Skip to content
Article Article January 18th, 2024
Cities • Delivery • Innovation • Energy • Technology

The information barriers holding back climate action and how to break them

Article highlights

We need to fix our information systems for high-impact climate action. @CPI_foundation's @CarinaGormley shares three ways to do this.

Share article

How we can tackle information barriers? Could effective information systems help unleash urban climate action? Dive into this @CPI_foundation article to learn more.

Share article

From more transparent, representative data to institutionalizing relationships, explore three ways to improve information systems for evidence-based climate action.

Share article

Partnering for Learning

We put our vision for government into practice through learning partner projects that align with our values and help reimagine government so that it works for everyone.

Partner with us

Information systems in government – the structures through which we collect, analyze, and share information to guide our decisions and activities – are incomplete pictures of the human experience. As a result, local government leaders struggle to make bold, disruptive climate decisions confidently, which can contribute to cities lagging behind their 2030 climate goals.

Fortunately, there are many ways to improve information systems for evidence-based climate action.

Building community awareness for more transparent, representative data 

One way to reduce information gaps is by getting more people involved in assessing data. Sharing information through user-friendly public data dashboards or open data sites helps to raise awareness of public resources while inviting community feedback.

For these platforms to be accessible to everyone and used to their full potential, governments must ensure that the data represents all community experiences. This could be through communicating across media types, languages, diverse community organizations, and literacy levels.

Storytelling can also be a powerful tool for inviting broader engagement and feedback. The City of Glasgow increases information visibility by hyperlinking their data dashboards whenever they share new information with the public. Transparency not only improves the identification of information gaps; it also opens doors to better engagement, credibility, and decision-making. 

Institutionalizing relationships for a more reliable system long-term

Complex challenges, like those associated with climate mitigation and adaptation, cut across departments, jurisdictions, and sectors. For this reason, cross-disciplinary relationships are critical for driving effective action as they play a key role in compiling and sharing high-quality, comprehensive information from diverse sources. By collaborating with others to obtain the most up-to-date information, rather than doing all collection and analysis independently, smart relationship building saves leaders time and energy to focus more energy on implementing climate solutions effectively.

Long-lasting collaborations between institutions require that the relationships underpinning them be organizational rather than interpersonal. People who hold interpersonal relationships at their organization can help institutionalize these by documenting past projects, contextual information, and insights in accessible, user-friendly resources. This enables colleagues to quickly identify where relationships already exist and seamlessly build upon them.

"People who hold interpersonal relationships at their organization can help institutionalize these by documenting past projects, contextual information, and insights in accessible, user-friendly resources."

Cities like Boston regularly share community engagement failures, successes, and broader learnings with colleagues across city departments. Empowered with context from pre-existing relationships, other departments can seek new external information and build better collective knowledge. 

Leveraging big data tools for quicker analysis and thoughtful action

Using smart tools, like AI, can translate complex data into meaningful insights and recommendations when there is too little capacity. These can help leaders identify risks and prioritize climate decisions that yield the biggest impacts or reduce the greatest possible harm.

Cities with less access to comprehensive or consistent information can benefit from AI tools by using data from similar contexts to fill information gaps and predict scenarios, risks, and opportunities. Projects from The New School’s ClimateIQ and World Resources Institute equip city leaders to better plan for multi-hazard climate risks and extreme heat.

AI tools are only as good as the models and information upon which they are trained. Anyone considering an AI-enabled tool to support decision-making should seek ones designed to avoid perpetuating societal biases.

While not a replacement for better data gathering in communities, AI-enabled tools can be a useful resource when making important decisions with confidence. Project teams from The New School’s Climate IQ and World Resources Institute are developing decision-making support tools for adaptation plans around multi-hazard risks and extreme heat.

What do you think? 

These are a few ideas about how we can tackle information barriers and unleash the opportunity for urban climate action. But this is just a start. We’d love to hear how this resonates with your work and experience. If you want to learn more about how cities are reimagining their approach to collecting and sharing information or wish to collaborate with our team, please reach out!

Let's reimagine climate action together

We're partnering with local governments across the world to test new innovative approaches to climate action.

Let's team up

Written by:

Carina Gormley Senior Associate, Climate Action
View biography
Share this article: