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

Projected Impacts

Impacts projected for B.C. in the coming century include:

Temperature increase of 1.3 to 2.7 °C expected by 2050, with projected impacts including:

  • Growing seasons that are longer though hampered by more frequent and severe droughts
  • Shifting infectious diseases and pests with effects to our health, agriculture and ecosystems
  • More frequent and severe heat waves resulting in increased heat-related illnesses

Average annual rainfall is expected to increase from 2% to 12% by 2050 though summers will be drier, with projected impacts including:

  • Increased frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation resulting in damage to buildings and infrastructure
  • Higher risk of wildfires, insect outbreaks and diseases in our forests
  • Farmers and ranchers  experiencing more frequent and severe droughts, soil erosion and new pests

Up to 70% of our glaciers may have disappeared by 2100, expected to result in:

  • Changes in river flows and temperature  affecting fish habitat and hydroelectric power generation
  • Drinking water decreasing in quality and quantity
  • Water shortages increasing competition between various water users

Sea level is expected to continue to rise along most of B.C.’s coast, with projected impacts including:

  • Coastal communities and ecosystems seeing more frequent and severe flooding
  • Rising sea levels straining drainage and sewages systems, and intruding into groundwater aquifers
  • Low-lying agricultural lands becoming too saline for cultivation

While we may not be able to completely avoid these impacts, we can minimize their negative effects by preparing ahead of time. For example, by ensuring that communities, businesses and the public service providers are more resilient to extreme weather events, we can reduce the social and economic costs of these events. By creating adaptation strategies for agricultural areas, we can ensure our agricultural sector remains strong. And by designing new buildings and infrastructure with tomorrow’s climate in mind, we will spend less on maintenance and our communities will be safer.