What Do Canadians Really Think About Climate Change in 2023? Event Recap

Headshots of Cara Pike, Chris Hatch, and Valériane Champagne St-Arnaud
In May 2023, Re.Climate hosted an information-packed webinar on Re.Climate's annual report, "What Do Canadians Really Think About Climate Change?", a summary of Canadian public opinion on climate and energy. Leading climate change communications experts Cara Pike, Chris Hatch, and Dr. Valériane Champagne St-Arnaud dove into the findings, discussed key trends, and shared recommendations for communicating climate and energy in Canada today.

Watch the entire conversation here. Read the full report here.

Key Takeaways from the Panel Discussion

Use plain and vivid language to clarify the challenge, choice and opportunity. Consider having a message triangle to make sure you touch on the necessary points in order to provide your audience a complete narrative.

Where possible, amplify trusted messengers, notably scientists, doctors, and university researchers.

Messaging Triangle showing The Benefits, The Challenge, and The Pathway

Chris Hatch emphasized the need to talk more about getting off fossil fuels and electrifying everything. He recommended that we continue highlighting that human activity—specifically our use of fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal—is the main driver of climate change and that the simple solution is to electrify everything. He said it’s important to remember that the general public hasn’t fully grasped this concept yet. If we can get everyone to understand the urgent need to move away from fossil fuels and embrace clean electricity, then the more complex policy measures and technical details will make sense within that framework.

Cara Pike said it’s crucial to have the right messengers who stay in their lane of expertise. We need more health professionals talking about health risks caused by extreme weather and gas in homes. Experts in economics and finance should discuss the financial opportunities of transitioning to cleaner energy sources. And climate and environmental advocates can hold governments and businesses accountable. Messaging is most effective when messengers stick to what they know best.

Dr. Valériane Champagne St-Arnaud recommended teaming up with marketing experts and selling the dream of a better life. Marketers and publicists are professional dream sellers—they have the power to sell us new aspirations. Communicators can partner with them and focus on the advantages of transitioning to a new sustainable lifestyle that benefits you, your family, and your community.

Chris highlighted the need to go beyond easy and noncontroversial pathways such as the focus on nature-based solutions, which alone can’t effectively address the root of the issue: fossil fuels contribute 80% to the problem. While tree planting, nature conservancy, and habitat restoration are important, we must prioritize addressing the production and burning of fossil fuels. As climate advocates and communicators, our role is to keep the spotlight on the urgent need to transition to electrifying everything and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

Cara said we need marketing campaigns that explain the pathway to change, its benefits, and how people can participate. Civil society can play a part in this, but for widespread impact we need the government to take the lead. It’s crucial to start normalizing the idea that we’re on a transition pathway and there will be benefits for everyone, especially those most affected by climate change.

Chris highlighted misinformation in the eyes of an uncertain public provides fertile ground for confusion. He noted that a significant portion of the Canadian population, approximately one-third, remains unsure about the validity of the following statement: “You cannot power an industrial economy with renewable energy alone.” The challenge lies in the evolving discourse surrounding climate change: the move from climate denial to climate delay. Delay tactics have proven to be effective at permeating society, and it’s something communicators need to address. As researcher Erick LaChapelle says, “This kind of confusion, and the misinformation that feeds it, is a vulnerability for the social acceptability of a clean energy transition.”

Valériane said we need citizens to be both lucid and optimistic. People should be aware of the reality that climate change is already affecting us. It’s equally crucial for them to maintain a sense of realistic optimism grounded in the progress and momentum already underway. We have the power to make a difference and there’s a clear path toward climate action. It’s important to emphasize that we can embrace a mindset that combines optimistic thinking with a clear understanding of the situation.

