacts from climate change (i.e., combating coastal erosion, wetlands protection, severe flooding, etc)? RQ4 To what extent does the size of the city correlate with the extent to which it adopts adaptation measures to combat climate change? Standard multiple linear regression was used to analyze the data and determine if, and to what extent (magnitude), the factors mentioned in the research questions impact the extent to which cities planned for and/or adopted climate change adaptation measures. The survey process yielded 86 fully completed responses (of the 158 surveyed) that were used in the multiple regression analysis. The result of the analysis showed that risk perception and city size explained, in part, how prepared a city was to adapt to climate change events. There was a positive correlation with both perceived risk [of climate change impact] and city size in terms of the number of measures a city adapted, and whether those adaptation measures were merely plans for adaptation or if they actually implemented measures. The research question with regard to social framing was inconclusive, with non-significant results. A larger sampling of cities might have produced significant results, but that is an area for future research. Though the overall regression model could not be accepted given social framing was not significant, the results illustrate a variety of relationships that deserve further policy analysis and may promote policy advances. Knowing how cities obtain their information is useful in targeting climate change-related messages to those audiences. Because, as this study also showed, how prepared a city is to climate change events is partly explained by their risk perception of the possible causes and impacts of climate change.