A Multi-Risk Approach to Climate Change Adaptation, Based on an Analysis of South Korean Newspaper Articles

By Chang-Sug Park

A Multi-Risk Approach to Climate Change Adaptation, Based on an Analysis of South Korean Newspaper Articles

The risks caused by climate change are worsening worldwide, and it is recognized that national and regional responses to climate change are essential. This study therefore explores climate change risks that have been recognized as fatal to people and the environment by analyzing multi-influence factors that appear in multiple risk indicators. The climate change risks in this study are based on 73 existing risk indicators; the frame data for multi-influence risk factors are based on 3098 newspaper articles published over 24 years on the impact of climate change in South Korea. The main outcomes for this study were finding climate change risk trend from newspaper articles regarding climate change impacts through text-mining and figuring out the multi-risk indicators that are likely to occur at the same time with other risk indicators using network analysis. From the network analysis, we found that the major risk indicators have a high degree of interrelationship among risk indicators, including “increase in mortality rate from disaster”, “increase in flood areas due to coastal flooding”, and “destruction of repair facilities due to flooding (river bank, etc.)”. The main risk indicators derived from this study can therefore be used as a reasonable standard when identifying the main risks posed by climate change and defining future adaptation planning priorities.


As scientific evidence on climate change accumulates and actual damage increases, awareness of climate change is spreading worldwide [1]. The international response strategy for climate change is being reorganized into a risk management system that predicts and manages uncertain future losses. Climate change has continued to dominate both the political and business agendas for many years. In the 21st century, climate change has been dubbed one of the biggest market failures the world has ever seen [2].
Risk management is a practical way to cope in a timely manner with extreme events. Within the context of climate change, the risk management of extreme events is considered an interdisciplinary problem, and there has been discussion of its various aspects. The growing literature dealing with climate change risk frameworks and risk identification aims to define exactly what climate change risk means in advance and to cope with risks. According to [3], these climate change risks are dependent on exposure and vulnerability; certain climate change impacts are based on the concept that a risk consists of hazard, vulnerability, and exposure. Therefore, climate change risk management is intended to reduce the probability of incidents and trends and to reduce risk consequences by adjusting for hazards, vulnerability, and exposure. It should therefore be possible to reduce climate change risk by adjusting vulnerability and exposure, even given the same climate change impact in future.
In South Korea, one alternative for effectively managing climate change adaptation measures is to investigate and manage climate change risks. Since it is our first priority to define the climate change risk indicators for each sector, we are compiling risk indicators with the help of relevant experts and finding countermeasures for each major risk. Due to hierarchical differences between the derived climate change risks, there is a high correlation between each risk indicator, and secondary or indirect risks that may occur after hazardous events. Further studies are needed to explore the mutual influence relationship between risk indicators and their hierarchy settings.
In this study, we have extracted newspaper articles published in the last 24 years and related to the impact of climate change in South Korea and identified high-relevance risks from among 81 previous South Korean climate change risk indicators. These data suggest critical implications for the selection of key risks and the refinement of a risk indicator and climate change adaptation plan. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to identify trends in climate change risks from national and regional newspaper articles related to climate change impact. Further, the main objective is to provide policy responses and urban planning implications that can reduce the climate change risk in Korea through comparison with climate change risk indicators.

Climate Change Risk and Its Assessment

As society becomes more complex and rapidly changing, research is emerging as an important way to predict and respond to future risk factors. Risk analysis is a way of predicting future events, using realistic applications of scientific techniques and empirical means, among other ways of coping with an uncertain future.
As these climate-change risks become more severe, questions about how to better assess, communicate, and respond to climate change risks at the community level have emerged as key issues within climate risk management. In this context, a key step in risk management is risk assessment—the process of analyzing and assessing risk and opportunity elements based on identified or perceived risks. Prior research on climate risk emphasizes the importance of risk assessment in climate change adaptation planning. While risk is not essentially a quantitative concept, the premise of assessing risk implies that risk-specific quantification is possible through quantitative analysis. According to the [3] climate change risks can be multiple, depending on the climate hazard or socio-ecological system; for this reason, scientific research and systematic responses and management are needed. However, due to the differing characteristics of hazards, few quantitative models exist that suit a fully multi-risk perspective. Therefore, this study is derived from two main arguments. One is the argument that every climate change risk indicator should be designed for risk assessment and management, and the other is that a multi-risk perspective must be considered, as many existing studies.

