Friday, October 18, 2019

Polls Reveal Unprecedented Support for Climate Action

Image source: Ecojustice
Polls show that climate and environmental issues have unprecedented support in Canada.  The question is whether this will impact voting behaviors.  There are many reasons why Canadians are concerned about climate change. This includes the fact that Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world.

This is the first time in Canadian history climate change is a priority issue for Canadians. Polls show that Canadians want climate action. More than three quarters (76%) of Canadians agree with the statement that the scientific evidence "clearly shows" climate change is real and caused by human activity.

The Conservative message to Canadians is: "It's time for you to get ahead". This has been the strategy Conservatives use to get elected. Andrew Scheer is much like former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Conservatives track record under Harper reads like a rap sheet of environmental crimes.They are betting that Canadians will put their short term self-interest ahead of the long term national interest and ahead of the health and safety of future generations. However, they may have miscalculated.  According to a poll released in July of this year 61 percent of Canadians want the government to take action on climate change even if the economy suffers.

The Mainstreet poll for iPolitics indicates that more than two thirds of Canadians (68%) agreed that we have a moral responsibility to future generations to curtail our environmental destruction even if that means more taxes.

Support for climate action is strong all across the country. More than 85 percent of respondents support forcing polluters to pay. This may have voting implications that benefit the ruling Liberals carbon pricing scheme, conversely it may not bode well for the Conservatives who have indicated they want to scrap the plan.

In the lead-up to this election there have been hundreds of Green New Deal town halls in Canada. Even the fossil fuel industry is trying to shroud themselves in green aspirations. They have been touting their carbon reduction efforts, while showing support for carbon taxes and climate sequestration. However, as the nation's largest polluter, critics say this is just window dressing and little more than a public relations move. There is little doubt that Canada's fossil fuel industry is banking on a Conservative win. The oil and gas lobby is powerful in Canada and they helped to write the Conservative's "green plan".

All of the four major parties have put forth environmental platforms the include reducing GHG emissions, however, according to a CBC analysis, only the Greens' policy platform will meet or exceed the Paris climate targets.

Planting trees is an important part of climate action. One trillion trees is the new global target. Both the Greens and the Liberals want to plant trees. The former want to plant 2 billion trees while the latter want to plant 10 billion.

According to a survey from Forum Research, the environment was the most important issues for voters followed by the economy.  The July results represent a significant increase in the number of Canadians who prioritze the environment compared to a similar poll in February. Abacus Data's nationwide survey in April revealed that 83 percent of Canadians are quite, very or extremely concerned about climate change. All of these polls indicate that concern for climate is highest in Quebec which is interesting to note given that Quebec is poised to determine the outcome of this election by splitting climate voters.

Support for climate action is strongest among young people so if they get out to vote it will be a game changer. In 2011 young people could have prevented Stephen Harper from becoming Prime Minister, however they did not turn out to vote.

In the wake of climate destroying governments in Ontario and Alberta, a Conservative federal government will likely make it impossible for Canada to achieve its emissions reductions targets.

It is hard to reconcile the fact that Canadians appear to want both climate action and cheap energy.  Some have described this as an "obsession" with fossil fuels. Despite the statistical shift there are reasons to believe that Canadians value their short-term economic well-being over the health, safety and security of their children's futures.  

Hopes that Canadians may vote for climate action are supported by the recent election outcome in B.C. As explained by the IPCC we need to make major efforts in the short term to keep temperatures from surpassing critical thresholds. We have less than a decade before it may be too late.  As one climate activist put it, "the consequences of getting it wrong in October would be devastating".

No comments: