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The North American migration of monarch butterflies is truly extraordinary. The 3,000-mile journey from Canada to Mexico draws spectators from around the world to behold its magic. In fact, in Mexican folklore, the butterflies are believed to carry the souls of loved ones.
Like most butterflies, monarchs are highly sensitive to weather and climate: They depend on environmental cues (temperature in particular) to trigger reproduction, migration, and hibernation.
Their dependence on milkweed alone as a host plant is a further vulnerability, particularly as milkweed abundance is declining throughout the monarch range.
They also face a decline in their over winter habitat, and the effects of an increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as drought and severe storms, and extremes in hot and cold temperatures.
By the Numbers: According to the Washington Post, between 1990 and 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says, a billion butterflies vanished.
Because over 95 percent of the population migrates en masse to a few patches of Mexican forest, each smaller than half a football field, a single storm or heat stroke could effectively kill off the population. (A smaller percentage of the butterflies winter in Southern California or Florida, where they face their own challenges.)
That nearly happened in 2002, when a winter storm killed about 75 percent of monarchs. And again in 2012, when a heatwave in the Midwest killed tens of thousands.
Bottom Line: As temperatures keep rising and heatwaves keep occurring, scientists don’t know how much longer the monarch migration will be sustained.
The Biden administration released its “skinny” post-election year budget plan for government spending next year and it included large increases for battling climate change and reversing environmental injustice, particularly as compared to the Trump administration’s drastic proposed cuts in these areas.
Why This Matters: These are big increases over the Trump administration’s proposals — for NOAA it would mean 50% more. But Congress never enacted those truly skinny budgets — they actually modestly increased or held most environmental spending steady.
As the Biden administration readies to enact an infrastructure plan, Congressional Republicans continue to lament that water pipes, EV chargers, and expanded railways “don’t count” as infrastructure. Yet, as Biden cabinet members have been saying: we need to expand our definition of infrastructure beyond roads and bridges to prepare our country for the future. As […]
Leading up to Earth Day and President Biden’s first Climate Summit on April 22, Gallup is releasing a series of environmental polls, and the latest has found that the opinion gap on climate change between Democrats and Republicans is only growing wider.
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