THE ENVIRONMENT

HOPES AND FEARS

People are prepared to change

September 17 1990
THE ENVIRONMENT

HOPES AND FEARS

People are prepared to change

September 17 1990

HOPES AND FEARS

THE ENVIRONMENT

MACLEAN'S/DECIMA POLL

People are prepared to change

In an attempt to find out how Canadians feel about the state of the environment— and what they are prepared to do to improve it—Maclean’s commissioned a poll by Decima Research Ltd. of Toronto. The national results, reproduced in their entirety below, are both encouraging and contradictory. Seven out of 10 respondents concurred that emissions of carbon dioxide are accelerating global warming and may lead to disaster; almost as many said that they would be willing to cut the amount of driving they do in half in order to reduce the risk of global warming. But fewer people were, willing to reach into their own pockets to improve the environment. Slightly less than half of those surveyed said that they would be willing to pay a $1 fee for each bag of garbage they throw out, and only 39 per cent said that they would pay higher taxes in order to help Third World countries deal with their own ecological problems. Said Decima chairman Allan Gregg: “People are prepared to change their behavior voluntarily,

but the moment you take away their discretion, resistance goes up.”

In cross-tabulations of the results, interesting differences surfaced among regions and age groups. On several issues, British Columbia tended to be the greenest province: its respondents expressed the highest level of concern about global warming (74 per cent) and were most willing to drive less (68 per cent), to pay more to protect the Earth’s ozone layer (76 per cent) and to accept laws requiring recycling (78 per cent). But British Columbia respondents were among the least likely to want to halt logging of mature forests (46 per cent) or to pay more tax to help Third World countries deal with environment problems (37 per cent). Atlantic respondents were most in favor of taxes to help poor countries (46 per cent). Ontario respondents were most likely to support building nuclear plants to cut down on global warming (62 per cent). Prairie respondents were the least willing to have laws requiring recycling (58 per cent), but among

the most willing to pay more for appliances that do not damage the ozone layer (75 per cent).

Quebecers were more likely than other Canadians to favor a ban on logging in mature forests (65 per cent), but less inclined to support the construction of more nuclear plants (45 per cent) and less willing to pay higher taxes to help poor countries (35 per cent). In addition, 29 per cent of Quebecers described their drinking water as “not very safe” or “not safe at all.” That compared with 15 per cent of respondents in Ontario, 10 per cent of those in Atlantic Canada or the Prairies, and only seven per cent in British Columbia.

Age also had a bearing on responses. Twenty-four per cent of respondents aged 18 to 24 said that people should buy bottled water from companies that purify it themselves—compared with only six per cent of people 65 and over. Meanwhile, university graduates were more inclined to agree that global warming could have disastrous consequences, and were more willing to pay higher taxes in order to help the Third World, than were respondents who did not have a high-school diploma.

The survey was conducted by telephone among a national sample of 1,200 people, 18 years or older, from Aug. 3 to Aug. 8. Results are presented in rounded percentages, and are considered statistically accurate for the population as a whole within a range of 2.9 percentage points, above or below the figures cited, 19 times out of 20. Percentages may not add to 100 after rounding or when don’t-know replies or non-responses are eliminated. □

GLOBAL WARMING Some people say that worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide are causing global warming and that eventually this may lead to drought, coastal flooding and other disasters. Others say that the risk of global warming has been greatly exaggerated and does not pose a serious threat to the future of the planet. Which of these two views is closer to your own ? Global warming may cause disaster.................................71% Global warming not a serious threat..............................23% To reduce the risk of global warming, would you be willing to drive your car 50 per cent less than you do now? Yes.................................................62% No..................................................24% Do not drive...................................13% To reduce the risk of global warming, would you support the construction of more nuclear generating stations to replace older power plants that bum fossil fuels? Yes.................................................54% ¡No..................................................37%

FORESTS Should logging of mature forests be halted, even if it meant fewer jobs in the forestry industry and higher prices for wood and paper products? Yes 56% No. 37%

DRINKING WATER Would you describe the quality of drinking water in your area as-. Absolutely safe......................................25% Pretty safe.............................................58% Not very safe.........................................12% Not safe at all..........................................5% Different people have different views on what should be done about drinking water. Which one of these views best represents your own ? Everything is fine, and we should just continue as we are now...................34% Governments should make a major effort to improve water quality, even if it means increasing taxes...........50% People should buy bottled water from private companies that purify water themselves.........................13%

RECYCLING To reduce waste, some cities are considering Should homeowners be required by law to charging homeowners a fixed amount for each recycle such items as newspapers, magazines, bag of garbage they throw out. Would you be metal, glass and plastic containers, or should willing to pay $1 for each bag of garbage you recycling continue to be voluntary? put out? Required by law...................................66% Yes.......................................................48% Voluntary.............................................32% No........................................................50%

RATING INDUSTRIES ON PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT*: INDUSTRY VERY G00D/G00D VERY P00R/P00R DEPENDS/N0 OPINION Hydro 64 24 12 Grocery Products 53 30 17 Forest 49 38 13 Manufacturing 41 41 18 Mining 38 40 22 Oil & Gas 34 52 14 Transporting Hazardous Waste 33 54 13 Plastics 23 63 14 Chemical 20 68 12 Pesticide 18 69 13 *Decima Quarterly Report/1989 11,500 telephone interviews between Dec. 2 and 15, 1989; margin of error : plus/minus 2.6 per cent)

THIRD WORLD Would you be willing to pay higher taxes if the money was used to help poor and developing countries cope with environmental problems, or do you think poor and developing countries should be left to look after their own problems? Pay higher taxes....................................39% Let developing countries deal with problems.................................56%

OZONE LAYER Scientists say that the chemical currently used in refrigerators and airconditioners is destroying the ozone layer, which shields us from the sun ’s harmful rays. New coolants are available but cost more. To preserve the ozone layer, would you be willing to pay 50 per cent more for a new refrigerator or air conditioner that did not use this chemical? Yes........................................................73% No.........................................................24%