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Mapping Canadian opinions on climate change

Posted by in Mapping on Wednesday, February 24, 2016

79 per cent of Canadians believe the Earth is getting warmer, according to new research into public opinions on climate change in Canada. (Source: Université de Montréal)

Next week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will sit down with premiers and First Nations leaders to develop a framework for Canada's role in fighting climate change, building on commitments made at December's COP21 climate forum in Paris.

While the details of the framework remain to be seen, new research shows the majority of Canadians not only believe the Earth is warming at least in part due to human activities, but would also support a cap and trade system* to help reduce carbon emissions in the industrial sector.

A new interactive map created by researchers from the University of Montreal, University of California Santa Barbara, Utah State University and Yale University displays Canadian opinions on climate change in unprecedented detail. Using a statistical model based on more than 5,000 responses to climate surveys conducted between 2011 and 2015, the researchers were able to break the data down to the level of political ridings.

The results show clear differences of public opinion between provinces and regions.

Canadians in cities were more likely to agree with the statements "Earth is getting warmer" and "Earth is getting warmer partly or mostly because of human activities" than those in rural areas. Canadians in coastal areas of both British Columbia and the Maritimes were also more likely to agree with those statements than Canadians in the Prairies, though far fewer Canadians - with the exception of Quebec - agreed that "Earth is getting warmer mostly because of human activities."

Canadian opinions on three different statements about climate change by political riding. (Source: Université de Montréal)

When it comes to public policy options for mitigating climate change, 66 per cent of Canadians said they would support a cap and trade system compared to just 49 per cent in favour of raising taxes on carbon-based fuels.

Compare these results with the outcome of the 2015 Federal election and it's easy to see that concern for the environment was top of mind for many voters. Canadians who expressed skepticism about anthropogenic warming were more likely to vote Conservative, while Canadians who believe humans may be playing a role in global warming were more likely to vote Liberal or NDP.

Canadian opinion on global warming contrasted with 2015 Federal election results (Source: Université de Montréal/CBC News)

Explore the interactive map here.

*(Under a cap and trade system, the government would place limits on how much carbon a company can burn; if a company wanted to burn more, it would have to purchase additional permits from companies that have burned less.)

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