30% of Canadians Can't do the Math on Climate Change
A recent survey conducted to explore attitudes toward taxing carbon emissions in Canada revealed a big surprise: Almost one-third of all Canadians do not believe climate change is caused by industry and human activity. About 90% of Canadians do understand that the climate is changing. An earlier poll showed that about 10% still couldn't recognize the bizarre changes in weather or acknowledge the record temperatures.
The recent poll, conducted on behalf of the Ecofiscal Commission of Canada, was originally intended to help determine how people might respond to the idea of a carbon tax. The tax itself was envisaged to encourage companies to keep their carbon emissions down. When the poll was conducted, not only did it become clear that many people do not even understand what a carbon tax is but a sizeable minority do not even accept the need for controlling industry emissions.
The best news from the survey is that it did show that most Canadians recognize that the climate is changing. Where things go downhill is in people’s understanding of why it is happening.
In answer to one of the most important questions – which was to select an answer to the question “If the Earth is warming, do you believe the cause is mostly…?” – 70% checked the answer “human activity and industrial activity such as burning fuels,” but the other 30% mostly chose “natural patterns in the Earth’s environment.” Even worse than this is the data from polls showing Canadians want less emphasis from the government overall on the whole issue of reducing emissions. Surveys have shown that the number of people who want the government to focus less on emissions-reduction policies has doubled from 8% in 2015 to 16% in 2018.
By province, residents in the Atlantic Provinces, Quebec and British Columbia gave the highest support for stronger action about climate change, at 69%, 66% and 65%, respectively. Ontario came in only slightly better than half the population, at 57%, with Manitoba and Saskatchewan at 56%. Alberta, where major oil operations are present, had only 46% support for more climate change action from the government.
One of the important tenets of the current Canadian government in dealing with climate change is the Pan-
Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. This is the plan that would impose a tax of $10 for each ton of greenhouse gas emissions starting this year and then increasing another $10/ton each year until hitting a peak of $50/ton in 2022.
That is an important policy, but a full 41% of those surveyed didn’t even know if their home province already had such a plan in place. (For the record, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec all have carbon tax plans in place.)
Besides not even knowing if such a carbon tax is in place and not believing humans are the primary cause of global warming, the survey also discovered another disturbing result. When asked why the government would charge a carbon tax, only 58% thought the intent of the tax was to change polluting behaviors on the part of the companies involved. The other 42% said they thought the primary purpose was instead to raise money for the government.
Despite that, 78% of those surveyed claimed a favorable view on carbon taxation and only 22% – just over one-fifth – had a negative perspective.
What the survey is clear on is that a lot of work is still needed to help more Canadians understand that massive deforestation combined with radically altering the atmosphere results in severe changes to climate and that it is humans who have cut down more than half of the planet's forests and released nearly 30 gigatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere last year. It didn't happen on its own.
But it is not just climate illiteracy that plagues Canada. A 2012 assessment of the math skills of Canadian 15 year-olds coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that almost 50% of students in some Canadian provinces lack basic math skills.
We can't just blame the schools for not teaching Canada's children. Most media in Canada, especially the taxpayer funded Canadian Broadcasing Corp. (CBC), take a head-in-the-sand approach to many important issues and focus primarily on violent crime, politics, arts and weather. Canadians really have to dig to find information on topics of vital importance from Canadian media or get the information from media outside of Canada.
Then there is the pervasive industry propaganda that promotes the belief that all is well and we should burn more carbon fuels. Combined with widespread distrust of government, it is a wonder that more Canadians don't believe in climate change.