Chris said emphasizing the voices of scientists, health professionals, and academics in our messaging is crucial. Scientists and doctors hold the highest levels of trust among the Canadian public. University researchers in their respective fields are also trusted sources of information. To leverage this trust, it’s important to amplify the voices of scientists, academics, and doctors whenever possible. Incorporating phrases like “scientists say” or “scientists agree” in our communication can be effective. Research conducted in the United States found that while there is an overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change and the way forward, the public is not fully aware of it. Only about half of the public realizes that 99% of scientists are in consensus on these issues. Increasing public awareness of the scientific consensus opens up opportunities for engagement and a better understanding of related topics.

Highlights from the Report

Big trends in "What Do Canadians Really Think About Climate Change?" 2023 report
  • What do Canadians really think about climate change?
    Public concern about climate change has remained strong despite major global impacts including inflation, the invasion of Ukraine and the COVID19 pandemic. This report summarizes the current state of Canadian attitudes about climate change and especially the opinions that are important for communicators.

  • Demand for climate action on the rise
    There has been an increase in the public’s desire for climate action by governments. Demand for action declined after 2015 but rebounded in 2022. Currently, about 70% of Canadians say governments should be doing a lot more (40%) or somewhat more (32%) to address climate change (Lachapelle and EcoAnalytics, 2023).

  • Rising importance of clean energy
    Canadians overwhelmingly support growth in renewable power and clean energy. Some surveys find support over 90%. This is relatively unchanged over the past decade. But the vision of the future has changed: 59% of Canadians say clean energy will be “very important” to Canada’s economy in 10 years (another 33% say it will be “pretty important”). In 2020, just 40% thought clean energy would be very important (Abacus 2022b).

    There is significantly more support for growing clean energy than for oil and gas, and Canadians think clean energy will have more importance than fossil fuels in the future, but support for the oil and gas sector is also on the rise.

  • Increasing support for oil and gas
    There has been an increase in support for expanding the oil and gas sector since 2020 and also an increase in Canadians’ belief that the industry will be important for the future of the economy. Almost 60% now say oil and gas will be important to Canada’s future economy, up from 41% in 2020 (Nanos, 2023).


  • Concern
    Canadians report high levels of concern about climate change. Although concern about affordability and inflation have overtaken concern about climate change, and the invasion of Ukraine shocked energy markets, a majority of Canadians want governments to continue focusing on cutting greenhouse gas emissions in addition to focusing on other pressing issues.

  • Vision of the future
    Clean energy is very popular—support for renewable energy cuts across all demographics and most political affiliations. The public has come to view a clean energy transition as inevitable, along with associated transitions like the shift to electric vehicles.

  • Extreme weather
    Floods, fires, storms and heatwaves are increasingly linked to climate change in the public mind. Extreme weather is bringing home the importance of addressingclimate change, and the public is starting to understand there will be significant financial costs in addition to health and physical impacts.


  • Fossil fuels in the mix
    The vision of a clean energy future is still poorly defined in the public mind and runs into trouble when practical decisions need to be made. Many Canadians continue to hold conflicting attitudes towards the energy transition and there is a widespread sense that we can have clean energy and go on burning fossil fuels, too.

  • Solutions literacy
    Canadians say they do not have a strong understanding of climate change, its solutions or the barriers to their implementation. Most say they still need more information and education about climate change issues.

  • Demand for action is lower than concern
    Most Canadians will say governments should be doing more to tackle climate change. But climate change remains a “distant problem.” Most Canadians are relatively satisfied with the attention paid by the federal government and believe Canada is generally in line with international action.



What Do Canadians Really Think About Climate Change?

Webinar Recording
Full Report

Messaging Toolkit
Climate Messaging that Works: Talking Energy Transition and Climate Change in Canada

Who are Albertans, Anyway?
A Re.Climate webinar on what Albertans think about climate and energy

For more detail on communicating about climate change in Alberta, Re.Climate has produced a research brief, Engaging Mainstream Albertans

Québec communicators can connect via Communauté de Pratique and info@commclimat.ca

Reach out to Dr. Valériane Champagne St-Arnaud at portrait.climat@com.ulaval.ca

Check out Chris Hatch’s weekly newsletter, Zero Carbon

Watch the Recording

Read the Report