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NASA's Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio presents an animation of global temperature anomalies from 1880 to 2015, showing the dramatic heating of Earth's atmosphere by the release of greenhouse gases.

Study: Canadians split on whether humans hurt the climate

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Monday, February 22, 2016, 1:24 PM - The vast majority of Canadians, in all provinces, believe climate change is real, according to a new study. 

The study, carried out partially by researchers at the University of Montreal, found 79 per cent of Canadians thought the Earth was getting warmer, compared to only 16 per cent who did not.

Quebec (87 per cent) and Nova Scotia (85 per cent) led the pack. Saskatchewan (65 per cent) trailed, though Manitoba (68 per cent) and Alberta (67 per cent) were little better. 

Image: University of Montreal/Yale Project on Climate Change Communication/University of California Santa Barbara/Utah State University

But when humanity's impact is factored into the equation, things get much more split, especially when respondents were asked to consider whether humans were mostly to blame.

On that score, fewer than half of Canadians, 44 per cent, agreed, compared to 56 per cent who were opposed.

Quebec, at 52 per cent, was the only province where a majority of respondents believed humans were mostly to blame. Alberta, at 28 per cent, was dead last.

Image: University of Montreal/Yale Project on Climate Change Communication/University of California Santa Barbara/Utah State University

However, that doesn't mean most Canadians are die-hard climate skeptics. When asked whether humans were mostly OR partly to blame, 61 per cent of Canadians agreed, with 39 per cent opposed.

Quebec once again was out front with 67 per cent in agreement. Alberta (47 per cent) and Saskatchewan (49 per cent) were the only provinces where fewer than half of respondents agreed.

And as for how Canada could combat climate change, Canadians were mixed on that as well.

A sizeable majority, 66 per cent, were in favour of a cap-and-trade system, compared to 27 per cent opposed. But on the question of raising taxes on fossil fuels, those in favour barely edged out those opposed by 49 per cent to 44 per cent, with the difference being made up of undecideds.

Approve cap-and-trade Oppose cap-and-trade Approve carbon tax Oppose Carbon tax
Canada 65.9 26.9 49.5 44.0
Alberta 62.2 31.8 44.14 49.3
B.C. 62.8 29.4 57.1 36.4
Manitoba 65.0 27.5 50.4 42
New Brunswick 66.6 26.0 45.7 48.1
Newfoundland 62.1 32.9 44.6 50.5
Nova Scotia 66.7 26.6 48.7 45.0
Ontario 65.8 26.9 49.4 44.0
P.E.I. 70.4 22.8 45.7 47.2
Quebec 71.0 21.8 49.0 44.7
Saskatchewan 62.8 30.8 44.0 49.3

The researchers collated their data into a handy, interactive tool that allows you not only to check your home province, but also your home riding.

"Thanks to this tool, we are able for the first time in Canada to visualize the geographic diversity of opinions across this vast country, at an unprecedented level of granularity," University of Montreal Prof. Erick Lachapelle said in a news release. "We always knew opinions varied across Canadian provinces. Now we see that urban-rural differences are just as important, if not more important, features of Canadian public opinion on climate change."

The researchers' survey had a sample size of more than 5,000, based on four telephone surveys conducted over four years. It is considered accurate within six percentage points for provincial level estimates and seven percentage points for riding-level data, 19 times out of 20. 

SOURCE: University of Montreal Climate Change | Press release

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