Media Coverage of Climate Change Issues

Studies of climate change have increasing used newspaper articles. The news media have been, and will remain, important in communicating information to the public and decision makers about the science of climate change and solution strategies. According to [4], the public is more likely to notice weather extremes than long-term incremental changes in mean climate variables. Newspapers have been criticized for not being able to grasp objective information, and for reflecting political tendencies, biases, context, and values as well as reported data. However, it is important to use newspaper articles in studies dealing with climate change because they provide information on the impact of climate change in various fields across the whole of society at once.
Future climate change studies should use techniques such as text mining to analyze newspaper articles, deriving high-quality information to predict and minimize risks. Text-mining, a big-data research method, has been used in a growing number of studies to acquire and structure detailed information. Studies using text-mining techniques to explore climate change issues have recently been increasing. The use of text mining in risk assessment, in particular, has been recognized as a superior way to identify high-frequency risks and to produce data that can be used to analyze the interrelationships between risks. In this study, we have carried out a climate change risk analysis of 3098 newspapers using text mining. Furthermore, by analyzing each risk’s complex relationships, we have compiled the risk indicators with a high correlation between risks. This can suggest the implications of climate change adaptation plans and help to anticipate and reduce climate change risk.

Research Hypotheses

The general risk assessment methodology is based on the following basic procedures, particularly in relation to quantitative analysis. Taken in order, the investigation covers hazard assessment, vulnerability assessment, and risk assessment. These risk assessments have primarily been conducted as single-risk analyses, each targeting a specific area. Single-risk analysis can determine the individual risk arising from one particular hazard or the process occurring in a specific geographical area during a given period of time. However, it is difficult to compare multiple risks in the same hierarchy or to evaluate multi-risks arising from various drivers or hazard. For this reason, single risk analyses are unsuited to comparing or selecting optimal climate change adaptation policies to deal with climate change risk. This study has therefore adopted a top-down approach, using existing risk indicators created by experts as basic data and applying them directly to policies. This approach facilitates the comparison of risk indicators, and suggests the applicability of a multi-risk perspective, unlike previous studies. This study addresses the following three research hypotheses:

1. Climate change risk indicators and actual climate change impact data (from newspaper articles over 24 years) have a significant correlation.

2. Based on the concept of climate change risk, the degree of risk can be quantified using climate drivers such as heatwaves and droughts.

3. Some risk indicators in this study will have multi-risk characteristics that occur simultaneously during a climate change event.

Climate Change Risk Indicators

Climate change risk indicators, a subject explored in this study, are derived from existing research [5]. In that paper, 81 climate change risk indicators for each sector were obtained from 102 experts to help develop climate adaptation measures in Korea. Experts were limited to those who have at least 10 years of experiences as a professor or doctor in the fields of health, water, forest ecology, land and coastal land, industrial energy, agriculture and livestock, and marine fisheries using climate change adaptation experts list from Korea Environment Institute. The 81 individual risk indicators combined climate drivers and damage types. For example, “increase in death due to heat waves”, “increase in salinity due to drought”, and “increased traffic accidents due to heavy precipitation”, among others, can be climate change risk indicators in seven categories: health (HE), water (WA), forest ecology (ES), land and coastal land (LC), industrial energy (IE), agriculture and livestock (AG), and marine fisheries (MF). The reason why the existing research [5] was used as the basic data of this study is that the climate change risk indicators derived from existing research are data directly reflected in climate change adaptation policies in South Korea as scientific evidence and empirical data from experts in various fields related to climate change impacts. Some of the climate change risk indicators from existing study were not directly attributable to climate change, but there have been attempts to reflect only indicators with high agreement rate by experts from various fields. It included not only direct climate change impacts, but indirect impacts by human activity and natural disasters.
The risk type in this study were divided into human and natural system referring to [3]. For [3], human and natural system are regarded as subjects of exposure that can be affected adversely by climate change impact. In other words, they could be the subjects that should be protected from climate change impact. As a specific example, the settlement, infrastructure, human and human community were mentioned as one of human system. The final risk result of this study were classified into seven types (e.g., casualty, injury, disease, economic loss in the human system, extinction, damage and loss of value in the natural system) based on the concepts of risk, so that risks could be quantified in accordance with the occurrence frequency reported in newspaper articles.
The major climate change drivers used for risk quantification were the six most common: drought, heavy snow, typhoons, heatwaves, cold waves, and heavy rainfall. In this way, it was possible to quantify the results of various climate change risks in human and natural systems arising from these six climate change drivers. For instance, while analyzing climate change impact news articles, we constructed the frequency of casualties, injuries, and diseases, based on 402 occurrences of drought. This result revealed the patterns and variables that influence climate change impacts; it may help to minimize future risks.


