Canadians’ views on the settled science of climate change and their rejection of climate denial are shaped largely by where they live and their political persuasions, according to a new poll by EKOS Research.
While Canadians’ concern over the destabilization of Earth’s climate hit a “pinnacle” in 2007, EKOS President Frank Graves told CBC News, and subsided in the wake of the following year’s financial crisis, two-thirds of the respondents in the most recent survey continue to disagree with the proposition, “I don’t believe all this talk about greenhouse gas emissions causing global climate change.” That figure is slightly lower than the 70% of Americans who tell pollsters they believe the climate is changing.
But Ottawa-based EKOS noted two clear dividing lines in Canadian opinion.
Respondents in Alberta and Saskatchewan—the two provinces with the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions—“are two to three times more likely than those in the rest of Canada to be skeptical of man-made climate change,” CBC reports.
And while respondents who identified as supporters of the Liberals, Greens, New Democratic Party, or Parti Québécois disagreed with the survey’s skeptical test proposition by margins of 78% to 13% (the split among péquistes) to 91% to 4% (Greens), Conservative Party of Canada backers agreed with the statement by a 54% to 33% margin.
Conservatives “are literally five times as likely to be on what we maybe call politely the enviro-skeptic—or, maybe less politely, the climate change denier—side of the equation,” Graves said.
Group identities may explain some of the sharp geographic and partisan differences of opinion, CBC writes. In what EKOS calls “myside bias,” borrowing the term from researchers, people tend “to evaluate claims that challenge their beliefs more stringently, while giving those consistent with their views the benefit of the doubt.”
“We don’t want to be overly challenged in terms of our belief systems and what we’re doing, because it causes us to have an identity crisis,” explained University of Alberta professor Lianne Lefsrud, who studies scientists’ beliefs about climate change.
For his part, Graves wonders whether the surge in so-called populism in the United States will shift Canadians away from views that—outside the CPC—“have typically been more concerned over the environment than Americans.”
“We do see that this populist movement has had [an effect] on the Conservative base,” Graves said. “It looks a little more like the Trump base than it did in the past. It seems it’s more permissible to just say, ‘Look, I think climate change is a lot of hooey,’ in an environment where you have Donald Trump winning the presidency.”