2014 Air Quality and Climate Change in Halton

The 2014 Air Quality and Climate Change Survey is a telephone survey used to determine public opinion, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours related to air quality and climate change in Halton in 2014 compared to 2009. The key findings of the survey are outlined below.

Background and Purpose

The Halton Region Health Department first collected information on air quality and climate change in 2009. Results from the 2009 survey were used to inform health promotion, education and outreach activities for Halton Region’s Air Quality and Climate Change Program. The primary purpose of the 2014 Air Quality and Climate Change Survey was to determine if there have been any changes since 2009. The survey was also used to collect additional information on knowledge and behaviours related to air quality and climate change.

Methods

The 2014 Air Quality and Climate Change Survey was conducted using a special survey that was part of the Rapid Risk Factor Surveillance System (RRFSS) (external link). RRFSS is an ongoing, monthly survey of adults aged 18 and older who live in private households. Random digit dialing is used to select households. Within households, the adult with the most recent birthday is selected to participate in the survey.

Key Findings

Knowledge of climate change

  • 95% of Halton residents strongly or somewhat agreed that the world’s climate is changing, and 83% were very or somewhat concerned about climate change. Females and residents aged 25-44 were more likely to agree that the climate is changing and be concerned about climate change.
  • Most residents (76%) in Halton recognized that human activity contributes to climate change with 53% indicating it is caused mainly by human activity, and 23% that it is caused by both human activity and natural changes.
  • 92% of Halton residents who knew that climate change is caused by human activity recognized that exhaust from vehicles contributes to climate change, while only 70% recognized that energy use at home contributes to climate change.
  • Knowledge about energy use at home contributing to climate change varied by age, income and education. Residents aged 25-44, residents in the high and middle income groups and residents with a post-secondary education were more likely to know that energy use at home contributes to climate change.

Impact of climate change on local communities

  • Compared to 2009, Halton residents were more likely to know that climate change is somewhat or very likely to cause more smog advisory days, extreme weather events, frequent and severe heat waves, and insects carrying disease.
  • Fewer residents were aware that climate change is likely to result in more insects carrying disease (57%) compared to those who were aware that climate change is likely to result in more extreme weather events (77%), more smog advisory days (79%), and more frequent and severe heat waves (83%).
  • Females and residents aged 25-44 were more likely to be aware of the impact of climate change on the local community.
  • 74% of Halton residents knew that climate change could have an effect on human health. Of those who thought climate change could have an effect on health, 8% thought the effect could be very or somewhat positive, 17% both positive and negative, 68% very or somewhat negative, and 7% did not know what type of effect climate change would have on health.

Impact of poor air quality on health

  • The percent of Halton residents who rated the air quality in the Region as poor or very poor decreased from 22% in 2009 to 15% in 2013. Females were more likely than males to rate the air quality in the region as poor or very poor.
  • In 2014, 6% of Halton residents thought that air quality in Halton had improved in the past five years, 38% thought that it had stayed the same, 24% that it became worse, and 32% did not know. Females and Milton residents were more likely to think that air quality had become worse.
  • The percent of Halton residents who indicated that poor air quality affected their health or the health of their family decreased significantly from 13% in 2009 to 7% in 2014.

Air Quality Health Index (AQHI)

  • 60% of all Halton residents were familiar with the AQHI, 47% check the AQHI in the summer and 35% made changes to their activities based on the AQHI.
  • Residents aged 25-44 and 45-64, and post-secondary graduates were more likely to be aware of, check and make changes based on the AQHI. The percent of Halton residents who were familiar with the AQHI increased with income, and females were more likely to change their activities based on the AQHI.

Energy use at home

  • The percent of Halton residents who were aware that alternative sources of power can be purchased in Halton Region increased from 10% in 2009 to 23% in 2014. Only 4%* of households in Halton reported buying energy from alternative sources.
  • 54% of Halton residents reported always turning off the lights when leaving a room for 15 minutes or longer.
  • 16% of households in Halton reported drying all or most of their clothes on a clothesline or rack. Drying clothes on a clothesline or clothes rack decreased as household income increased.

Phantom power

  • Phantom power refers to electricity consumed by devices like cell phones and computers when they are plugged in but not being used. In 2014, 40% of households in Halton reported taking action to reduce the use of phantom power, 32% unplugged devices that are not in use, 11% unplugged cell phones once they have charged, 9% reported using a power bar, and 5% reported purchasing ENERGY STAR® appliances.

Energy use on the road

  • 36% of Halton drivers reported carpooling and 71% had their tire pressure checked in the past month. Younger residents were more likely to carpool, as were females and those in the middle and high income groups. Males were more likely to have their tire pressure checked.
  • 55% of Halton drivers reported never letting their vehicle idle for a minute or longer during the past month. Older drivers and drivers in the low income group were most likely to report never letting their vehicle idle for a minute or longer during the past month.
  • 52% of Burlington residents, 44% of Oakville residents and 29% of Halton Hills residents were aware that anti-idling laws existed in their municipalities.

Active transportation

  • In 2014, 52% of Halton residents reported using active transportation in the past 12 months. Younger residents were more likely than older residents to report using active transportation.

Burning wood

  • In 2014, 17% of households in Halton reported burning wood inside the home, and 12%* reported burning wood outside the home. Residents in the high income group were more likely to burn wood inside and outside the home, and Halton Hills residents were more likely to report burning wood outside the home.

Note: Estimates marked with an asterisk (*) should be interpreted with caution due to high variability.