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Climate change considered the most extreme issue Canada currently faces despite COVID-19: study

91% of Canadians cite climate change as a serious issue

September 2, 2020  by CM Staff

PHOTO: Climate change/Tumisu via pixabay

OTTAWA — Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change or global warming ranks as the number one extremely serious issue Canada currently faces by one in three Canadians (31%), according to a study by the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA).

This compares to other key societal and economic issues cited as extremely serious, including government deficits and debt (29%); unemployment and economic growth (26%); wealth and income inequality (23%); racism and inequality in society (19%); and having access to affordable, sustainable and nutritious foods (18 per cent). While 88%t of Canadians report being personally impacted by climate change, 57% report being significantly impacted, which is on par with the percentage of Canadians who report that unemployment and the current state of Canada’s economy have significantly impacted them or their loved ones. The vast majority of Canadians (78%) expressed they are very concerned about the negative impact of climate change on future generations.

The newly released study by the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) conducted by Abacus Data explores the level of concern, impact and understanding around societal, economic and environmental issues Canada currently faces, as well as perceptions around addressing climate change.

“The fact that we are living through a global pandemic that has literally rocked the stability of the world we know, and yet climate change is currently cited as the number 1 extreme issue of concern is very profound,” said John Gorman, CEO and President of the CNA, in a statement. “As of today, 88% of Canadians report they have been adversely impacted by climate change. It’s hard to even fathom the longer-term impact for our future generations. Despite the severity of other economic and social issues we currently face, the data shows that Canadians want decisive action taken to address climate change, including 86% who believe the government should invest in clean technology.”

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Overall, 88% of Canadians report being adversely affected by climate change, including one in two (50%) Canadians who report they have been impacted through changing weather patterns such as flooding, rising water levels, droughts, wildfires, storms and increased costs of home repairs or insurance costs. One in five Canadians (20%) report they or their loved ones have been extremely impacted by climate change or global warming.

Canadians lack confidence Canada will meet 2030 emission reduction goals
Despite 89% of Canadians who believe in the importance of meeting the 2030 emission reduction goals (to 30% below 2005 levels) set out by the government, only 17% of Canadians express confidence Canada will meet these goals.

Mix of perceived solutions are needed to address climate change
When asked about the importance of possible solutions to address climate change, the study shows Canadians cite a mix of factors they consider either important or very important to include.

  • Industries must adopt cleaner energy technologies, such as nuclear and renewables (84%)
  • Increased use of renewables energy forms, such as wind, hydro and solar (83%)
  • Transition to clean electricity (82%)
  • Leverage new technology to offset emissions in the natural resources sector (77%)
  • Reducing the use of fossil fuels (73%)
  • The government must implement policies to change energy consumption behaviours for consumers and industry (73%)

Many Canadians are skeptical about behavioural change to address climate change
Just more than half (55%) of respondents believe Canadians will reduce their individual energy consumption to help meet the emission-reduction goals versus 45% who do not believe Canadians will reduce their consumption.

Despite the prevailing economic challenges and competing priorities, 86% of Canadians believe the government should invest in clean technology to address climate change.

While 84% of Canadians believe industries must adopt cleaner technologies and 83% believe the increased use of renewables is important to address climate change, there is still limited understanding around clean energy options. When asked about their level of understanding about clean energy sources, about 50 per cent of Canadians said they have a good understanding of both solar and hydro, compared to 47% for wind and 35% for nuclear.

Many Canadians have limited understanding of nuclear energy, with 56% of respondents stating their main sources of understanding are based on what they recall reading or hearing about many years ago. Only 10% of Canadians have sought out information on nuclear energy in the last 12 months. But knowing that nuclear reactors meet about 17% of Canada’s energy needs and have the potential to increase supply significantly, a majority of Canadians (55%) either support or are open to supporting more nuclear energy technologies to generate electricity in Canada. A further 35% would like to learn more before forming an opinion, versus 10% who expressed opposition.

“The research shows that while Canadians are hugely concerned about climate change and the vast majority believe the government should invest in clean technology, we still have a way to go in terms of understanding and education around clean energy. Seven in 10 Canadians are not aware that nuclear power is the second-largest source of low carbon electricity,” said Gorman. “Nuclear has a critical role to play, and we know that the more Canadians understand nuclear, the more they support it. But we still face many misconceptions. In fact, nearly one in three Canadians (28%) report that their primary means of understanding nuclear energy is from pop-culture sources, such as films, TV or fictional books. Knowledge is critical to make the right informed decisions around Canada’s energy mix to fight climate change.”