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This article was published 19/5/2015 (1556 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA – As Manitobans recover from an unwelcome blast of winter in May, a lot of folk have turned the blame on climate change.
Whether or not climate change was to blame for the 2.5 cm of snow that fell in Winnipeg Sunday night, a new Forum Research poll suggests almost three in four Manitobans believe climate change is very real. That is slightly below the eight in 10 Canadians who do.
"The majority of Canadians still believe that ‘yes, it’s a real thing," said Forum president Lorne Bozinoff in an interview with the Free Press. "The only substantial group of naysayers are Conservative voters. They definitely march to a different set of drummers."
However even that group is in the minority with almost two-thirds of Conservative voters saying they believe in climate change compared to about one-in-four who do not. The remainder said they don’t know.
There were, however, notably more Conservative voters in the climate change denier group than voters of other parties. Only about one in 10 Liberal and NDP supporters disagreed the climate was changing. The poll says one in six Green Party supporters doesn’t believe in climate change, which is high for a party which is founded on environmental causes and says without addressing the "climate crisis" the world’s economy will take a $7-trillion hit.
However, with a small sample size of just 80 people, the margin of error on the Green Party number is 11 per cent, so the number is not very reliable.
Overall 78 per cent of all Canadians agreed the earth’s climate is changing, and 72 per cent of that group blame it on human activities. The poll says that amounts to 56 per cent of the overall population believing human activities are responsible for climate change.
The numbers were pretty consistent across all age group although adults between 55 and 64 are most likely to agree (83 per cent) and seniors are the least likely (71 per cent).
Manitoba and Saskatchewan residents were the least likely to believe in climate change, although the margin of error was more than nine per cent because of a small sampling size.
The Forum poll was conducted using an interactive telephone voice response survey of 1,286 randomly selected Canadians over the age of 18, on May 12 and May 13. The overall numbers are considered accurate within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Bozinoff noted this poll was taken in May, a month, when most parts of the country have experienced a calm, decently warm period without any major storms or weather events. He said that could be the reason the number of Canadians who believe climate change is real has gone down slightly from July 2013, when 84 per cent of Canadians said yes to the question "As far as you know, is Earth’s climate changing." Bozinoff said that poll was taken near the end of July, a period of time which is more prone to big storms than mid-May.
"It’s possible these opinions are influenced by current weather," he said.
He said it could mean Winnipeggers would be more likely to be thinking climate change is real when it snows on the Victoria Day weekend though the poll was taken before that happened.
The poll showed two in three Canadians don’t think the federal government is doing enough to combat climate change, and this dislike of the government’s climate change actions to date is strongest among young people (74 per cent of 18-34 year olds compared to 60 per cent of those over the age of 65), and in Quebec and British Columbia.
On the prairies this sentiment is somewhat muted, with 50 per cent of Albertans thinking the government isn’t doing enough, and 58 per cent of people in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
However fewer than one-in-three people who plan to vote Conservative don’t think enough is being done on the file. Perhaps it is no surprise that 85 per cent of NDP voters and 81 per cent of Liberal voters think the government is falling down on this file.
Last week, federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq released Canada’s latest emissions reductions targets, aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent over 2005 levels in the next 15 years. However most critics blasted the plan saying the government has no actual policies to meet the target and accused it of setting a target that is far less ambitious than its global partners including in Europe and the United States. Last fall the Commissioner on the Environment and Sustainable Development issued a report which said Canada has no long-term commitment or plan to do anything on emissions.
A decade ago Canada pledged to cut emissions 17 per cent over 2005 levels by 2020. As of 2013, the latest year for which there are emissions data available, Canada was at 726 megatonnes, 3.1 per cent lower than in 2005. However 2013 marked the fourth straight year Canada saw a jump in emissions, after several years of reductions.
Canada’s emissions peaked in 2007 at 761 megatonnes, fell to 699 megatonnes by 2009, and then began creeping upwards again. The most recent emissions data report from Environment Canada projects with current policies on climate change, emissions will continue to grow, hitting 734 megatonnes in 2020.
Bozinoff said he is doubtful the climate change file will make much of a difference when people are actually deciding how to vote this fall. The economy and jobs are almost certainly going to rule that decision for most people, he said.
"I can’t see (climate change) being a determining issue unless something happens during the campaign," said Bozinoff. "I think that’s what the Conservatives are banking on."
However a Winnipeg climate change expert says Sunday’s sudden snowstorm was most certainly the result of climate change. While snow in May isn’t unheard of, it’s not a regular occurrence, said Danny Blair, a climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg.
In May 2011, almost 30 cm of snow fell in Winnipeg on May 10 and May 11, which set the new record for total May snowfall. Before that the record was 21 cm of snow on May 1. May 17th is quite late for any kind of snowfall, and Blair said while it’s difficult to prove, those who blame climate change are not wrong to do so.
"Everything is about climate change," said Blair. "With a qualified yes, I really do think (it was responsible.)
Blair said over the last three decades, May temperatures have been getting colder and colder and that’s largely due to changes in the jet stream and climate change impacts in the north.
"In our part of the world the arctic is climate change central," said Blair.
He said as the jet stream moves around it is bringing colder arctic air further south, which is exactly what happened in southern Manitoba last weekend.