In a new poll Wednesday conducted exclusively by Ipsos for Global News, 49 per cent of people in Canada say that the recent extreme weather events this summer have made them feel more strongly about the urgency to fight climate change. But four in 10 said that their opinion had not changed.
The new polling done online between July 19-20, 2021, comes as hundreds of forest fires have ravaged homes and forced mass evacuations across the country.
As of July 21, there were some 263 uncontrolled actives fires burning in different provinces, according to data from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC).
The country is at national preparedness level 5, with British Columbia and Ontario requiring full commitment of resources, followed by Saskatchewan and Manitoba at level 4.
A total of 4,579 wildfires has been recorded so far — which is above the 10-year average, according to CIFFC data. The total area burned is 2.15 million hectares, which is also above the 10-year average.
Most experts agree that climate change is a major contributing factor in this year’s unprecedented heat wave and intense wildfire season. And while the majority of the Canadians are concerned, they are less willing to do anything about it financially.
“People are very aware of climate change,” said Darrell Bricker, CEO of Global Public Affairs at Ipsos.
“They’re very aware that human beings cause climate change, but where the controversy comes in is whether or not we need to do anything about it or how or what we should be doing about it.”
Younger Canadians and those with a university degree feel more strongly about the need to address climate change.
That’s a trend seen across the globe recently, with millions of school students skipping classes and marching in different countries to demand action from world leaders. That international movement has been inspired and spearheaded by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
“For younger people, climate change has become one of those existential issues of our age — and there’s a unanimity among younger people as to the importance of the issue and the need to do something about it,” said Bricker.
Paying for climate change
It’s been more than five years since the Paris climate agreement was signed by 195 counties, including Canada.
The Paris accord aims to cap global warming at well under 2C (3.6F), ideally no more than 1.5C (2.7F), by the end of the century.
Despite the recent bout of extreme weather events, more than half of Canadians are not keen on digging into their pockets to help with the climate change fight.
This is because people are uncertain about how their financial contributions would make a difference to climate change, said Bricker.
“The next challenge on the climate change issue will be moving from simple ways of raising awareness to actually showing people how they can make a difference,” he said.
According to the poll results, four in 10 say they would spend an extra $1 to $500 a year, with one in five willing to spend $1-$100 per year. Only 10 per cent were more generous, saying they would spend $500 or more a year.
Compared to men, women were less likely to contribute financially and pay extra each year to help tackle climate change.
The urgency to address the problem also varied across provinces, with a greater percentage of residents of Quebec and B.C. saying their opinion had changed in light of recent events.
The situation is particularly dire in B.C., where a state of emergency was declared on July 20.
Since April 1, crews have responded to 1,232 wildfires, which has led to 424,749 hectares of area burned across the province, according to the latest provincial data.
This year, the small village of Lytton in B.C. recorded the country’s highest ever temperature — a staggering 49.6 C.
Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted between July 19 and 20, 2021, with a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18 and over . The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. This poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled.