The Topline: A little above average on climate awareness
Welcome to The Topline, a weekly roundup of the big numbers driving the Minnesota news cycle, as well as the smaller ones that you might have missed. This week: Minnesotans’ climate views; Monarch butterfly mortality; Minneapolis housing supply; historically low snow cover; and “boneless chicken wings”.
Minnesotans slightly above average on climate change
The latest data from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication shows that 73% of Minnesotans say global warming is happening, up from a hair over 60% back in 2010. This is nothing to be particularly proud of, as the truth of the warming climate should be apparent to anybody with a thermometer and the ability to remember what things were like as recently as several years ago.
It should come as no surprise that agreement with the scientific consensus on global warming is highest in the Twin Cities, with readings over 80% in Hennepin and Ramsey counties. And it’s lowest in parts of greater Minnesota, with Big Stone County clocking in at a paltry 60%.
Minnesotans report being slightly more worried than average about the effects of global warming overall, while less concerned with its effects on themselves personally, probably due in part to the perception that we’ll be somewhat insulated from the worst of it. They say that corporations and individual citizens need to do more to address warming, and put slightly less of an onus on politicians at the state or federal level, even though we’ll need significant changes to energy, agriculture and transportation law and policy to make any progress.
When it comes to statewide averages, at least we have a better grasp on things than people in North Dakota, where only 60% say global warming is happening. The influence of the state’s powerful oil and gas industry may have something to do with it.
A bad year for overwintering monarch butterflies
Every year, millions of monarch butterflies migrate from their summer range in the United States to their wintering grounds in Mexico. An annual survey of those overwintering monarchs finds that their numbers are critically low this year, falling to under one-sixth of what researchers say is necessary to sustain a healthy population.
Severe drought in October and November appears to be the primary culprit: “Monarchs entering Mexico from Texas in October encountered severe to extreme drought conditions along most of the pathway to the overwintering sites,” according to MonarchWatch, a monitoring program at the University of Kansas.
Scientists like to see overwintering eastern monarchs cover at least six hectares of forest area in the region of Mexico they survey, according to the St. Paul-based Monarch Joint Venture. The data show this usually wasn’t a problem for most of the 90s and early 2000s, when overwintering flocks covered as much as 18 hectares of forest.
But the trend since then has been steadily downward. This year’s reading of 0.9 hectares is the second-lowest in 30 years of record-keeping.
Minneapolis has lots of lots
Or rather it has an adequate supply of lots to build new housing on, according to an analysis by real estate analytics company Zonda. That might not seem like a big deal, but Minneapolis is one of just four cities in Zonda’s survey that have adequate lot capacity. Most places are what they call “significantly undersupplied,” which means it’s more difficult (read: more expensive) to build homes there.
The Twin Cities have added thousands of new housing units and made aggressive policy changes, like eliminating parking minimums, to increase supply and help keep housing costs low.
Historically low snow cover across most of the state
The latest snow depth data from the Department of Natural Resources showed that there were effectively zero inches across the vast majority of the state as of February 8. Much of the state currently has the least amount of snow there’s ever been at the beginning of February, although a return to colder weather may change things.
Here’s a fun aerial photo from earlier this week of the Welch Village Ski Area in Goodhue County, showing an oasis of man made snow surrounded by a desert of barren snowless ground.
Minnesotans prefer fake chicken wings to the real thing, according to B-Dubs
Sales data from restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings shows that Minnesotans — like many in the Midwest — opted for “boneless chicken wings” over the traditional bone-in variety during the last Super Bowl.
“Boneless wings” are made by taking meat from other parts of the chicken, like the breast or thighs, covering it with bread, and frying it. They’re chicken nuggets, in other words, and chicken nuggets are food for children, not for people old enough to purchase alcohol.
One guy actually sued Buffalo Wild Wings over their “boneless wings”, claiming their marketing was deceptive. Don’t get bamboozled: You owe it to yourself to get the real thing this year.