Impacts of Climate Change

Climate change affects almost every aspect of our lives from water supply and agriculture to homes and communities. For example, more heat waves impact people’s health, heavier rains put pressure on our roads and sewer systems, and rising sea levels mean rethinking coastal communities.

Historical and ongoing emissions mean that climate impacts will continue for decades. While the challenges are significant, British Columbia is well positioned to respond. And many in B.C. are already beginning this important work. By understanding and preparing for climate impacts, we can reduce the risks.

Past Trends

Historical data from 1900-2013 indicates that:

  • Average annual temperature warmed by 1.4 °C across the province
  • The night-time minimum average temperature in winter in B.C. increased by 3.1 °C
  • Annual precipitation increased across the province overall
  • Average sea level has risen along most of the B.C. coast
  • Lakes and rivers become free of ice earlier in the spring
  • Water in the Fraser River is warmer in summer

For more information and data on climate change trends and indicators in B.C., visit Environmental Reporting BC

Projected Impacts

B.C. will have warmer temperatures in all regions, though each region will face different climate impacts. For example, while winter rainfall is anticipated to increase throughout the province, some places such as southern Vancouver Island are projected to have considerably less rain in the summer. Other places such as the north-east regions of the province will see more precipitation across all seasons.

Generally, climate change in B.C. is likely to include:

  • Warmer temperatures in all seasons
  • More intense and more frequent heavy-rain events
  • Changes in growing seasons for crops and gardens
  • Increased drought and water shortages
  • Larger and more frequent wildfires
  • Changes in streamflow patterns and lake levels
  • Stronger storm surges
  • Rising sea levels
  • Changing forest conditions
  • Changes in plant and animal distributions
  • Smaller snowpack and loss of glaciers
  • Lowering the pH of the ocean (ocean acidification)

To explore specific climate impacts for your region, check out the Plan2Adapt tool.

The Province recently completed a Preliminary Strategic Climate Risk Assessment that looked at 15 climate-related risks and their consequences for the province by 2050. The assessment is a critical step in preparing for climate change and provides the provincial government with important information to plan for the future.