Canadians are among the world's leaders in being prepared to accept potential lifestyle changes and higher taxes in order to address climate change, according to a new poll released Monday.
The global poll of more than 22,000 people in 21 countries, including 1,000 Canadians, suggests that citizens in general - including those in the U.S. and China, the world's biggest polluters - are more prepared than their governments to support tough measures. "The findings in general show that citizens across the world are far more willing to make financial and lifestyle sacrifices to help solve climate change than most politicians acknowledge" said Doug Miller, president of London-based GlobeScan Inc., which conducted the survey for BBC World Service. Canadians, in particular, are eager to step up, Miller told CanWest News Service, noting they "are among the most concerned about climate change and most ready to change their lifestyles and pay higher energy taxes to fund energy conservation and cleaner fuels - about 10 points ahead of Americans on all questions." The poll, conducted between May 29 and June 26, 2007, found that an "overwhelming" 91% of Canadians believe people must make unspecified personal "lifestyle and behaviour" changes to reduce their own climate-changing emissions. That total includes 63% who agreed changes "definitely" are necessary and 28% who acknowledged changes are "probably" needed. Only Spaniards (68%) and Mexicans (64%) had stronger views on whether changes are definitely necessary. Just 48% of Americans surveyed said changes are definitely needed. Overall, 83% of all global respondents said lifestyle and behavioural changes are definitely or probably needed. The poll also showed that respondents around the world are mixed on the notion of hiking energy taxes to discourage use, with 50% in favour and 44% opposed. Support swung sharply in favour, even in the most sceptical countries, when respondents were assured that the money would either be used to find alternative clean energy sources or would be used for personal tax cuts. For instance, just 46% of Americans said they were prepared to support higher energy taxes, but when asked if they'd accept a higher tax if they knew the money would go to renewable energy investments, the figure jumped to 74%. In Canada, a clear majority of 57% favour higher taxes to discourage use. Only Chile, Germany, China and Australia showed higher support for the idea. The Canadian majority soared to 80% when respondents were "given the condition that the revenues would be devoted to promoting energy efficiency and developing alternative energy sources," and 81% if told that higher energy taxes would be offset by other tax breaks, "so that their total taxes would remain the same." Depending on the sample size in each country, the survey's error margin ranged from 2.4 to 3.5% points, 19 times out of 20, according to GlobeScan. In Canada, the margin was three percentage points. In addition to Canada and the U.S., the company interviewed respondents across the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Spain, Kenya, and Turkey. In China, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Indonesia, the Philippines and South Korea, polling was conducted only in major urban centres.