Dec 1, 2011
***A PDF of this media release is available here.
OTTAWA: The Canadian public’s level of concern about environmental issues has remained notably resilient over the past few years, despite the recent recession and absence of environmental issues in the media. The public continues to endorse government actions on climate change, and there is growing support for carbon taxes like the one currently in place in BC. These latest findings are based on a new national survey recently conducted by Environics Research.
Most important world issue. Canadians acknowledge that environmental issues such as climate change are among the most serious challenges facing the world. Close to three in ten (28%) identify this challenge (unprompted) as the most serious problem facing the world in the future if nothing is done to address it, consistent with a previous survey conducted in April 2011. By comparison, just over one in five (22%) now identify economic and financial challenges (22%), followed by such issues as world hunger (10%), overpopulation (5%) and war/conflict (5%).
Most important Canadian issue. In contrast, very few (6%) identify the environment as this country’s current number one challenge, consistent with most surveys conducted over the past 30 years. When asked to identify the most serious problem facing Canadians today, the dominant response is the economy or unemployment (43%), followed distantly by health care (10%), poor government leadership (7%), and then environmental issues (6%; of which 2% specifically mention climate change or global warming).
The discrepancy in responses between these two questions reflects in part the fact that Canadians tend to think about environmental issues (and climate change in particular) as global rather than local challenges. As well, environmental threats for most are not seen as “clear and present” danger, and so tend to be thought of as problems that need to be addressed in the future rather than immediately.
Climate change policy
Regulating limits on carbon emissions. A majority (74%) of Canadians favour setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions and making companies pay for emissions, even if it may lead to higher energy prices.
This level of support has declined from 12 months ago (when support was at 80%), and is now back to the level recorded in January 2010. This latest trend is evident across the country, but most noticeable in Manitoba and Ontario. Support remains stable in B.C., and is most widespread in Quebec.
International climate change treaty. More than half (56%) think Canada should sign onto a new international agreement to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, even if this might result in some Canadian industries losing jobs, and Canadians paying a bit more for some goods and services. This proportion is down marginally since November 2010 (59%), and well below the 68% figure in September 2009.
Support for an international treaty varies across the country, ranging from 70% in Quebec to 45% in Alberta. Belief that Canada should sign an international climate change agreement increased in Saskatchewan (up 10) and British Columbia (up 8), and declined elsewhere, especially in Manitoba (down 16).
BC carbon tax. The reverse trend is evident when it comes to carbon taxes aimed at fighting climate change. In BC, public support for that province’s carbon tax (in place since July 2008) is now at an all time high, with 57% expressing support, compared with 41% opposed.
Similarly, residents elsewhere in Canada indicate a similar level of support when asked if a BC-style carbon tax should be implemented in their province. Close to six in ten (58%) express support, up substantially from levels of support expressed over the previous three and a half years. Moreover, this type of climate change policy enjoys majority support in every region, but more so in eastern Canada than in Ontario or the Prairies.
This surprising upswing in support or carbon taxes across the country may suggest that Canadians are increasingly ready to embrace tangible policies to address climate change that don’t threaten major disruptions to the economy or consumer lifestyles.
These results are based on a syndicated Environics survey with a representative sample of 2,000 Canadians (aged 18 and over) conducted by telephone in English and French from November 15 to 27, 2011. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is plus or minus 2.1% in 19 out of 20 samples.
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For further information, please contact:
Keith Neuman, Ph.D., Executive Director, Environics Institute
(613) 769-3077 email@example.com
A PDF version of this release is available here.