Advertisement

Canadians want urgent climate action, but cost of living stands in the way: poll

Click to play video: 'Canadians want urgent climate action, but cost of living stands in the way: poll'
Canadians want urgent climate action, but cost of living stands in the way: poll
WATCH ABOVE: A new poll shows Canadians increasingly feel it’s necessary to tackle climate change. Ipsos polling done on behalf of Global News found nearly three in five Canadians agree Ottawa will fail them without urgent climate action. Meanwhile, 35 per cent say climate investments can wait for better economic conditions – Sep 1, 2023

A growing majority of Canadians say more needs to be done by government and business to combat the climate crisis, a new poll suggests. Many respondents agree this year’s record-breaking wildfire season has driven home the need for urgent action.

However, those Canadians are torn over when action should be taken, according to the Ipsos survey conducted for Global News. One-third of respondents agree the cost-of-living crisis and other economic concerns should take priority.

“There are competing narratives here — yes, there is increased urgency to fight climate change, but there also is increased urgency to battle the affordability crisis that we’re seeing in Canada,” said Sean Simpson, vice president of Ipsos Public Affairs.

“The challenge, at least as perceived by Canadians, is that government doesn’t seem to have a plan to do either.”

Click to play video: 'Climate activists pivot on targeting the ultra-wealthy'
Climate activists pivot on targeting the ultra-wealthy

Overall, the poll found six in 10 Canadians agree Canada should do more to fight climate change, and that the federal government would be failing the country if it does not act now. A similar number also said Canadian businesses should take urgent climate action or risk failing their employees and customers. More Canadians agree with those sentiments now than they did the last time Ipsos conducted a similar survey in February.

Story continues below advertisement

Yet, just 26 per cent of those surveyed said they believe Ottawa has a clear plan in place for government, businesses and individuals to tackle the climate crisis together — a number that is up three points since February.

Click to play video: 'How creating a fairer, greener economy can help the planet'
How creating a fairer, greener economy can help the planet

The federal government’s latest greenhouse gas emissions target is a 40 per cent reduction below 2005 levels by 2030, with an aim for net-zero emissions by 2050. Last month, draft regulations were released that the government says would achieve a net-zero electricity grid by 2035.

The Alberta government has loudly opposed those targets, arguing they will require costly and burdensome production cuts in the province’s oil and gas sector, and have called for longer timetables to achieve net-zero. Saskatchewan has also voiced objections to Ottawa’s plans.

Ottawa is set to unveil plans for a cap on oil and gas emissions this fall, which has involved intense negotiations with Alberta and its energy sector.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Canadians want urgent climate action, but high cost of living stands in the way: poll'
Canadians want urgent climate action, but high cost of living stands in the way: poll

Notably, the Ipsos poll found that while majorities of Canadians in nearly every province agree Canada should do more to combat the climate crisis, only 26 per cent of Albertans agreed.

“There is a sense amongst some (in the Prairie provinces) that the federal government is asking particular sectors and provinces to bear a disproportionate burden,” said Lori Williams, a political science professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, when asked what may account for the disparity.

Albertans were also less likely to agree that this year’s wildfires are worse because of climate change, with 19 per cent nationally disagreeing the two are related.

Kai Chan, a professor in the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at University of British Columbia, said attitudes about climate change have only become more entrenched over time as people find “in-crowds” who support their beliefs.

Story continues below advertisement

“Those dynamics can be really strong and they can really prevent even personal experience from connecting to facts, to connecting to arguments,” he said.

Click to play video: '‘Very negative for climate’: Growing urgency to understand carbon’s dangers'
‘Very negative for climate’: Growing urgency to understand carbon’s dangers

The poll was conducted among 1,000 Canadian adults in mid-July, when wildfires had already impacted multiple provinces across the country — including Alberta — but before the particularly devastating fires in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories in August.

While Simpson at Ipsos believes the number of people calling for urgent climate action may have been higher if they were surveyed later, Chan is not convinced.

“People have other explanations that are really robust to being refuted, you know, like invoking higher powers,” he said. “It’s not easy to reach them regardless of how much (climate-related weather events) interrupt their lives.”

Individual actions

Nationally, the poll also found six in 10 Canadians believe individuals need to act now and do their part to combat climate change, or else risk failing future generations.

Story continues below advertisement

Just when that is appears to be up for debate, particularly in the midst of the rising cost of living. While 35 per cent of those surveyed said now is not the right time to invest in climate change measures due to the current economic climate, 38 per cent said the opposite.

The number of people opting to wait until life gets more affordable grew five points since February.

Click to play video: 'Wildfires: Insurance premiums set to rise as some companies may exit certain regions altogether'
Wildfires: Insurance premiums set to rise as some companies may exit certain regions altogether

Williams said economic and environmental concerns have become interwoven due to policies like the carbon tax, which have impacted gas prices in some provinces and may be turning some Canadians off from feeling they should do more to help combat climate change.

“People are willing to do their part, they’re willing to chip in,” Williams said. “But when the increase in prices at the gas pump is really squeezing budgets beyond what’s manageable, it doesn’t look like a fair or manageable thing to increase the federal government’s tax.”

Story continues below advertisement

Environmental advocates argue climate change is partly to blame for some of the factors fuelling the cost of living crisis. That includes extreme weather events like fires and drought affecting food production and supply chains.

“People have every right to be concerned about the cost of living crisis, but a major part of that crisis is our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Julia Levin, associate director for national climate at Environmental Defence.

“That means (we should be) moving towards climate solutions, moving towards wind and solar, which are the cheapest forms of energy production. That’s not just good for the climate, that’s good for people’s energy bills.”

Click to play video: 'Canada wildfires: Wilkinson says climate change is scientific reality that needs action'
Canada wildfires: Wilkinson says climate change is scientific reality that needs action

Among the potential steps Ipsos asked Canadians to consider in encouraging them to do more to fight climate change, a financial incentive like tax cuts on environmentally friendly goods and services got the most support, with 36 per cent agreeing.

Story continues below advertisement

About one-third said they would also be compelled to act by having easy access to information on everyday steps they can take, and seeing the impact of climate-driven weather events in Canada. A quarter said they would be inspired by their friends, family and neighbours making eco-friendly changes.

Levin said the poll is proof that Canadians want governments and businesses to do more to reduce harmful emissions and shift toward cleaner energy.

“The people with the most power, the people who are the most responsible, need to be held accountable,” she said.

Sponsored content

AdChoices