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Two of America's fastest-warming counties are here in Minnesota

Canadian neighbors Kittson and Roseau counties are getting pummeled by climate change.

Canadian neighbors Kittson and Roseau counties are getting pummeled by climate change. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

In the 2015 Paris accord, international leaders agreed that the balance of the world as we knew it largely rested on a tiny measurement: 2 degrees Celsius.

That was the increase in temperature we were supposed to avoid as a planet, lest it leave Earth unrecognizable. As the Washington Post put it, “Virtually all coral reefs will die; retreating ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica could unleash massive sea level rise; and summertime Arctic sea ice, a shield against further warming, would begin to disappear.”

But the world, the Post pointed out, is like an old, temperamental oven. It does not heat up evenly. After analyzing more than 100 years of data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Post found that 71 counties in the United States have already hit the 2-degree mark, and then some.

And it gets worse – specifically for us. Two of the fastest-warming counties are right in our state: Kittson County and Roseau County, both at +2.4 degrees over the last century-and-change. They’re part of a sweaty stripe from eastern Montana to western Minnesota, all along the Canadian border.

Minnesota, in fact, is one of the fastest-warming states in the nation, with parts anywhere between 1 and 3 degrees (Fahrenheit) hotter than they were a century ago. This is something we primarily notice during our winters, which, as the Star Tribune reports, are heating up 13 times faster than our summers. Minneapolis and Mankato are among the nation’s three fastest-warming cities.

We are arguably one of the states that should be the most up in arms about the global climate crisis. But public opinion is a lot like an old oven too – and the hots spots don’t always correlate to the places of greatest impact.

Last year, Yale crunched some numbers of its own and estimated the percentage of adults in each county that actually believe climate change was happening.

The county with the most credence was Hennepin, with 78 percent of people convinced. (That’s up seven points from the national average.) But there are counties that go as low as 59 percent (McLeod).

Even our canaries in the coal mine, Kittson and Roseau, only had 67 percent and 63 percent of adults on board respectively. In both counties, only 35 to 38 percent of people thought global warming would actually harm them personally.

It all paints a grim picture. But of course, it could always be worse.

The dubious honor of the fastest-warming state goes to Alaska, which isn’t even included in the Post’s analysis of the lower 48. A massive report published last year found that fixing the climate-related damage already inflicted upon the state could cost $110 million to $270 million a year, from coastal erosion to damaged roads and buildings.