“A new definition for a green or sustainable building is one that is prepared for climate change.”

That simple but provocative statement was made by Ryan Smith of the Prairie Climate Centre, a partnership between IISD and the University of Winnipeg, at an event hosted by Sustainable Building Manitoba.

His point? We design buildings for a 50-year life span yet we tend to think only in terms of what our climate is now.

So what will it be like on the prairies in 50 years?

The Prairie Climate Atlas lets you explore what the temperature and precipitation will be in different areas of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. This interactive, online tool allows you to see what will happen under a high carbon vs a low carbon future. In other words, if we make no changes in our society to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (high carbon) and if we reduce our emissions (low carbon).

It also lets you see which geographic areas are our “twins” today in terms of temperature and precipitation under these two scenarios. Under a high carbon future, southern Manitoba will resemble Texas with more than 30 days of 30+ temperature in summer compared with an average of 12 today. At the same time, we can expect increased droughts in summer and more intense rainfalls in the spring and fall.

And what will Texas resemble under this high carbon future? Saudi Arabia.

Check out this fascinating atlas and explore it yourself at: www.climateatlas.ca

Even better, share it with your classroom, at your workplace and with your friends. It will help us all recognize the need to ensure we head toward the lower carbon future path.