Most people want climate action. We need to speak up!

 Contrary to popular belief, North Americans who want climate action are the overwhelming majority. We need to start acting like it.
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Who doesn’t want to ensure that the Earth remains a healthy place to live for generations to come?

If you understand that the climate crisis is a serious challenge, and if you believe that governments, industry, and society should be doing everything possible to address it, you’re not alone. You’re part of a growing majority.

People are becoming more aware of the many benefits that energy efficiency, clean power, and nature protection bring — from improving human health to saving money to avoiding volatile coal, oil and gas supplies and prices.

A recent poll shows 75 per cent of Canadians are concerned about climate change, and more than half think that governments must do more to address it.

A quiet majority

But what about the U.S., where many politicians and media outlets attack progressive climate and energy policies as “woke”? Take Florida governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, who has spurned hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants and tax rebates for residents to make energy efficiency upgrades, and passed a law making it illegal for local governments to ban fossil fuels in favour of clean energy.

Those who reject climate science and push fossil fuels certainly get massive amounts of attention, and one would think most Americans are on board with policies like these.

But that’s not the case, according to a study published in Nature Communications. It found that 66 to 80 per cent of people in the U.S. are worried about global heating and support policies to address it, but many don’t realize their numbers are so high: 80 to 90 per cent “in every state and every assessed demographic underestimate support across all policies tested,” believing only 37 to 43 per cent favour them.”

The study found one contributing factor to the misperception was “consuming conservative news.”

This misperception is significant. “When people feel alone in their views, they are less likely to take action,” an article in Yale Climate Connections reports. This is why it’s important to voice your concerns about climate change and discuss important climate policies, says Boston College psychology and neuroscience professor Gregg Sparkman: “these kinds of conversations, when done en masse, will help correct this misperception,” he says.

A sound investment

Even more people may join the growing majority in discussions of how policies that encourage clean and efficient energy usage will save significant amounts of money. The European Union offers a good example.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, many feared Russian gas would be replaced with even dirtier coal. Instead, EU countries fast-tracked wind and solar installations, displacing “an estimated 230 TWh of expensive fossil fuel generation,” according to the International Energy Agency. That reduced wholesale electricity prices by at least eight per cent, saving electricity consumers about €100 billion, or C$145 billion.

The IEA also reports that policy mechanisms in Europe establish long-term contracts for wind and solar power, which shelter consumers from volatile and rising electricity prices. By contrast, it reports, average monthy gas prices increased ten-fold, and the price of hard coal increased fiv-fold between January 2021 and Augist 2022.

Politicians must act now

Politicians who reject sound climate and energy policies are accelerating the destruction of Earth’s life-support systems — but they are also putting wealthy fossil fuel industry donors’ short-term, selfish interests above those of the people they were elected to represent.

Policies and regulations are crucial. A study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development found that “unprecedented volatility and high oil and gas prices” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russian invasion brought “windfall profits for global oil and gas producers, including those in Canada,” which has led the country to expand the oil and gas industry.

But the spike in profits won’t last, the IISD reports. Continuing business as usual will bring “risks to dependent workers, communities, and regions,” it reports, and “governments must take an active role in overseeing a predicted phase-down of oil and gas production and diversifying the economy.”

Those who profit from the climate crisis and reject sound policies to address it — policies that would benefit most people — are speaking loudly, but their numbers are dwindling.

We’re in the majority. It’s up to us to speak louder.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with David Suzuki Foundation Senior Writer and Editor Ian Hanington.

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