After the worst wildfire season on record and baking heat waves this summer, most Canadians want the government to take urgent action against climate change — but fewer are willing to dig into their own pockets to help that fight, according to recent polling.
More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of respondents to a new Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News agreed that Canada will continue to grapple with extreme weather events.
A growing number of Canadians (62 per cent) also believe that this year’s record-setting wildfire season highlights the need to tackle climate change, which a majority in the poll (63 per cent) said was the reason for the worsening fires.
More than 6,500 wildfires this year have burnt 18.5 million hectares of land — the largest area burnt in the country in a given year — according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.
Every province in Canada and much of the territories were impacted by the wildfires – either directly being hit by the blazes or indirectly from the smoke that travelled thousands of kilometres.
Globally, this past summer was also the hottest ever recorded, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
More Canadians are paying attention to the climate crisis and are now asking for governments to act, said Sanyam Sethi, vice-president of Ipsos Canada Public Affairs.
“It’s become personal now,” Sethi said in an interview with Global News, adding that about one in five people in Canada know someone who has been impacted by a forest fire.
How can Canada fight climate change?
Canada has been successful in significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the progress is being undercut by three sectors, the Canadian Climate Institute said in its report last month.
The report said all sectors of the Canadian economy have seen a reduction in emissions since 2005, except for oil and gas, buildings and agriculture.
Ottawa has pledged to implement a federal cap on oil and gas emissions, cutting the sector’s total emissions almost in half by 2030.
While a growing proportion of respondents (62 per cent) said they believe that Canada should do more in the fight against climate change, there appears to be less agreement and clarity on how to go about doing that.
Only a quarter (26 per cent) of respondents in the Ipsos poll said the government has a cohesive plan in place.
Canadians say the focus should be on the long-term health of the environment and building infrastructure that can protect people against severe weather events.
Sethi said this past summer brought to light for Canadians the need for better disaster management and more firefighters, programs and awareness campaigns.
On an individual level, two-thirds (66 per cent) of poll respondents said they think that small behaviour changes in their daily lives could make a large difference.
Meanwhile, one in four also said there was no point in changing their behaviour and that climate change was beyond their control.
When it comes to paying for the government-led measures in the climate change fight, most Canadians are not that keen.
Only 23 per cent said they would be willing to pay more tax for climate initiatives.
Instead, Canadians would prefer personal incentives like a tax cut for environmentally friendly purchases. Respondents also agreed that seeing the effects of extreme weather events in the country and having better access to information on the steps they can take daily were motivators to act on climate change.
Sethi said one-third of Canadians feel they do not have the right knowledge and tools to navigate the energy transition or reduce their carbon emissions, so they are looking to the government for that guidance.
“People are really asking the government to act, but also help them in taking action, individual action, because there is a majority that believes that ‘If I as an individual take small steps, I can contribute towards the long term,’ but they simply don’t know how to do that,” Sethi said.
Climate change will likely make extreme weather events more frequent and severe, experts have warned.
In planning for that, 60 per cent say Canada needs to focus on infrastructure and programs that can help people live with higher temperatures and more extreme weather, according to the Ipsos poll.
— with files from Global News’ Uday Rana and The Canadian Press.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between Sept. 20 and 22, 2023, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,500 Canadians aged 18-plus was interviewed. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18-plus been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to, coverage error and measurement error.