What do Canadians really think about climate change?
Canadians overwhelmingly say they are concerned about climate change and opinion is crystallizing at the “very concerned” end of the spectrum. In our latest roundup of public opinion research, there are several positive trends for communicators.
Tailwinds for communicators:
- Crystallizing concern: Half of the public now think climate change is a “very serious threat.”
- Extreme weather: More and more Canadians are recognizing that climate change is an immediate threat to them personally.
- Vision of the future: Canadians are increasingly convinced the future lies in clean energy which is popular in all regions and across political lines. The public thinks an energy transition is inevitable and, on balance, will benefit the country.
- Disenchantment with fossil fuels: Support for burning and producing fossil fuels is gradually eroding. Coal and fracking are particularly unpopular and most Canadians do not agree with expanding our oil-based economy to finance the transition to renewables.
But there are serious headwinds facing communicators as well.
- Efficacy and fatalism: Canadians are not convinced climate change can or will be tackled meaningfully. Growing segments of the public think it’s “probably too late.” Most do not believe proposed solutions will be very effective or fairly implemented and are skeptical that deep decarbonization is possible.
- Demand for action lags behind concern: Most Canadians tell pollsters they want more action but most also give Canada at least a passing grade on climate change. Just 25% think we’re doing less than our international fair share. Demand for action has actually declined over the past five years.
- Solutions literacy: Canadians do not have an understanding of the measures needed to address climate change and do not feel well-informed. Less than half think transitioning away from fossil fuels would be very effective for reducing carbon emissions. Nature-based solutions enjoy support across party lines but most people still think of solutions in terms of recycling and plastic straws.
- Economic Anxiety: There is acute and rising concern about the cost of living and inflation. Over half of Canadians now say it’s “difficult” to afford to feed their households. Economic anxiety is rising in a toxic environment of declining trust, alienation, polarization and energized populism.
Spotlight on fatalism and efficacy
There’s a particular focus on attitudes around collective efficacy and fatalism in this latest What do Canadians Really Think About Climate Change? Canadians are not convinced climate change can or will be tackled effectively and growing segments of the public think it’s “probably too late.”
“We need to build a sense of momentum,” says Sarah Roberton of Environics Research.
One important strategy for climate communicators is to provide tangible examples of progress, choosing specific ones that your audience is predisposed to trust. Tangible examples are often more effective than broad statistics because they give people a mental “hook” or picture of what’s possible.
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We would like to acknowledge the McConnell Foundation, Donner Canadian Foundation and those that contribute to the Clean Economy Fund for making this work possible. We would also like to extend a special thank you to EcoAnalytics Research Initiative and our reviewers and contributors, including Dr. Erick Lachapelle, Dr. Louise Comeau, James Boothroyd, and the team at the Laboratoire de L’Action Climatique.