December 28, 2009

Most Albertans snub climate change threat

Only 41% believe in global warming

H/T Tom Nelson

FROM- Calgary Herald
By Tony Seskus

A new poll showing nearly a third of Albertans believe global warming is merely a theory could mean more federalist sparring lies ahead for the province, a Calgary political scientist suggests.

An Angus Reid Public Opinion survey released last week found that 31 per cent of Albertans think global warming is a theory that has not yet been proven.

Nationally, according to a separate poll, 17 per cent of Canadians share that opinion.

Furthermore, only 41 per cent of Albertans polled believe climate change is a fact and that it is mostly caused by emissions from vehicles and industrial facilities. In the national survey, more than half of respondents -- 56 per cent -- hold that belief.

Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, says poll numbers like that suggest a gulf in opinion between Alberta and some other parts of the country that won't help Canadian federalism.

"It bodes very poorly and it's because the issue of climate change cuts into the common narrative of Alberta in the federal system," Bratt said.

"When you hear Albertans getting upset about the response of particularly (Quebec Premier) Jean Charest, it gets thrown into equalization payments, it gets into Quebec special status and Confederation.

"It gets framed as an issue of consumers versus producers, that instead of putting the burden on consumers -- which the majority live in Ontario and Quebec -- they are putting the onus on carbon producers, which singles out Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland."

Some of those divisions were on display at the Copenhagen climate change conference.

Quebec and Ontario both served notice during the climate talks they don't want their greenhouse gas cuts contributing the lion's share of national reductions simply to offset rising emissions from the carbon-intensive oilsands.

Premier Ed Stelmach, who did not attend the climate talks, fired back at the criticism with a media blitz that assailed other premiers and trumpeted Alberta's green credentials.

However, the provincial government is not engaging in a political debate on the legitimacy of climate change theory. On the government's website, it calls climate change a "serious and worldwide challenge."

Federally, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said last week in Copenhagen that the "preponderance of scientific evidence and opinion is that climate change is a very real challenge."

However, Harper added the science continues to evolve and that the science is not uniform.

Poll numbers indicating a continued skepticism among a third of Albertans did not surprise observers.

"Actually, I would have thought it would be higher," said Chaldeans Mensah, a political scientist at Grant MacEwan University. "People are very skeptical about the man-made, global warming theory."

He said the poll numbers could have been enhanced by the so-called "climategate" scandal, in which thousands of e-mails were hacked, leaked or stolen from the University of East Anglia's climatic research unit in Britain, leading to allegations researchers manipulated the evidence to support man-made global warming.

Dan Woynillowicz of the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank, also believes media coverage of the e-mail controversy-- as well as recent advertising questioning climate change theory -- may have raised questions in some Albertans' minds about the science.

Economic concerns about the impact new environmental legislation could have on the oilsands may also be a contributing factor, he said.

However, Woynillowicz added that there isn't "another issue of this magnitude to which there is this level of agreement within the scientific community."


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