- 06 May 2021
- 3 Minutes to read
What do Canadians Think about Climate Change?
- Updated on 06 May 2021
- 3 Minutes to read
Climate change can be a polarizing issue—perceptions vary widely across the country, and within provinces.
The climate and the effects of climate change can be contentious topics that some families have even banned from discussion around the dinner table to avoid heated arguments. This polarization can make it challenging to know who to talk to about climate change, and how to talk to them. However, it’s important to know that the loudest voices don’t always represent the majority—most Canadians are actually worried about climate change.
A recent analysis conducted by Climate Access found that more than 76% of Canadians are seriously worried about climate change. In fact, 64% believe that in the long-term, it is just as serious a crisis as COVID-19. This number varies widely across the country, however. There are some key variables that are linked to Canadians’ perceptions of climate change that could be considered when crafting messaging:
- Politics: Only 31% of Conservative party supporters say that climate change is ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ serious, compared to over 60% of Liberal, NDP, or Green party supporters.
- Geography: The prairie provinces as a whole are the least concerned about climate change. Atlantic Canada has the highest number of Canadians who believe that climate change is ‘extremely serious’ — 37% of Atlantic Canadian adults.
- Age: 40% of Canadians under 30 agree that climate change is ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ serious, where only a quarter of people over 45 agree.
- Gender: Half of Canadian women say they vote on issues related to climate, compared to only one third of Canadian men.
A problem with inaction
Though most Canadians are concerned about climate change, only 25% are alarmed and actively engaged on climate issues. This means that public support can be unreliable as most Canadians aren’t willing to act, despite their concern about climate change. Part of this could be related to the fact that many Canadians believe we are already doing enough to address climate change as a country. When comparing Canada internationally, Canadians think we are on par with, or outperforming, many other G7 countries; in reality, we are the only country to have continually increased our emissions over the last 10 years rather than reducing them.
Find out more by reading this summary of public opinion research for communicators from Climate Access:
Supporting clean energy
Canadians are also less likely than other countries to support individual climate solutions. Compared to the rest of the world, Canadians are less willing to change their daily travel plans, eat less meat, or avoid flying. However, there is a general support across the country for renewable energy: 81% are highly supportive of shifting to clean energy, and 71% are convinced that an energy transition is inevitable.
How can we talk to diverse groups about climate change?
Fortunately, there has been a significant amount of research done to tell us the best ways to communicate about climate change, even for audiences who are more resistant to talking about it than others. Here are a few tips the analysis recommends:
- Have an audience in mind. If you are addressing a large general audience, like your entire town, decide whether you want to target those who are already engaged, those who are concerned but inactive, or those who aren’t concerned about climate change yet.
- Normalize climate change. People care what others believe. If they think that climate action is reserved just for the most active environmentalists, they will be less likely to get involved. Emphasize descriptive norms to help them realize they’re not alone. You can use specific numbers or examples as well, like “80% of Canadians agree that climate change is urgent and needs action now.”
- Name the problem and name the solution. Always pair the problem with an actionable solution for audiences. For example, highlight that burning fossil fuels is the main cause of climate change, and it will keep getting worse until emissions are brought down to zero, but frame the conversation around the solution... clean energy.
- Use extreme weather as an entry point. Research has shown that people are often most receptive to points about extreme weather. Use this as an entry point to talking about the impacts of climate change.
Looking for more tips? Try Climate Outreach’s Principles for Effective Communication and Public Engagement on Climate Change to learn more: