Climate Change A Tough Sell

Cabinet faces a tough sell with any federal climate change program, says Natural Resources Canada research. A $152,235 department study concluded most Canadians oppose a carbon tax; do not understand cap and trade; and rate local pollution issues a higher priority than global warming.

“Most participants had little grasp of the challenges of climate change,” Ipsos Reid concluded in 2015 Public Opinion Research On Energy Issues. The study was commissioned by the department just weeks before the October 19 election campaign.

“Few mentioned climate change or global warming as a top concern,” Research said; “When participants were asked to identify what they consider to be key environmental issues, responses focused on local issues such as air and water quality, land use and conservation.”

The research involved focus group sessions in Vancouver and Prince Rupert, B.C.; Calgary; Mississauga and St. Catharines, Ont.; Québec City and Saint John, and telephone interviews with 3,000 Canadians nationwide. Only 37 percent of people surveyed said they would support a federal carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The idea of charging either companies or individuals money for their greenhouse gas emissions was not favourably viewed by many participants,” Research said; “Few recognized how charging businesses or consumers a tax would result in effective change. A few did recognize the cost implications of global warming and did think that taxing greenhouse gas emissions could be a way to spur behavioural change and the development of cleaner technology, but these participants were outnumbered by those who expressed cynicism about how the money from a greenhouse gas emissions tax would be spent by the government collecting it.”

Cap ‘N Trade Too Complex

Data show 51 percent of respondents said they’d support a cap and trade system allowing polluters to buy and sell emission credits, but “tended to describe it as overly complicated,” Research said: “It seemed to them that companies could continue to pollute as long as they could pay to do so.”

“Most participants found it overly complex and were skeptical of its ability to protect the environment,” Ipsos Reid wrote; “Given that many did not agree with or fully understand the premise of a cap and trade system, the notion that Canadian provinces or Canada as a whole should embrace a system, and potentially join with other jurisdictions in the U.S. in a collaborative cap and trade regime, did not receive much support.”

A majority, 63 percent, said they were unaware of any federal program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and did not mention climate change as a top environmental priority: “When asked why climate change did not figure into the list of top challenges, some said it was because it was the overarching issue, or that it was understood to be an important challenge. While most participants said they considered climate change to be real, their examples were limited to discussions about unusual weather patterns – either very cold or very hot, or both – or melting ice in the Arctic, putting species there at risk. Few participants connected climate change or responses to climate change by governments as having major implications.”

The polling and focus group research was conducted in June and tabulated in September. “For many participants, substantive action by governments such as investing in and developing alternative energy sources were seen as more effective ways for governments to take action on climate change,” said Research.

By Mark Bourrie 

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