What do Canadians think about climate change?

August 24, 2021  |  Charles Lin

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Many Canadians are concerned about climate change, their concerns are exacerbated by the recent heat wages and wild fires, and climate change is among the top three election issues. These are the findings of two national public opinion surveys of Canadians by Abacus Data.

The first survey of 1,500 Canadians was conducted by Abacus for the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices in mid-July 2021. The second was a pre-election survey of 3,000 Canadians made in early August 2021. Both surveys were conducted shortly after the record-smashing heat wave that occurred at the end of June 2021 in British Columbia and Alberta. We summarize the key findings of the surveys.

1. Concern for climate change is widespread among Canadians
A majority of Canadians are extremely or quite concerned about climate change. More than half of all respondents are “extremely concerned” (25%) or “quite concerned” (27%) about climate change. Another 35% said they are “a little concerned”, and 13% are “not concerned at all”. 

2. Strong concern cuts across regions and age, less for political stripes
The strong concern (extremely or quite) for climate change cuts across regions of Canada and age distributions. It is at or exceeds 50% for five of the six regions in Canada except for Alberta, where it stands at 42%. Across the four age groups, strong concern ranges from a low of 44% among Canadians of age 30-44, to a high of 62% among the young, age 18-29. The concern appears to be different across partisan lines. Only 30% of supporters of the Conservative Party have expressed strong concern, while the four other major political parties are at 60% to 74% (from lowest to highest: Liberal, New Democratic, Bloc Quebecois, Green).

3. Concern has increased since the June heat events
Since the devastating heat wave and wild fires in June in BC and Alberta, 3 in 10 Canadians have become more worried about climate change. 8% and 21% of Canadians are respectively “much more concerned” or “more concerned” about climate change, while 65% have indicated “no change” in their level of concern, and 6% are “less concerned” or “much less concerned”.

4. Concern has also increased for health impacts
Today, 35% of Canadians think climate change has a direct impact on their health from poor air quality and the higher risk of floods, forest fires or storms. This is 5 points higher than the 30% in December 2020. Another 50% do not think climate change is impacting their health yet, but are concerned about the future impacts on their health and that of future generations.

5. Climate change – an election issue
The Canadian government will hold a federal election on September 20, 2021. Abacus identified the top 10 issues for the election. The top issue is cost of living, while the second and third are access to health care, and climate change and environment respectively. Climate change is clearly an election issue for Canadians.

What does all this mean?

Most Canadians are quite concerned about climate change and recent extreme events like the June heat waves and wild fires in the Pacific Northwest, have increased this concern. Some Canadians already feel the impact of climate change on their health, while some have not felt such impacts yet, but are concerned about the future. As extreme events become more frequent with climate change, these concerns will intensify.

Climate change is a top-three issue for the upcoming Canadian federal election. Stay tuned as we post in the coming weeks topics on climate change and energy transition relevant to the election. As Canadian citizens, we have both the privilege and duty to vote to help chart the future of our country – please vote in September!

Charles Lin

Charles is a retired atmospheric scientist based in Toronto. He stays busy as founder and lead of ImpactNetZero, keeping healthy in mind and body, and reading stories to his two grandchildren.

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