Extreme heat in Canada
Extreme heat is costly and deadly—and it’s getting more frequent and intense throughout Canada.
Many more people are confronting the life-threatening impacts of extreme heat, even in regions that have historically had more moderate climates, such as Vancouver, Whitehorse, and Halifax. This is not just a challenge for Canada—studies put the global mortality rate associated with temperature extremes at five million deaths per year.
Extreme heat takes a toll on our health, healthcare systems, and quality of life. And the costs are rising.
In 2021, our report The Health Costs of Climate Change projected that the costs of heat-related deaths and reduced quality of life from extreme heat in Canada would range from $3 billion to $3.9 billion per year by mid-century.
Our research also found rising temperatures will drive down productivity and hurt the economy, especially in sectors where work takes place outdoors or in indoor spaces without cooling from air conditioners, heat pumps, or other devices. It can also have adverse impacts on food, transportation, and electricity systems.
The June 2021 B.C. heat wave showed what is at stake as governments and people work to ready themselves for a dangerously hot future. That June, temperatures climbed for six days, breaking records and contributing to the deaths of over 600 people. Our 2023 report, The Case for Adapting to Extreme Heat: Costs of the 2021 B.C. Heat Wave, offers an independent assessment of the costs and impacts of extreme heat, to identify actions governments can take to manage and prevent similar disasters in the future.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO PROTECT PEOPLE FROM HEAT WAVES?
Even if global emissions are sharply reduced (called the “low-emissions scenario” in the figure below), Canadians will still be coping with more frequent and intense extreme heat because of the locked-in warming from past emissions. If global emissions are not adequately reduced, temperatures in Canada will become even more dangerous.
There are many ways to prepare and protect people during periods of extreme heat. For example:
- Making buildings safer by installing more indoor cooling devices (like heat pumps or air conditioning)
- Planting more green roofs and trees for shade in urban areas
- Giving employers and the public up-to-date information on how to keep safe during extreme heat events
- Sending heat warnings out early enough to let people and responders prepare
- Designing infrastructure such as roads, railways and electricity systems to withstand increases in heat and rainfall (this can reduce damage costs by 80 per cent by the end of the century, or up to $3.1 billion each year)
Our research explores the various impacts of extreme heat and how governments can reduce costs and protect people, communities, and the economy from a future that is heating up.
The Case for Adapting to Extreme Heat
Costs of the 2021 B.C. Heat Wave.
The Health Costs of Climate Change
How Canada can adapt, prepare, and save lives.
The costs of climate change for Canada’s infrastructure.
Climate Impact Assessments in British Columbia.
Toward a Safer and More Resilient Canada
Our independent assessment evaluates the National Adaptation Strategy based on four key elements.
Heed the heat warning
How regions across Canada can prepare for a future of extreme heat.
Counting the costs of climate change
How to quantify climate damages to better inform adaptation policy.
Are Extreme Weather Events the Result of Climate Change?
Attribution science is showing us that climate change is not a distant phenomenon—it is already here, now.
Hope flows from action
Policy approaches can help build—and rebuild—communities so they are resilient to the weather of today and tomorrow.
Community is the solution
The 2021 extreme heat emergency experience in urban, rural, and remote British Columbia First Nations.
Can Green Roofs Help Cities Respond to Climate Change?
Green roofs help to cool the air, absorb excess water, and reduce energy use while supporting biodiversity and making cities more liveable.
Growing Forests in a City
Forests deliver many benefits to cities, including offering refuge in heatwaves, sequestering greenhouse gas emissions, limiting flooding, and providing mental and physical health benefits.