The federal government is busy consulting us now, gathering input from Canadians on policy proposals for a just transition to renewables, a carbon emissions cap for the oil and gas sector, a clean electricity grid, and more. But how well informed do Canadians think they are about these potential solutions?
Not very, according to our recent studies. Many Canadians, particularly those in the so-called Moveable Middle of environmental opinion, have big knowledge gaps about solutions. And when they encounter these gaps, they’re inclined to backfill them with info from questionable sources: those who speak loudest on social media, and opponents of evidence-based solutions to climate change and biodiversity loss. Communicators need to bridge these gaps with solid information.
EcoA research conducted last fall found that far too many Canadians are not confident in their knowledge about climate solutions. Less than 20% feel “very well” or “extremely well” informed about climate accountability, nature-based climate solutions, carbon capture, transitioning to renewable energy, or a just transition of the economy off fossil fuels. Climate accountability appeared to be most well understood, with declining levels of confidence in knowledge about nature-based solutions, carbon capture, energy transition, and a just transition.
\A follow-up qualitative study this summer supported these findings. It showed that misunderstanding of solutions is a barrier to support for policies like capping carbon emissions, protecting 30% of land and oceans, and introducing a clean electricity standard.
Particular knowledge gaps appeared around how land and ocean conservation targets (30% by 2030) would be met. Concerns about costs, loss of private property, and job losses were often cited as barriers to support. And concerns around the loss of livelihoods undermined support for oil and gas sector emissions caps, with many saying they knew little about how a just transition might be implemented. Finally, concerns around cost, reliability, and efficiency of electrification indicate a knowledge gap here that is often leveraged by detractors who would sow more seeds of confusion, distrust, and cynicism.
EcoAnalytics’ fall, 2021 quantitative research used a national survey with 2,293 respondents. Our summer 2022 qualitative research involved online discussion boards that engaged 54 participants (40 English, 14 French) in the so-called Moveable Middle. Both rounds were conducted by Environics Research Group.
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