Survey: Barometer rising on climate change concerns for Canadians and Americans

In June 2020, Research Co. and Glacier Media asked Canadians and Americans about their views on climate change.

At the time, the two countries were slowly coming to terms with the early effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Americans were just weeks away from an election that ultimately saw the defeat of an incumbent president who continues to refer to climate change as “a hoax.” Canadians participated in a federal ballot in 2021, which returned a minority government and brought forth no significant changes to environmental policy.

Over the past two years, residents of the two countries have become more worried about climate change. In our latest two-country survey, practically seven in 10 Canadians (69 per cent) think global warming is a fact and is mostly caused by emissions from vehicles and industrial facilities, up five points since 2020. More than two-thirds of Canadians (68 per cent, up six points) consider global warming as a “major crisis.”

There are some regional nuances, as agreement on human-made global warming reaches 73 per cent in British Columbia, Atlantic Canada and Ontario and 71 per cent in Quebec. In contrast, the proportions drop to 59 per cent in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and to 55 per cent in Alberta.

When we asked these two questions in the United States, the results are lower than in Canada. Still, there is an evident upward trend: 60 per cent of Americans think global warming is a fact and is mostly caused by emissions from vehicles and industrial facilities (up seven points) and the same proportion (60 per cent) consider climate change a “major crisis” (up nine points).

As expected, there is a clear political divide in each country. While 79 per cent of Canadians who voted for the Liberal Party of Canada or the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the 2021 federal election consider climate change a “major crisis,” only 46 per cent of those who backed the Conservative Party of Canada concur. Among Americans, Democrats are significantly more likely to brand global warming as a “major crisis” (82 per cent) than Independents (60 per cent) and Republicans (33 per cent).

It is important to note that sizable majorities of Canadians and Americans continue to call for a greater effort from various sectors to deal with issues related to climate change that are impacting people now, including individuals and consumers (67 per cent in Canada and 65 per cent in the U.S.), governments (69 per cent in Canada and 65 per cent in the U.S.) and companies and corporations (75 per cent in Canada and 70 per cent in the U.S.).

When residents of the two North American countries are asked if they are willing to pay higher taxes to adequately address seven distinct issues, about three in five Canadians (59 per cent, down one point) and Americans (61 per cent, up seven points) say they are willing to contribute more to tackle climate change.

Only two other possible allocations are at or near this level of support for higher taxation: homelessness (57 per cent in Canada and 61 per cent in the U.S.) and schools (57 per cent in Canada and 64 per cent in the United States).

Another aspect worth noting is the behaviour of those who grew up at a time when the attention paid to global warming was nowhere near where it is today.

We found notable increases in the proportion of parents in Canada and the United States who are recycling more (85 per cent and 79 per cent, respectively) and driving less than usual (55 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively) after having conversations with their children about climate change. While these actions may not make a significant dent in global greenhouse emissions, they outline a new way of thinking that is directly derived from the experience of the youngest inhabitants.

The survey shows that, compared with 2020, the climate change concerns of Canadians and Americans have increased. So has their willingness to pay higher taxes in order to curb its negative effects. Residents of the two North American countries are equally eager to take a holistic approach to this challenge. •

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on online studies conducted from August 19 to August 21, 2022, among representative samples of 1,000 adults Canada and the United States. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.