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Open Access Research article

Use of residential wood heating in a context of climate change: a population survey in Québec (Canada)

Diane Bélanger1, Pierre Gosselin2*, Pierre Valois3 and Belkacem Abdous4

Author Affiliations

1 Institut national de santé publique du Québec and Centre de recherche du CHUQ, 945 Avenue Wolfe, Québec (Québec), G1V 5B3, Canada

2 Institut national de santé publique du Québec, Ouranos and Université Laval, 945 Avenue Wolfe, Québec (Québec), G1V 5B3, Canada

3 Faculté des Sciences de l'éducation, Université Laval, Québec (Québec), G1K 7P4, Canada

4 Centre de recherche du CHUQ, 2875 boulevard Laurier, Édifice Delta 2, Québec (Québec), G1V 2M2, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:184  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-184

Published: 28 May 2008



Wood heating is recommended in several countries as a climate change (CC) adaptation measure, mainly to increase the autonomy of households during power outages due to extreme climatic events. The aim of this study was to examine various perceptions and individual characteristics associated with wood heating through a survey about CC adaptations.


A telephone survey (n = 2,545) of adults living in the southern part of the province of Québec (Canada) was conducted in the early fall season of 2005. The questionnaire used closed questions and measured the respondents' beliefs and current adaptations about CC. Calibration weighting was used to adjust the data analysis for the respondent's age and language under stratified sampling based on health regions.


More than three out of four respondents had access to a single source of energy at home, which was mainly electricity; 22.2% combined two sources or more; 18.5% heated with wood occasionally or daily during the winter. The prevalence of wood heating was higher in the peripheral regions than in the more urban regions, where there was a higher proportion of respondents living in apartments. The prevalence was also higher with participants completely disagreeing (38.5%) with the eventual prohibition of wood heating when there is smog in winter, compared to respondents somewhat disagreeing (24.2%) or agreeing (somewhat: 17.5%; completely: 10.4%) with the adoption of this strategy. It appears that the perception of living in a region susceptible to winter smog, smog warnings in the media, or the belief in the human contribution to CC, did not influence significantly wood heating practices.


Increased residential wood heating could very well become a maladaptation to climate change, given its known consequences on winter smog and respiratory health. It would thus be appropriate to implement a long-term national program on improved and controlled residential wood heating. This would constitute a "no-regrets" adaptation to climate change, while reducing air pollution and its associated health impacts.