Canadians take responsibility for environment: poll

by Eve Savory,

If Canadians had their way, Canada would be a global leader on fighting climate change, winning praise and respect for its policies.

The latest Environics poll found 67 percent of Canadians want their country to be the leader or at least among the leaders. True to their “green” image, Vancouverites believed that more strongly than people anywhere else.

Almost half of Canadians – 44 percent - say the most effective way to show that leadership is to be a model country, one that sets an example for the rest of the world. Twenty-eight percent think the best way is through developing and sharing technology.

Canadians have come a long way since Environics started polling them on the environment in 1987. Dr. Keith Neuman said back then, a third of Canadians thought climate change, a.k.a. "global warming", was a good thing.
Now, he said, "we don’t even ask that question any more". With only one in ten Canadians a sceptic, both the questions and the answers have moved on. Neuman says you could see the shift in sentiment start last winter.

"People just know there is a problem that has to be addressed, we should be getting on with it, and they want to see something that satisfies them that it’s being taken seriously."

He finds it encouraging that there wasn’t much finger pointing – not a lot of the "it’s someone else’s fault" kind of thinking. And a majority – 57 percent - said that if cutting greenhouse gases hurts Western Canada’s economy the rest of the country should compensate those provinces.

What’s more, there was a willingness to take personal responsibility – and a growing understanding of the sources of the problem. When asked "Who are the biggest contributors?" to greenhouse gas emissions, 55 percent named industry and 53 percent named consumers.

On the downside, says Neuman, one in five couldn’t name any.

Nor is there much comprehension of where the impact will be most felt in Canada. Canadians answered children, seniors, the sick and the poor, in that order.

Only 11 percent mentioned Canada’s Arctic, where the impacts are already advancing.

Neuman’s personal take-away message is that people are ready for someone to do something, and the federal government may have missed a political opportunity when it announced a one percent cut in the GST in its mini-budget.

He thinks the smart move would have been to tell the public the government will get the lost tax back by putting a one percent tax on fossil fuels, and then will use that for the environment.

"The point is people are looking for something serious", he says. "It may have actually meant more to people to know there is actually a big shift on government action on the environment. I think that might have sold."

The poll was commissioned by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and Canada West Foundation for a conference on climate change that opens tomorrow in Calgary.

The survey was conducted by Environics with a representative sample of 2,006 Canadians (aged 18 years and older) between October 4 and 11, 2007. A sample of this size drawn from the population will provide results accurate to within plus or minus 2.2 percent, 19 times out of 20.

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Roy Smith

These polls mean nothing, Canadians have no idea how trying to meet the Kyoto targets would lower their standard of living, punitive tax measures will not make any difference to global warming. The problem is China, India and Brazil, until they are on board you might as well forget it.

Posted November 15, 2007 03:38 PM

Tom Harris


There is a serious problem with this piece.

Quted is the statement: "With only one in ten Canadians a sceptic, both the questions and the answers have moved on."

This conflicts sharply with the finding of Ipsos Reid last year that 39% of Canadians think that recent climate change is "The effect of natural warming and cooling patterns that rise and fall over the course of centuries, one of which we are experiencing

Posted November 15, 2007 07:07 PM



Tom - I think these are somewhat different points. For example - I believe the earth warms and cools in cycles, but I also believe mankind is accelerating this warming through the use of fossil fuels, etc. So... the piece and the statement aren't necessarily at odds with one another.

Posted November 19, 2007 12:01 AM



Roy - To forget about the problem is not a proper answer. According to your statement, why should China feel a need to change until India and Brazil change? On your other point of lowering our standard of living - this is inevitable. Perhaps people need to live a life like that of a century and a half ago. If we live shorter lives because of it then perhaps its worth it in order for the human race to survive longer. What we are doing now to the planet could prove just as dangerous as the comet that wiped out the dinosaurs because we are harming not just ourselves but causing the extinction of other speicies.

Posted November 21, 2007 01:42 PM

Dave Burhoe


My first comment is directed to Roy who says China, India and Brazil are the problems. The USA produces more GHG emissions than China, India and Japan combined. China's vehicle emissions standards are stricter than California's (the highest in the US). Brazil's vehicles burn 80-100% ethanol, which it grows, and has been proven to be FAR cleaner.
Alberta has by far the greatest GHG emissions in Canada bcause of coal-fired electricity principally. Alberta has initiated emissions targets and action palns to achieve through the office: Climate Change Central. Why would Alberta do this if it did not believe GHG is driving climate change?

Posted November 23, 2007 10:08 PM



If Canada 9and the world) would just smarten up and go with nuclear power, we wouldn't have to worry so much.

Posted November 27, 2007 11:33 AM



look, global warming is happening, but who cares? once it gets so bad that it affects the rich peoples' money, then things will change, and although (because humans are slow to act) there will be huge changes to the climate and tonnes of damage, and many deaths, the human race will live on and adapt. any one of the following will drastically hurt the world (the arctic melt, increased greenhouse gases, desertification, deforestation, overpopulation, food shortage, extreme temperature fluctuation, ocean current changes, etc.) but all of them together...THAT's going to be interesting to watch!

Posted January 15, 2008 11:42 AM

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