Canadians are only minimally familiar with climate issues, but give the federal government low marks for its plans to reach net-zero emissions and balance environmental and economic concerns, according to recent opinion research conducted for Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) by Environics Research.
Some of the details suggest that, by trying to thread the needle between a realistic climate plan and continuing support for the fossil industry, the Trudeau government is losing support from proponents of both. More broadly, the results point to a gap in public knowledge and understanding of the language climate and energy hawks often take for granted.
An executive summary of the study, posted to the NRCan website, shows 37% of respondents giving the country’s net-zero plan a poor rating, compared to 25% who consider it good, the Globe and Mail reports. Another 37% say Ottawa is doing a bad job of balancing environmental and economic factors, compared to 24% who think the government is doing well.
A clear majority of respondents believed the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion “will create economic opportunities and good quality jobs,” the summary said.
The results were drawn based on an online survey of 3,457 people in December and early January, plus a series of 20 virtual focus groups conducted in October and November.
The research, an update on a previous study conducted two years previously, “shows that a lower percentage of respondents rate the federal government’s performance as good compared to 2018-19 in promoting the economic growth of natural resource industries (31% now versus 35% then), investing in clean energy and clean technology (29% versus 35%), and making sure natural resources are developed in a way that respects the environment (29% versus 37%),” the Globe writes.
Focus group participants were only somewhat familiar with the term “low-carbon economy”, few had heard the term “net-zero by 2050”, and “several participants felt they needed more information about the 2050 goal in order to form an opinion,” the research summary said. While more than half of the focus group participants said they were at least somewhat familiar with net-zero, a low-carbon economy, and the Paris Agreement, “only one in 10 are very familiar with any of these topics”.
The Environics VP who signed off on the research declined to comment on the results, the Globe says. But Innovation Research Group managing director Greg Lyle said the data didn’t suggest to him that Canadians are confused.
“What’s more likely is that most people have conflicting attitudes that they have not taken the time to resolve because they are not that engaged in the issue,” he told the Globe. So “if you’re someone who cares about the issue and you read something that says everyone agrees with this or everyone agrees with that, be very suspicious. Because how can everyone agree when many people don’t know what they are talking about?”