Communicating Climate Information: Traveling Through the Decision-Making Process

Ghislain Dubois*, Femke Stoverinck, Bas Amelung

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Climate change forces society to adapt. Adaptation strategies are preferably based on the best available climate information. Climate projections, however, often inform adaptation strategies after being interpreted once or several times. This process affects the original message put forward by climate scientists when presenting the basic climate projections, in particular regarding uncertainties. The nature of this effect and its implications for decision-making are as yet poorly understood. This chapter explores the nature and consequences of (a) the communication tools used by scientists and experts and (b) changes in the communicated information as it travels through the decision-making process. It does so by analyzing observatories; the interpretative steps taken in a sample of 25 documents, pertaining to the field of public policies for climate change impact assessment and adaptation strategies. Five phases in the provisioning of climate information are distinguished: pre-existing knowledge (i.e., climate models and data), climate change projection, impact assessment, adaptation strategy, and adaptation plan. Between the phases, climate information is summarized and synthesized in order to be passed on. The results show that in the sample, information on uncertainty is underrepresented: e.g., studies focus on only one scenario and/or disregard probability distributions. In addition, visualization tools are often used ineffectively, leading to confusion and unintended interpretations. Several recommendations are presented. While climatologists need better training in communication issues, decision-makers also need training in climatology to adopt more cautious and robust adaptation strategies that account for the uncertainty inherent in climate projections.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCommunicating Climate Change Information for Decision-Making
EditorsSilvia Serrao-Neumann, Anne Coudrain, Liese Coulter
ISBN (Electronic)9783319746692
ISBN (Print)9783319746685
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

Publication series

NameSpringer Climate
ISSN (Print)2352-0698
ISSN (Electronic)2352-0701


  • Climate change
  • Climate services
  • Communication
  • Uncertainty
  • Visualization

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