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98% of Canadians Believe the Climate is Changing*

2012/08/16
According to the latest projections, Arctic ice could disappear as early as 2022.  Photo: Canadian Press.

According to the latest projections, Arctic ice could disappear as early as 2022. Photo: Canadian Press.

From May 29th to June 11th, an online survey of 1,550 Canadians was used to get an idea of where we stand when it comes to climate change.  The results, which came out August 15th, had this to say:

– 32% believe climate change is happening and is caused by human activity.

– 54% believe climate change is happening and is caused by a combination of human activity and natural variations.

– 9% believe the climate is changing and that change is completely natural.

– 2% believe that the climate is not changing.

Interestingly (and not surprisingly), different parts of the country “believe” differently.

The same survey showed that people in the prairies (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) were less likely to believe that climate change was caused by human activity, while people in BC, Atlantic Canada and Québec were more likely to believe that climate change is man-made.

I inherently dislike the idea of asking whether or not people “believe” in human-induced climate change.  It isn’t a religion so belief has nothing to do with it.  Thousands of scientists from around the planet have exhaustively studied the question and, according to climatologist Micheal Mann, “more than 99%” of those scientists agree that the climate is changing and that change is caused by human activity.

Still, considering how poorly our media has covered the issue of climate change and considering the issue’s absence from the political discourse in Canada, these results are a source of optimism.  Next step: making Canadians understand the severity of the problem and how little time we have to act.

* The survey company did their best to represent the Canadian population with quotas for age, gender, region and education.  This survey was not done by randomly sampling the Canadian population.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. 2012/08/16 7:48 pm

    Good point about the ‘belief’ thing. I ‘believe’ that climate change is happening (and it’s we who are to blame for it) in the same way that I ‘believe’ that gravity is real.

    As for your ‘next step’ — people only believe there’s a crisis when the brakes fail, by which time it’s too late to do anything about the imminent crash. I believe that’s the situation we’re in. Too little, too late: we’re screwed.

    • 2012/08/17 5:07 am

      I also “believe” that the Earth is round 🙂

      I know what you mean about “the imminent crash”. The lag between emissions and actual changes in climate is what makes it such a hard problem to deal with and get people on board. They aren’t worried enough! And, despite the fact that I share your concern with the situation we are in, I believe that we still have a responsibility to tackle this problem as aggressively as we can… there are different levels of “screwed” when it comes to climate change. We may not be able to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius, but have to limit the warming as much as we can in order to avoid some of the nastiest tipping points. If we can…

  2. 2012/08/16 10:04 pm

    Um, and when will politicians believe it?

    • 2012/08/17 5:12 am

      Politicians will believe it when their re-election requires them to believe it. That’s why I think it is important for people not just to realize that climate change is real and caused by our industrial activities, but also that it is a grave problem that we must act on RIGHT NOW! The scientific community’s sense of urgency hasn’t spread to our population. And, until it does (or until politicians with a spine are elected), we will see little action from our politicians – especially the conservative leaning ones.

  3. Martin Lack permalink
    2012/08/17 5:25 am

    I am really glad to see you decided to run with this, JP. However, like I said in my email to you, this headline grabs the attention because:
    “…we are used to hearing that 40-60% think AGW is not happening. I think this survey was very well thought through: The question demanded that respondents explain their position, resulting in 2% admitting to being in complete denial. None of us has seen this statistic before because the question has always been, ‘Do you think humans are responsible?’ (not do you dispute that change is occurring)….”

    Before they will be willing to take what may well have to be radical action, people need to believe – sorry – accept that we are responsible for what is happening… Therefore this survey is good news.

    • 2012/08/17 5:48 am

      Thanks Martin. I wasn’t going to write about this, but your e-mail got me thinking. And the more I think about it, the better news this is.

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