City governments have a large role to play in climate change mitigation and adaptation policies, given that urban locales are responsible for disproportionately high levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and are on the “front lines” of observed and anticipated climate change impacts. This study examines how US mayors prioritize climate policies within the context of the city agenda. Employing a computer-assisted content analysis of over 2886 mayoral press releases related to climate change from 82 major American cities for the period 2010–2016, we describe and explain the extent to which city governments discuss mitigation and adaptation policies in official communications. Specifically, we rely on a semi-supervised topic model to measure key climate policy themes in city press releases and examine their correlates using a multilevel statistical model. Our results suggest that while mitigation policies tend to dominate the city agenda on climate policy, discussion of adaptation efforts has risen dramatically in the past few years. Further, our statistical analysis indicates that partisanship influences city discussion on a range of climate policy areas—including emissions, land use policy, and climate resiliency—while projected vulnerability to climatic risks only influences discussion of climate resiliency and adaptation efforts.
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