The study, called “Feeling the Heat? The Paradox of Public Opinion and Climate Change Policy in Canada: Toward a New Research Agenda” involved a phone survey of 1014 Canadians by researchers at The University of Montreal between September 1, 2015, to September 15, 2015. Researchers said the margin of error was 3.1 per cent 19 times out of 20.
The study concluded that people who are truly passionate about climate change are simply few and far between here.
“People who are really passionate about climate change, to the point where they take it upon themselves to become informed and stay up to date, are a relative minority in Canada. About a quarter of the population would fall into the well-informed category,” says the study’s lead author Erick Lachapelle, who is an Associate Professor at The University of Montreal.
It’s not that we’re not believers is global warming, notes the study. 82 per cent of Canadians say they perceive evidence of it. But just 49 per cent says human activity is to blame, with a further 18 per cent attributing it to a combination of natural factors and human activity.
One Canadian who squarely sides with the majority scientific opinion that climate change is a man-made phenomenon is newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In Paris yesterday for the UN’s 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) summit, Trudeau was ebullient in his support.
“Canada is back, my friends,” he said. “We’re here to help.”
Trudeau, in the conference’s opening address, promised that Canada would once again be a leader in the fight against climate change.
“From cap and trade, to a ban on coal-fired electricity generation, from world-leading innovation on carbon capture and storage to a revenue-neutral carbon tax, we can learn and build on these models.”
The Quebec study, meanwhile, says the Canadian government to date has dropped the ball in educating the populous about issues around climate change, noting that 44 per cent of respondents to their survey had heard “nothing” cap and trade programs in Quebec and Ontario. But Lachapelle holds out hope that the new government will pay more attention to the issue.
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“After all these years of expecting the public to push government into action, we are beginning to see the emergence of real political leadership on this issue,” he said. “Canadians elect politicians to lead. These findings challenge the new Trudeau government to engage the public on the issue of climate change after years of federal government inaction. Canada’s new federal government, the blocking of the Keystone pipeline by Washington and the occasion of the Paris conference are creating a golden opportunity for a renewed federal role. If the policy changes, the public won’t be that far behind. The challenge now lies with the government to better communicate the benefits of transitioning toward a decarbonised economy.”
The complete report from the University of Montreal will be published in December by the Trottier Energy Institute, which provided partial funding for the study.