Monica Gattinger and Nik Nanos: The new data shows that Canadians want to be ambitious about climate change. But public confidence in the ability to act is weak.

Monica Gattinger is Director of the Institute for Science, Society and Politics, President of Positive Energy and Senior Lecturer in the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa.

Nik Nanos is the Chief Data Scientist and Founder of Nanos Research, Chairman of the Positive Energy Advisory Board, and Research Professor at the State University of New York (Buffalo).

It is election season and the parties are competing to define the topics and terms of the debate. While the pandemic still dominates the headlines, a new survey from the University of Ottawa and Nanos Research’s Positive Energy program suggests that a wild-weather summer may put climate change back on Canadians’ priority list.

Since the inception of COVID-19, Positive Energy and Nanos have been asking Canadians if they think it is a good or bad time to be ambitious in addressing climate change, even if there are costs to the economy, using a scale of zero. to 10..

After four rounds of monitoring, a clear trend line has emerged. Our latest results indicate that nearly two in three Canadians believe this is the best time to be ambitious about climate change (scores 7-10) rather than a good time (4-6, roughly one in seven) or the worst time (0-3, about one in five). The change over the last 14 months has been quite pronounced. The responses were somewhat polarized when we first posed the question last year, with the same number responding 0 or 10 (17% each). In the latest round of polls, we’re looking at depolarization and a shift toward the deal, with nearly twice as many respondents saying now is absolutely the best time (36 percent) and fewer say it’s the worst (11 percent). .

We have also tracked why respondents gave the answers they did. As we described in a previous article, the sense of urgency to act on climate change is increasing. When we first asked Canadians why they said it is a good or bad time to be ambitious, the most common response was: “We have to act now, climate change cannot wait”, with approximately one in five respondents (21%) saying this. In the latest round of polls, this number rose, with more than half of those surveyed (53 percent) citing the urgency of the problem. Among those who said now is the best time to be ambitious (7-10), the number was even higher, with more than three-quarters (77 percent) saying the problem can’t wait. In contrast, the number of respondents saying we should prioritize economic recovery or responding to a pandemic has roughly halved since June 2020 (from 21 to 10 percent and 13 to 6 percent, respectively). .

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We also raise several questions that shed more light on the growing sense of urgency in fighting climate change. Many are at the core of Positive Energy’s mandate: public confidence in energy decision-making in an age of climate change. The results are sobering and offer pause for decision makers mapping Canada’s energy and climate future.

When asked what most undermines their confidence that Canada can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the top two responses are revealing: big business, oil industry interests and lobbying (13 percent) and government inaction, empty promises, and non-compliance (12 percent). penny). This was followed by provinces, politicians and companies that resisted or undermined the efforts (7%). Despite Canadians’ strong appetite for climate action, the perception of business and government inaction appears to be damaging public confidence.

When asked what contributes the most to their confidence that Canada can reduce GHG emissions, the top answer is surprising: approximately one in four respondents (23 percent) said “nothing” or that they are not confident. This was followed at a distance by people who took action and held governments (15 percent) and green energy (8 percent) accountable. These results suggest that while many Canadians are cynical, others are encouraged by growing civic mobilization and green energy technologies.

We also asked Canadians to tell us on a scale of 0 to 10 how much trust they have in citizens, governments and corporations taking steps to reduce emissions. Respondents report a higher level of trust in citizens (average score of 5.4 out of 10) and governments (5.1 out of 10) to take action than in companies (4.1 out of 10, and 42% of respondents do not trust companies to change their behavior). Neither sector enjoys high levels of public trust, but the low scores of corporations combined with the factors that undermine public trust noted above suggest that many Canadians view the private sector as an obstacle rather than a solution.

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Finally, we asked about the present and future importance of oil and gas to the Canadian economy. There is agreement that oil and gas are important today (average score of 7.6 out of 10) and will continue to be somewhat important in the future (average score of 6.0 out of 10), but it is not clear whether this will play out. It is because Canadians believe it will be. a challenge to reduce dependence on oil and gas or because they consider that oil and gas consumption is compatible with climate action.

Canadians’ appetite for ambitious climate action has grown during the pandemic, but their confidence in Canada’s ability to act is weak. They believe that there are strong opposing forces hampering our collective ability to reduce emissions, and they are particularly concerned about government and business inaction. In the run-up to federal elections and beyond, leaders and decision makers need to take notice.

Source: Positive Energy / Nanos Research, RDD Dual Frame Hybrid Phone & Random Online Survey, July 30-Aug 2, 2021, n = 1002, plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times of 20. More details of the report here.

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