Extreme heat

B.C.’s climate is warming. Western Canada is already on average one to two degrees warmer than it was in the 1940s. Our summers are longer and hotter and heat waves are more intense and frequent.

Extreme heat emergencies

While everyone can benefit from planning and preparing for extreme heat emergencies, people are especially at-risk if they do not have access to air conditioning and need to be prepared and supported. This could include people who:

  • Live alone
  • Have pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or respiratory disease
  • Have mental illness such as schizophrenia, depression, or anxiety
  • Have substance use disorders
  • Are marginally housed
  • Work in hot environments
  • Are pregnant
  • Have limited mobility
Sun in orange sky.

Future risks of extreme heat in B.C.

Scientists have found that B.C.’s past extreme heat events would have been “virtually impossible” without human-induced climate change. As warming continues, extreme heat events will become more common.

Heat illness

Hot days can cause anxiety and stress. In some cases, heat can also lead to more aggression and mental health emergencies.

Many buildings in B.C. don’t have air conditioning. This can leave the people who live and work in them exposed to extreme heat.

Warmer summers and more heat waves can lead to more heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and death.

Worker at a construction site.

Air quality

On hot summer days, vehicle exhaust and industrial pollution mix with sunlight. This creates smog.

Smog can cause lung damage, chest pain, coughing, nausea, headaches and chest congestion. It can also worsen asthma, heart disease, bronchitis and pneumonia.

Heat can also worsen the respiratory effects of wildfire smoke.

City skyline with haze.


In warmer weather, pollen, mold, mildew and other allergens develop and spread more. This leads to longer and worse seasonal allergies. 

Longer and more intense allergy seasons can be tough for folks with respiratory conditions like asthma. 

Person blowing their nose into a tissue.

Pests and infectious diseases

Warmer year-round weather means pests breed more and spread to new areas. These pests are damaging crops and affecting our access to healthy, local foods.  

Climate change can also affect the way diseases spread among animals and humans.  

Gloved hands holding two rotten tomatoes with the plants in the background.

B.C. is taking action

We’re working to protect British Columbians and help them adapt to the risks of our new, hotter climate. Explore how we’re improving our extreme heat response and promoting safer indoor spaces.

Helping people to prepare for extreme heat

Learn more about preparing for extreme heat.

Supporting those most vulnerable to extreme heat

We’re developing a toolkit with actions that vulnerable populations can take to reduce the risk of injury or illness during a heat emergency. These resources include safety guidance for pregnant people, infants and young children. 

Access heat-related resources on HealthLinkBC.

Creating an alert and response system for heat emergencies

We launched the B.C. Heat Alert and Response System in June 2022. Ongoing community engagements, information sessions and evaluations will continue to improve the system over time.

Learn more about heat event response planning.

Be ready for an emergency. Learn about the hazards in your region and make a plan for staying safe.  

Your safety is the number one priority. EmergencyInfoBC shares trusted
content about emergencies, including what to do and where to go for help.

Learn more about other hazards in British Columbia