Theses Doctoral

Enhancing Capacity in Adult Climate Literacy: Investigating Sustainability Mindsets in the U.S. Emergency Management Profession

DeVincenzo, Joshua L.

The purpose of this exploratory collective case study is to understand how climate change education can meet the learning needs of emergency management professionals to prepare and adapt to the impacts of climate change on communities throughout the United States. The primary research question guiding the study was: How do emergency managers experience, learn about, and from, the impacts of climate change in their work? Throughout the study, significant attention was paid to emergent themes in emergency managers’ personal and professional learning and development in the form of multiple data collection methods and analysis. The following sub-questions were also investigated:A. How do perceptions of climate change influence the ways in which emergency managers engage with climate literacy?
B. What do emergency managers perceive as important for the content and design of climate literacy training and education programs to support their learning?
This collective case study involved the participation of six (N = 6) certified emergency management (CEM) professionals currently practicing in the U.S. as the study’s key informants (KIs). The sequential data collection methods encompassed a survey, semi-structured interviews, and the utilization of the Sustainability Mindset Indicator (SMI) assessment. Additionally, the survey administered to the six KIs was also distributed to a larger sample (N = 56), known as a “boosted sample,” to compare and contrast wider trends, transferability and uncover broader training needs. Data analysis leveraged coding to identify similarities and differences among emergency managers’ lived experiences, approaches, and expert recommendations on learning about climate change-related themes. The theoretical framework that guided this research analysis was the Sustainability Mindset Principles (SMPs). This study aimed to inform future training and education programs for emergency managers on climate change as well as provide researchers and practitioners working in climate science with insights on how to engage emergency management.
The study found that emergency managers in the U.S. are increasingly recognizing the multifaceted impacts of climate change on their roles and responsibilities. Emergency managers reported a preference for localized climate information that extends beyond geography to encompass cognitive, social, political, and historical dimensions. Participants reported a preference for climate-related training to be presented in practical ways with an emphasis on increasing long-term thinking skills in their training. The study observed that emergency managers exhibited strong motivation, preparation for future learning, and sense of purpose that can be applied to integrating climate change information into existing emergency management frameworks. Emergency managers acknowledged the need to refine roles and collaborate across sectors to effectively address climate change given resource limitations, including funding, workforce development, and technology. Building upon a robust training infrastructure in emergency management, climate literacy can facilitate an understanding of climate within the field as well as the widespread effects that transcend a single profession, sector and generation.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Marsick, Victoria J.
Faller, Pierre
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 26, 2024