Climate Policy and Citizen Support

One of the local rags is reporting on a new article (click here for a link to the abstract) in the journal, Global Environmental Change, written jointly by Ekaterina Rhodes, Jonn Axsen, and Mark Jaccard of the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University.

British Columbians are largely unaware of government climate policies…

An online survey of 475 people found only one in four people could name a single climate policy and among those who could, nearly all of them named the Carbon Tax applied to fossil fuels in B.C.

Only one respondent named the astonishingly effective Renewable & Low Carbon Fuel Requirements Regulation that is responsible for one quarter of our reduction in carbon emissions since 2007. After the policy was explained, 90 per cent of respondents supported the idea.

The study challenges the notion touted by some politicians and most environmental groups that knowledge of climate science and well-informed citizen support are required to implement effective climate policy, said co-author Jonn Axsen, a professor specializing in sustainable energy systems.

In addition to citizens being non-informed about environmental policies, the authors come up with three additional important conclusions:

  • Regulations achieve the highest citizen support, carbon tax the lowest.
  • Citizen awareness and knowledge are not associated with higher policy support.
  • Providing policy information does not increase citizen support.

The second bulleted point above is interesting, implying an inherent tension between what the public prefers–regulation–and what policy-makers prefer–taxation. Policy-makers prefer taxation not only because it is relatively simple policy to implement, but also because it is economically efficient, allowing consumers and producers to place the “correct” value and costs, respectively, on carbon.

By the way, did you know that Canadians are the most scientifically literate people in the world?

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One thought on “Climate Policy and Citizen Support

  1. I find the second bullet point particularly interesting as well. I think it probably shows that socio-cultural trends can be more meaningful that scientific knowledge in itself. This is probably the reason why so many politicians deny climate change or downplay the issue, not because they have not been aware of the scientific evidence, but because their power driven culture they are embedded. I think it goes the same for people. if they are culturized into believing or supporting a cause because in has become part of the general cultural common sense of the population, then they will support it without much thought. This of course can be good or bad, as some people do not usually think about social issues that are not part of the common social concern. Hence, it is important to promote an environmentalist culture so that environmental concerns become part of our daily speech as economic concerns are.
    Moreover, when it comes about the video about Canadians being the most scientific literate population, I think is important that such achievements are recognized. However, it gave me the impression that the video implies superiority of scientific knowledge over other kinds of knowledge equally or more important. Even though, the focus of the video was about scientific knowledge, it would have been nice to see some acknowledgement of the importance of having other kinds of knowledge.

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