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Climate change considered the most extreme issue Canada currently faces despite unprecedented economic and employment uncertainties due to pandemic, reveals a new study

91 per cent of Canadians cite climate change as a serious issue; 88 per cent report climate change has impacted them; 85 per cent believe the government should invest in clean technology
September 2, 2020

OTTAWA — Despite the unprecedented economic and employment turbulence Canada faces due to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change or global warming ranks as the number one extremely serious issue Canada currently faces by one in three Canadians (31 per cent). This compares to other key societal and economic issues cited as extremely serious, including government deficits and debt (29 per cent); unemployment and economic growth (26 per cent); wealth and income inequality (23 per cent); racism and inequality in society (19 per cent); and having access to affordable, sustainable and nutritious foods (18 per cent). While 88 per cent of Canadians report being personally impacted by climate change, 57 per cent report being significantly impacted, which is on par with the percentage of Canadians who report that unemployment and the current state of Canada’s economy have significantly impacted them or their loved ones. The vast majority of Canadians (78 per cent) expressed they are very concerned about the negative impact of climate change on future generations.

The newly released study by the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) conducted by Abacus Data explores the level of concern, impact and understanding around societal, economic and environmental issues Canada currently faces, as well as perceptions around addressing climate change.

“The fact that we are living through a global pandemic that has literally rocked the stability of the world we know, and yet climate change is currently cited as the number 1 extreme issue of concern is very profound,” said John Gorman, CEO and President of the CNA. 

“As of today, 88 per cent of Canadians report they have been adversely impacted by climate change. It’s hard to even fathom the longer-term impact for our future generations. Despite the severity of other economic and social issues we currently face, the data shows that Canadians want decisive action taken to address climate change, including 86 per cent who believe the government should invest in clean technology. As one of the lowest carbon-emitting energy sources, nuclear must play a critical role in Canada’s energy mix to help meet our emission reduction goals.”

Key study findings include:

Canadians are significantly impacted by climate change or global warming

Overall, 88 per cent of Canadians report being adversely affected by climate change, including one in two (50 per cent) Canadians who report they have been impacted through changing weather patterns such as flooding, rising water levels, droughts, wildfires, storms and increased costs of home repairs or insurance costs. One in five Canadians (20 per cent) report they or their loved ones have been extremely impacted by climate change or global warming.

Canadians lack confidence Canada will meet 2030 emission reduction goals

Despite 89 per cent of Canadians who believe in the importance of meeting the 2030 emission reduction goals (to 30 per cent below 2005 levels) set out by the government, only 17 per cent of Canadians express confidence Canada will meet these goals.

Mix of perceived solutions are needed to address climate change

When asked about the importance of possible solutions to address climate change, the study shows Canadians cite a mix of factors they consider either important or very important to include.

  • Industries must adopt cleaner energy technologies, such as nuclear and renewables (84 per cent)
  • Increased use of renewables energy forms, such as wind, hydro and solar (83 per cent)
  • Transition to clean electricity (82 per cent)
  • Leverage new technology to offset emissions in the natural resources sector (77 per cent)
  • Reducing the use of fossil fuels (73 per cent)
  • The government must implement necessary policies to change energy consumption behaviours for consumers and industry (73 per cent)

Many Canadians are skeptical about behavioural change to address climate change

Just more than half (55 per cent) of respondents believe Canadians will reduce their individual energy consumption to help meet the emission-reduction goals versus 45 per cent who do not believe Canadians will reduce their consumption.

The vast majority of Canadians believe government should invest in clean technology

Despite the prevailing economic challenges and competing investment priorities, 86 per cent of Canadians report they believe the government should invest in clean technology to address climate change.

Understanding around clean energy is limited

While 84 per cent of Canadians believe industries must adopt cleaner technologies and 83 per cent believe the increased use of renewables is important to address climate change, there is still limited understanding around clean energy options. When asked about their level of understanding about clean energy sources, about 50 per cent of Canadians said they have a good understanding of both solar and hydro, compared to 47 per cent for wind and 35 per cent for nuclear.

Support for nuclear increases with knowledge and understanding

Many Canadians have limited understanding of nuclear energy, with 56 per cent of respondents stating their main sources of understanding are based on what they recall reading or hearing about many years ago. Only 10 per cent of Canadians have sought out information on nuclear energy in the last 12 months. But knowing that nuclear reactors meet about 17 per cent of Canada’s energy needs and have the potential to increase supply significantly, a majority of Canadians (55 per cent) either support or are open to supporting more nuclear energy technologies to generate electricity in Canada. A further 35 per cent would like to learn more before forming an opinion, versus 10 per cent who expressed opposition.

“The research shows that while Canadians are hugely concerned about climate change and the vast majority believe the government should invest in clean technology, we still have a way to go in terms of understanding and education around clean energy. Seven in 10 Canadians are not aware that nuclear power is the second-largest source of low carbon electricity,” said Gorman. “Nuclear has a critical role to play, and we know that the more Canadians understand nuclear, the more they support it. But we still face many misconceptions. In fact, nearly one in three Canadians (28 per cent) report that their primary means of understanding nuclear energy is from pop-culture sources, such as films, TV or fictional books. Knowledge is critical to make the right informed decisions around Canada’s energy mix to fight climate change.”

About the study

The survey was conducted by Abacus Data for CNA with 1,500 Canadian adults from Aug. 17 to 21, 2020. The margin of error is about +/- 2.6 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The full study can be found at https://cna.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Canadian-Nuclear-Association-Report-Aug-2020.pdf

About the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA)

Every year in Canada, nuclear technology helps avoid 80 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by displacing fossil fuels and supplies 70 per cent of the global supply of cobalt-60, radioisotopes that are used to treat cancer and sterilize medical equipment, among other things. It generates more than $6 billion in revenue and creates more than 76,000 direct and indirect, well-paying jobs. Canada stands to solidify its leading position in the world’s nuclear industry with the introduction of next-generation technologies in the form of small nuclear reactors.

The Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) has been the national voice of the Canadian nuclear industry since 1960. Working with our members and all communities of interest, the CNA promotes the industry nationally and internationally, works with governments on policies affecting the sector and endeavours to increase awareness and understanding of the value nuclear technology brings to the environment, economy and daily lives of Canadians.

Media Contact

Gehna Singh Kareckas
Director of Communications
(613) 237-4262 ext. 110
communications@cna.ca