Is climate worry turning into climate despair?

More Canadians expect a climate catastrophe than think the world will come together to avert one.

Jan 08, 2024

We offered respondents a choice between three views about climate change: in the end, the world will come together, find ways to change and avoid a catastrophe; the world won’t be able to come together and there will be a catastrophe; climate change is not a problem to be worried about. Here’s what we found:

  • 49% said a climate catastrophe was the more likely scenario, compared to 38% who said the world would come together and find ways to avert it. Just over one in ten (13%) are not concerned about climate change.
  • The prediction of catastrophe was the plurality view in every region of the country except Alberta. Most Liberals and NDP voters said a catastrophe would happen, while Conservative voters were evenly split.
  • One in five Conservative voters said they were not concerned about climate change.
  • The highest level of pessimism was found among women under the age of 45 – among whom 56% predicted catastrophe and only 33% felt the world would avoid one.
  • Those who self-describe on the left of the spectrum (64%) are almost twice as likely as those on the right (33%) to predict a catastrophe. Those on the centre are 50% predicting catastrophe compared to 39% predicting one will be averted.

We also asked about climate policy for Canada, and whether people wanted policy in this area to include a price on carbon pollution. Here’s what we found:

  • 83% want policies that combat climate change, while 17% do not. One quarter of Alberta residents and of Conservative Party voters don’t want climate policies.
  • More people want climate policy that doesn’t include a price on carbon pollution (45%). Just over one in three (38%) want climate policy that includes a price on carbon.
  • Quebec is the only region of the country that tends to favour climate policies that include carbon pricing (47%) to climate policy without (40%), but even there opinion is clearly divided.
  • Among those who self-describe on the left of the spectrum, a modest majority (59%) want climate policy that includes carbon pricing. Among those on the centre, by a margin of 49% to 34% people prefer climate policy without carbon pricing.
  • While Liberal and NDP voters prefer climate policy with a carbon price, these margins are narrow.
  • Among Conservative voters, 54% want climate policy without carbon pricing, compared to 20% who want climate policy with carbon pricing.

Our Take

According to Bruce Anderson: “Over the last few years, support for climate policies has been strong in part because people saw plenty of momentum around the world in this direction. Ambitious climate action seemed to be a broad political consensus and investment flows and corporate decisions were moving in the direction of how to avert the worst outcomes of climate change.

More recently, the public can see policy rollback efforts in the political sphere (US, UK among other places) and high-profile backlash initiatives in the US around ESG. These stories, along with more evident climate risk and damage with each passing year may be causing the mood to shift. Optimism may be turning into despair.

On carbon pricing, it’s fair to note that most people never like the idea of any tax, at the same time, the recent policy change of the federal government may have made it easier for people to imagine that climate action can work, even if it doesn’t’ include a price on carbon pollution. These numbers highlight a significant new challenge that exists for those who believe pricing carbon pollution is a “must have” element of effective climate policy.”

The data referenced were gathered online, with a representative sample of 2175 adults across Canada, between the dates December 17, 2023 and December 22, 2023.

About spark*insights

spark*insights is lead by Bruce Anderson, one of Canada’s leading and most experienced public opinion researchers, along with Alex Kohut, former Senior Manager of Research & Advertising in the Office of the Prime Minister. From polling and research to analysis and guidance, we help organizations, uncover the factors driving or influencing public perception to gain valuable insights into the shape and movement of the landscape.

Interested in more, or how we can help? Reach out: