The vast majority of Toronto voters say climate change spells big trouble for the city and will affect their choice of candidates in upcoming elections, according to a new public opinion survey.
In a random poll of 1,157 Toronto citizens conducted June 8 and 9 by Forum Research, eight in 10 agreed with the statement that “climate change is a serious problem for Toronto,” while two-thirds of respondents said they agreed strongly. About 12 per cent said they disagreed with the statement, with about 7 per cent saying they strongly disagreed. About one in 10 said they neither agreed nor disagreed.
The poll is considered accurate within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
“There is huge, huge concern about climate change,” said Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research. “Eighty-one per cent are saying that it’s a serious problem for Toronto. Polling numbers seldom get higher than that in terms of that many people agreeing on the same issue.”
Those most likely to say that climate change is a big problem for the Big Smoke include residents 34 years of age and younger (83 per cent), between 35 and 44 years old (85 per cent), 65 and over (85 per cent), women (87 per cent), those who earn between $20,000 and $40,000 annually (86 per cent), and people with a post-graduate degree (86 per cent), the survey found.
“Older people who have more experience with climate I think are saying this isn’t like the old days. And young people, they’re oriented towards I’ll say social issues and environmental issues and they probably are giving higher numbers because of that,” Bozinoff said.
He added that on this question there was very little variation between residents in the suburbs and the former City of Toronto.
The survey found that about two-thirds of respondents, or 67 per cent, said that climate change would impact their choice of candidates in upcoming elections, with 43 per cent saying it would “very likely” impact their choice.
While most surveyed expressed concern about climate change, respondents were lukewarm to the idea of a green tax paid to the city.
Green taxes generally are designed to help offset or discourage practices or the use of products that harm the environment.
Forty-one per cent said they oppose such a tax, while one-fifth, or 21 per cent, said they didn’t know. Thirty-seven per cent were in favour.
“That’s not a bad number for a tax that has not been I think fully described to people,” Bozinoff said.
He noted that on this question there is a definite suburb-downtown divide, with voters in East York, North York and Scarborough most likely to oppose, while 42 per cent of residents in the former City of Toronto most likely to say they support such a tax.
“Those opposed to the tax without exception are all in the suburbs,” he said.
The Star’s ongoing Undeniable climate change series has highlighted disturbing projected trends linked to global warming, including more extreme precipitation patterns, bigger and more frequent floods, longer and increasingly intense wildfire seasons, disappearing sea ice and coastal erosion.
The series has found that cities and towns in particular are increasingly unprepared for extreme weather events. For example, intense rainfall events have exposed Toronto’s sewage and stormwater infrastructure as being inadequate. Ribbons of moist air known as atmospheric rivers have triggered landslides or floods in North Vancouver, Burnaby and Maple Ridge in British Columbia. Last summer, Montreal experienced one of its worst heat waves in a century, with temperatures reaching as high as 44 C with the humidex and 66 heat-related deaths recorded.
Between 1948 and 2016, Canada’s average annual temperature over land increased by 1.7 C, about double the warming rate, according to a recent report from Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The Forum poll also found that two-thirds of Toronto voters say the city is not doing enough to limit the use of plastics. About one-fifth of respondents said the city is doing enough, while 1 in 20, or about 6 per cent, said Toronto is doing more than enough. Ten per cent said they weren’t sure.
Earlier this month, the federal government announced that it would ban single-use plastics deemed harmful to the environment. A list of items that would be banned has not yet been made public, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office said they could include straws, bags and plastic cutlery.
Kenyon Wallace is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @KenyonWallace or reach him via email: email@example.com