Each of the 3098 newspapers providing basic data was a 100% match to at least one risk indicators, showing that climate change risk indicators and actual climate change impact data have a great correlation. However, the matching was weighted towards some risk indicators. For example, risk indicators such as “development negligence due to a shortage of water”, “increased cost of protecting production facilities from heat waves and cold waves”, and “increase in coastal environmental pollution due to overland pollution” were only matched about 10 times with each newspaper article, despite the average frequency of the risk indicators being around 100. This may, of course, mean that some risks are lower; it could also be due to the news coverage, which is affected by nation’s politics, culture, and context.
After analyzing climate change drivers by text mining 3098 newspaper articles, it can be confirmed that the climate change impact of typhoons (1224) and heavy rain (1789) were higher than those of other drivers. Since some climate drivers overlapped, total frequency exceeded the 3098 newspaper articles. Overall, the risk frequency for the human system was overwhelmingly higher than the risk frequency for the ecosystem. This may reflect the nature of newspaper coverage, but it also shows how climate change risk is understood through data quantified by the degree of risk, depending on climate drivers. The highest level of risk frequency among the 7 types of risk: casualty, injury, disease, economic loss, extinction, damage, and loss of value, was economic loss due to heavy rainfall (1241); economic loss due to typhoons also appeared frequently (819). The overall risk frequency of typhoons and heavy rains was high, not only in relation to economic loss, but also in relation to casualties and injury. In addition to these, diseases caused by heat waves (49) and injuries caused by cold waves (41) were also outliers, compared to other risk patterns.
The analysis showed that the total relationship density between climate change risks was 0.5, which is a higher than normal level. The degree of connection was 0.7. This result showed that the network analysis of climate change risk indicators was organically structured, with linkages between risk indicators. The network analysis identified the mutual strength and correlation between risks; the top 30% of high risk connections were derived by analyzing the connection centrality of the total risk.
We can therefore assume that a risk indicator with a high occurrence frequency is a highly probable risk in South Korea. On the other hand, a high risk value in centrality and its related risk frequency signify risk indicators that are likely to occur together during a climate event, thus representing a multi-risk system that will need to be managed in the future. Overall, risks with high occurrence frequency were positively related to centrality and related risk frequency as well—the higher the frequency of occurrence, the greater the likelihood that it would occur simultaneously with another risk.


