In almost every federal election riding in Canada, the majority of residents believe that climate change has already harmed their province and will continue to do so in the near future, new data suggests.
An interactive mapping tool estimates adult perceptions by riding, and reveals how climate change issues unite and divide us as October’s federal election nears. It was developed by researchers at the University of Montreal and University of California Santa Barbara.
Using more than 9,000 survey responses and validated statistical models, they estimate 83 per cent of Canadians believe the earth is warming — compared to 70 per cent of Americans, as found in a similar project out of Yale University last year.
Fifty-four per cent of Canadians support increased taxes on carbon-based fuels, and 58 per cent support a cap-and-trade system, according to the study.
“Our data shows that there might be a variety of reasons to vote for a provincial or national government, but at the root there’s a strong desire in Canada to deal with climate change,” said Matto Mildenberger, a Canadian political scientist at the University of California, who was part of the mapping project.
There were some notable differences region by region.
Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are the only provinces where the majority of residents believe climate change will harm them personally — compared to the national average of 47 per cent. These are also the places where the greatest percentage of people think their provinces have felt the negative effects of climate change.
The majority of residents in Alberta and Saskatchewan think the earth is getting warmer, but not because of human activity. People in northern Alberta ridings have “extreme levels” of disbelief that climate change will harm them, Mildernberger said. For example, 70 per cent of adults in the federal riding of Fort McMurray-Cold Lake don’t think they’ll be personally affected, despite a devastating 2016 wildfire.
In traditionally conservative ridings, people appear to want action on climate change, said Mildenberger. “Support for climate action is not a Conservative, Liberal or NDP riding issue — it’s an issue on the minds of Canadians across the country,” he said.
In Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer’s riding Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask., researchers estimate that the majority of residents support either a cap and trade system (57 per cent) or a carbon tax (52 per cent).
Scheer recently called the carbon tax imposed by the Liberals a “betrayal of trust.” His climate plan presented ahead of the election has been criticized by activists and critics as meaningless rhetoric that plays into the hands of oil lobbyists.
In Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s riding Etobicoke-North (which matches the federal riding), researchers found that about 62 per cent of residents support cap and trade, and 66 per cent support a carbon tax. Ford’s government confirmed last month it will go to the Supreme Court to fight the federal carbon tax.