Our climate is changing, in British Columbia and across the world, and the impacts are already being felt today.

What is the difference between weather and climate?

Weather is the conditions that we experience at a specific location and time, and we know that the weather is always changing. Climate, on the other hand, is the long-term statistics of weather. Climate change refers to changes in the Earth’s climate over long periods of time (30 years and more) by measuring factors such as temperature, precipitation, humidity and atmospheric pressure. By looking at the long-term weather data, we can determine the average conditions, range of conditions and trends. Climate experts have concluded that the Earth’s climate is on a warming trend.

The Paris Agreement refers to a 2016 agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It deals with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, and it was signed by 195 nations. Under the Paris Agreement, Canada committed to reducing its GHG emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Read the agreement here.

How do we project future warming?

Climate scientists use climate models to project the range of future warming possibilities based on different emissions scenarios. Models refer to Representative Concentration Pathways (or “RCP”) that are different scenarios of how concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will change as a result of human activities. The RCP pathways range from RCP 2.6, where there is high effort to curb emissions with renewable energy, emissions capture, predominant use of active and public transportation, to RCP 8.5, where there is low effort to curb emissions (“business as usual”), use of coal-fired power and predominant use of cars and trucks for transportation. RCP 4.5 and RCP 6.0 are pathways of medium effort to curb emissions, with mixes of renewable and non-renewable energy sources as well as a mix of transportation modes. RCP 2.6 is the scenario of countries meeting the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping within 2°C of warming compared to pre-industrial times. The higher our greenhouse gas emissions, the more we can expect our global temperature to rise.

To learn more, check out this cool infographic on RCP pathways from Australia’s Coast Adapt initiative.

How do we prepare for climate change with these uncertainties?

Although there is a level of uncertainty about which emissions pathway we will be on, like with a pandemic, it is important to start planning early to make sure we do not have a worse situation in the future. If you consider the graph of “Future Warming in BC”, all 3 emission pathways have a close range of projected warming for the year 2050 in British Columbia. As the majority of our planning is within that timeframe, we can start thinking about how we can adapt our policies and practices for around 3°C of warming from a 1961-1990 baseline and the implications of that temperature change. This could include short and long-term planning processes like asset management, building and infrastructure design, disaster risk reduction or land-use planning.

It is important to understand that our past emissions have already placed us on a path of global warming and climate change, which means that even if we were to stop all emissions today, we still will need adaptation action. However, our choices with emission reductions today are still meaningful because they will affect how much future warming we will see.

How will BC’s climate change in the future?

According to Plan2Adapt, in British Columbia for the 2050s, we can expect an average warming of 3.2°C and 7% more precipitation annually from a 1961-1990 baseline. We can expect a higher precipitation increase during the winter season, however, that precipitation will mostly come as rain and we will have 30% less snow. The increase in temperatures means that we can anticipate a longer growing season and fewer days where we will require heating for our buildings. We will be seeing hotter, drier summers along with wetter winters.

From Canada’s Changing Climate report, we know that Canada’s climate is warming twice as fast as the global average, and Northern Canada is warming almost three times as fast.

If you are looking for more data on climate change projections, you can use the Plan2Adapt tool. Plan2Adapt generates maps, plots, and data describing projected future climate conditions for regions throughout British Columbia.


Let’s get started.

Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC): PCIC is a regional climate service centre at the University of Victoria that provides practical information on the physical impacts of climate variability and change in the Pacific and Yukon Region of Canada.

Canadian Centre for Climate Services (CCCS): CCCS is a dedicated multi-disciplinary team with expertise across a broad range of climate-related disciplines. They work with partners and stakeholders to support the implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

Climate Atlas of Canada: The Climate Atlas of Canada combines climate science, mapping and storytelling to bring the global issue of climate change closer to home for Canadians. It is designed to inspire local, regional, and national action that will let us move from risk to resilience.