30% of Cana­di­ans Can't do the Math on Cli­mate Change

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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.

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