A new study from the University of Ottawa says we’re not polarized on climate after all. We all share the alarmist view. Hence, the authors say in Policy Options, well, the usual. We secretly all think humans caused it so we secretly all want a strong policy response. Just like them.
The piece draws a useful contrast between “polarized” opinions, where you get a lot of “strongly agree” and a lot of “strongly disagree” responses to survey questions on an issue, and “fragmented” opinions, where there’s a pretty even distribution from “strongly agree” through “agree” and “slightly agree” to “neither” and then the same from “slightly disagree” to “disagree” to “strongly disagree”. And they show polling results that are “fragmented” in that, well, actually nearly half of people in Canada and across the regions think climate change is “Mostly human-caused” and most of the rest say “Somewhat more human-caused” or “About equally caused by human and natural changes” with only a small stupid minority going with “Somewhat more caused by natural changes” or “Mostly caused by natural changes”. The latter two combined are under 10% nationally in their survey, and under 15% even in the AB/MB/SK bar.
This distribution actually matches their third situation, “Opinion in agreement”. So what explains the strong national opposition to a carbon tax (over 50% are between “Strongly disagree” and “Neither”) or the genuinely polarized finding on pipelines?
The authors set off a damp concluding squib: “there could be more room to find common ground than many believe. Moving forward, it is vital to know whether Canadians’ opinions are fragmented, polarized or trending toward agreement on energy and climate, and where the fracture lines lie.” Wow.
The other possibility, of course, is that people are not always honest with pollsters. On certain issues, they feel strong social pressure to take the “correct” position, and if you tell the nice young person on the telephone that you think climate change is a load of dingos’ kidneys you feel embarrassed. But when it comes to paying to stop it, Canadians are very clear: No way, eh?