Canada’s energy dysfunction

New survey shows Canadians divided over timing of more ambitious climate approach

New Positive Energy Survey: 45% of Canadians say now is the best time to be ambitious in addressing climate change; 29% say it is the worst

Positive Energy released new survey results examining the influence of COVID-19 on Canadian attitudes towards the country’s energy future in an age of climate change. The survey, conducted by Positive Energy’s official pollster Nanos Research, provides timely insights into how Canadians perceive the trade-offs between economic recovery and addressing climate change amid a public health crisis. Canadians were asked on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 means absolutely the worst time and 10 absolutely the best time, how good a time is it for Canada to be ambitious in addressing climate change even if there are costs to the economy.

“These findings suggest that climate change is still on the minds of many—but not all—Canadians,” said Professor Monica Gattinger, Chair of Positive Energy and Director, Institute for Science, Society and Policy, University of Ottawa. “Over one-third of respondents said that now was the absolute worst or absolute best time. This could be a polarizing issue. Governments will need to balance environmental protection with other priorities, notably economic growth and jobs.”

While a plurality of Canadians still believe that now is a good time to be ambitious about addressing climate change, opinion on the issue appears somewhat polarized.

■ 45% of Canadians answered 7 or higher; 17% answered 10

■ 29% of Canadians answered 3 or lower; 17% answered 0

■ 23% of Canadians answered between 4 and 6

■ 3% are unsure The survey also asked Canadians why they believe now is a good or bad time to address climate change.

Those who said now was the best time most frequently answered that climate change cannot wait, or that the pandemic offers a good opportunity for change and highlights our impact on the environment. Those who believe now is the worst time say we should wait until the economy has recovered from the pandemic’s effects, or that there are other priorities to address.

The survey reveals how attitudes vary by region, age, and gender.

People in the Prairies, men, and older Canadians are less likely to say this is a good time for climate ambition. People in Québec, Atlantic Canadians, women, and younger Canadians are more likely to say it is a good time.

The survey also offers a snapshot of Canadian attitudes on several other energy-related topics, including oil and gas development and perceived trade-offs between the environment and the economy. Understanding where opinions diverge on these issues is crucial for decision-makers charting a path forward for energy and climate, and the coming economic recovery.

“Despite the economic slowdown caused by the COVID pandemic, Canadians are more likely to say that now is the best time rather than the worst to be ambitious about the economy, reasoning that climate change cannot wait and that there is an opportunity for an environmentally-focused economic reboot. At the same time, they appear to be keenly sensitive to potential trade-offs,” said Nik Nanos, CEO of Nanos Research and Chair of Positive Energy’s Advisory Council.


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