Where Canadians Currently Stand on the Climate Change Debate

The ongoing controversy surrounding Alberta’s recent carbon levy policy, known as Climate Leadership Plan, is my main impetus for writing this blog. The carbon levy policy is a direct result of the Alberta government’s espousal of climate change; but are the claims of climate change so readily accepted by the Canadian people?

The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication  is a US-based non-profit initiative driven largely by Yale University,  pursuing ongoing opinion studies addressed to both American and global respondents.  I have chosen their published 2014 findings (American respondents)and 2015 findings (Canadian respondents)as the basis of this blog because  I find their survey methodology scientific and their presentation of findings unbiased and worthy of discussion.

My reading of the Yale Project’s study indicates there is a very strong belief in Canada for (1) climate change, (2) the significant role of human activities in it, and (3) public support for a policy response to address it (e.g., carbon emissions cap and trade/carbon pricing/carbon levy, etc.) that governments must adopt and implement.

A summary of the Yale Project’s findings follows.

Belief in Climate Change

*Canadian respondents consisted of a random sample of voters who responded to Yale Climate Opinion Survey, 2015; American random sample comprised of adults who responded to the same survey in 2014.

 

Based on national average data a large majority (79%) of Canadians believe climate change is happening right now. Nova Scotia, Quebec and British Columbia lead the way in that belief with percentages higher than the national average. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have lower belief ratings than the average but they are still on the side of the majority (67% to 68%). Note also that on average Americans have a much lower belief (63%) in climate change.

Belief that the Earth is Getting Warmer Partly or Mostly Because of Human Activities

* Canadian respondents consisted of a random sample of voters who responded to Yale Climate Opinion Survey, 2015; American random sample comprised of adults who responded to the same survey in 2014.

Here it is quite interesting that while on average Canadians, compared with Americans, still maintain a higher level of belief in anthropogenic factors to climate change, the majority of the provinces have belief levels just equal to or lower than the national average – with the exception of Quebec and Ontario. It is also important to note that this time Alberta and Saskatchewan have less than the majority of their adult populations subscribing to the belief that human activities cause or contribute to climate change.

Support for Carbon Emissions Cap and Trade

 

* Canadian respondents consisted of a random sample of voters who responded to Yale Climate Opinion Survey, 2015; American random sample comprised of adults who responded to the same survey in 2014.

On this subject it is very clear Canadians on average are far more supportive of carbon emissions cap and trade policies than their American neighbours. In terms of the sample provinces Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ontario have a higher-than-the-national average expression of support for such policies. Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador showed a lower level of support but they are still clearly the majority opinion.

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Public opinions do change over time; they are not carved in stone. Which direction will future changes in Canadian people’s thinking on these very important topics go? Only time will tell – and I hope initiatives like the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication will go on. I will remain an avid observer.

 

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