A climate change protest sign. The sign is black, with a painting of the Earth in the middle. The words

How Divided Are Canadians About Climate Change?

A new study finds little disagreement about the importance of climate change. But what should Canada do? That's where things get tricky.


Climate change is an urgent issue that affects everyone in Canada, and according to a new study from the University of Toronto Scarborough, Canadians aren’t nearly as divided on environmental issues as some might expect. These findings provide proof of unity that could speed up the pace of environmental action going forward.

The study was led by Cindy Yang, a PhD student, and George Arhonditsis, a professor and Chair of the Department of Physical & Environmental Sciences. It was published in Ecological Informatics.

Although climate change affects everyone in Canada, not all Canadians necessarily agree when it comes to how climate change should be addressed. With their study, Yang and Arhonditsis were interested in finding out where Canadian opinions on climate change differ. They also wanted to learn whether there were any issues that the majority of Canadians agree on.

To do this, they analyzed responses from Statistics Canada‘s Households and the Environment Survey. The survey included questions about the amount of time and money respondents spent on environmental causes or products, and their opinions on various environmental issues.

The researchers also gathered information about the demographics of the survey respondents, including their ages, household incomes, and political affiliations.

Overall, the results of the survey showed that Canadians aren’t very divided in their opinions on environmental issues.

“A real positive finding is that Canadians — regardless of their age, […] location, politics, or income — are not deeply divided on many very important environmental issues,” said Arhonditsis in a press release.

“This is a promising trend and offers hope that Canadians can unite to tackle some of these issues in the near future.”

Specifically, the researchers found that Canadians tend to be united when it comes to prioritizing safe waste management, water conservation, and ecological restoration programs in our country.

On the other hand, the team did find slight differences in opinions between different demographic groups when it came to environmental activism. For example, younger respondents tended to be more involved in volunteer conservation efforts, clean-up projects, and wildlife restoration.

They also found that respondents from higher-income households were more likely to spend money on environmentally-friendly products and services.

Going forward, these findings could help guide politicians in crafting environmental policies for our country.

“Political parties might be able to look at some of these […] issues and find common ground among voters, regardless of their political stripes,” Arhonditsis said.

By focusing on issues that most Canadians agree are important — issues such as water conversation and ecological restoration — politicians and policymakers may have an easier time garnering public support for their causes. And with climate change on the brink of spiralling out of control across Canada, finding these common grounds will be crucial in protecting our environment for years to come.

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Emily Deibert is a PhD student in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto with a passion for science outreach and communication. She earned her HBSc (Astronomy, English, and Mathematics) at the University of Toronto. She is excited about turning scientific research into stories and sharing these stories with the public.