The background of this study was that it has relied mostly on experts to construct and evaluate the risk indicators so far, which means that the risk assessment might be less objective. Therefore, this study conducted a risk assessment based on newspaper articles to suggest implications for constructing and using a risk indicator to ensure an effective response to climate change and complement objectivity as well. Compared to previous study, this study sought to elaborate the risk assessment. In other words, previous study has found major risk indicators with high matching frequency by simply searching for risk indicators per associated newspaper articles. The current study focused on finding risks that are more likely to occur simultaneously with climate change events using network analysis, which is the result of taking into account the importance on ‘consequence’ in consequence multiplication frequency, which is the concept of risk [3]. Moreover, by using text-mining technology to analyze newspaper articles, this study was able to identify national climate change risk patterns and even to quantify risks, based on the occurrence frequency of each (of seven) risk type. This data driven in this study can be used to help researchers recognize the conditions and patterns of future climate change risks. Deriving risk prioritization from risk assessment is a particularly effective way of understanding the impact of climate change and minimizing damage. It is also a key component of risk assessment and management, providing guidance for the implementation of appropriate risk reduction strategies and supporting the optimal allocation of available adaptation resources.
The innovation in this study is to use newspaper articles as a tool for climate change risk assessment. Although some may be skeptical about the value of newspaper articles as basic data, the vase amount of data that distinguish facts over time are highly likely to be used in the future. Moreover, newspaper articles about the impact of climate change can be divided into subjects and climate drivers; it will be possible to predict specific measures posed by interactive impact. However, as previous studies have pointed out, the subjective judgement and bias of newspaper articles must be taken into account. According to [6], the media’s ability to define the issue of climate change does not take place in a vacuum. The mass media both shapes and is shaped by social, political, and economic forces. Other related studies have also noted that a newspaper’s political stance is critical, explaining the impact of the political frame on all of the articles in that newspaper. This study, in particular, has shown that some drivers or specific risk types (e.g., casualties; economic losses caused by a typhoon or heavy rain) occur very frequently. This type of risk involves the human system and shows a remarkable divergence from risk frequencies in the natural system, which are relatively low. This shows that newspaper articles are not biased against climate events as a group, but that the damage pattern and frequencies center on specific objects. We know that not only the human system, but also the natural system, have been affected by climate change [3]. Moreover, risks in the natural system can cause secondary risks to the human system, which can be quite correlate with multi-risk driven in this study. It is therefore necessary to pay attention when assessing climate change risk using newspaper articles. To offset the subjectivity of newspaper articles, we used a survey of experts.
The network analysis of climate change risk indicators and newspaper articles suggests implications for the future availability of multi-risk analyses and adaptation policies. The multi-risk indicators derived from this study represents risks that are likely to occur at the same time, when a climate change event occurs; these can lead to an increase in damage or a secondary risk of climate change in the human and natural systems. It is therefore necessary to intensively manage risk indicators that have a high correlation with each other or a high centrality shared between many risk indicators, ensuring that they are preferentially reflected in policy making. The issue of a multi-risk network and inter-connected relationships between risk indicators has been discussed in existing studies. Although, some decision models for multi-hazard and multi-risk assessment are being developed with the aim of providing stakeholders with a set of scenarios or alternatives [7], climate change has rarely been addressed, due to the complexity of its scope, measurement difficulties, and similar factors.


This study has approached climate change risks from the top down in order to explore risk quantification and possibility of using a multi-risk approach to improve current climate change adaptation policies. This timely and relevant research will contribute to minimizing damage in situations where the policy flow related to climate change changes to risk management. This study can also supplement the limitations of the problem by relying on expert judgment when assessing the risks of climate change adaptation.
However, beyond the analysis of interrelationships within risk indicators, limitation of the present study is its inability to clarify the order in which incidents happen, so as to confirm whether each risk indicator occurred simultaneously or later. To compensate for this problem, future studies should select specific sites and analyze the risk indicators of climate change over a period of time in a comprehensive and timely manner, in order to identify the risk occurrence periods and their relationships within each sector. It can be an additional limitation that we did not subdivide climate change risk indicators using the concepts such as vulnerability, exposure, and hazard derived from previous studies. The risk assessment in this study can play a critical role in adaptation policy decision, elicitation, and prioritization, but there is a limit to how to quantify risks and provide concrete countermeasures considering secondary impact, indirect impact, etc. for each climate change risk. In future study, we intend to specify adaptation policy with urban planning measures to reduce climate change risk based on the major risk indicators in this study.


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This is an excerpt of the journal article: A Multi-Risk Approach to Climate Change Adaptation, Based on an Analysis of South Korean Newspaper Articles, by Youngeun Kang and Chang-Sug Park. Published: 11 October 2018 in Sustainability 10(5), 1596; DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/su10051596 under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0).

Chang-Sug Park
Senior Research Fellow

Dr. Chang-Sug Park is currently working with the Planning and Management Group, Korea Environment Institute, Sejong.