Urgency to act on climate change surging, but public confidence is weak

The University of Ottawa’s Positive Energy program uses the convening power of the university to bring together academic researchers and senior decision-makers from industry, government, Indigenous communities, local communities and environmental organizations to determine how to strengthen public confidence in energy decision-making.

Picture of the report on climate

The survey

New survey results from Positive Energy and Nanos Research continue to track whether Canadians think it is a good time or a bad time to be ambitious in addressing climate change. This question is designed to measure enthusiasm on climate ambition and detect where opinion may be polarized. The survey results also explores key questions related to public confidence in energy decision-making and Canada’s ability to act on climate.

The survey was an RDD dual frame (land- and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,002 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between July 31 and August 2, 2021 as part of a Nanos omnibus survey. The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.

The analysis

Canadians were asked on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 means absolutely the worst time and 10 absolutely the best time, how good a time is it for Canada to be ambitious in addressing climate change even if there are costs to the economy. A growing majority of Canadians believe now is a good time. Asked why it is a good/bad time, more than 1 in 2 respondents said that we need to act now and climate change cannot wait. In the first round of survey results from July 2020, just 1 in 5 Canadians gave this answer.

Opinion on this issue appears to be depolarizing, with 36% of respondents answering 10, 11% respondents answering 0, and a mean score of 6.9/10. In July 2020, just 17% of respondents answered 10, while 17% of respondents answered 0, and the mean score was 5.5/10. Responses are broken out by region, age and gender across all four tracking polls.

The survey also asked Canadians a range of questions related to Canada’s energy future, including the economic importance of oil and gas, what most contributes to or undermines their confidence in Canada’s ability to reduce emissions, and their confidence in citizens, corporations, and governments to change their behaviour to reduce emissions. The results suggest low levels of public confidence in Canada’s ability to hit its GHG targets.

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