Climate change concern declines – 8 per cent decline since 2008

Kyla Mandel
The McGill Tribune
November 10, 2009

During the past year there has been an eight per cent decline in Canadian concern for climate change, yet students continue to be highly active in advocacy, according to a Climate Confidence Monitor survey released November 2.

26 per cent of Canadians "consider global warming among their chief concerns," according to Lawrence Solomon, executive director of Energy Probe.

"The level of concern has been dropping and dropping substantially," said Solomon. Both Solomon and Maggie Knight, the students’ society environment commissioner, suggested that there are various reasons for the decline, including the economic crisis.

"You can afford to be concerned about things like the environment … when [you] and your family are ok," said Knight. "But when people lose their jobs and don’t have enough money and are worried about making ends meet, then it’s obvious that people tend to make the choice not to buy fair trade or not to buy organic, they just do what they need to do to survive."

However, Solomon suggested that another reason for this decline in concern may be that many of the warnings that global warming activists have been making for many years simply haven’t come to pass. He said that both Arctic and Antarctic ice has not been melting, but rather increasing.

"Polar bear populations have been increasing," he said. "The globe stopped warming about 10 years ago, it seems to be cooling now."

Solomon is also concerned about the political implications this sort of occurrence could have.

"It’s quite possible that politicians will stop beating the drum of global warming," he said. "If they see that the public has lost interest in the subject, politicians will lose interest in the subject."

Knight also warned that while the youth of today will still be present in 2050 – a benchmark year that climate scientists are looking at – some politicians may not, which could also factor into their apathy.

"There is a lot of fear around climate change, which makes sense – there are some scary things that could happen," said Knight. However she also stressed that the many environmental groups present at McGill are working hard to provide solutions.

"By providing all these resources people are finding that it’s less and less hard and that there’s more and more of a cultural shift toward sustainable community," she said.

Arielle Jaffe, also a SSMU environment commissioner, said that as the connection between environment and health becomes more apparent, interest will likely increase.

"There is a growing understanding of the relationship of climate change and environmental health to every other aspect of their life and it’s definitely being shown in the interest of involvement in groups that previously had nothing to do with environmental activism," she said.

There are over 33 environmental groups at McGill, ranging from Environmental Law to Gorilla Composting and Organic Campus.

"I think you can see the power of the growth of the movement on campus in the fact that McGill is becoming more and more active on sort of a national theme," said Knight. "We need to work from within institutions and to not just be people that can be dismissed as hippies and granola eaters but people who are really concerned about the future, and the future of their children."

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