Satire | Climate change is going to kill Punxsutawney Phil

By Jessica Snyder, Senior Staff Columnist

Last Thursday, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and predicted six weeks left of winter. That might have rung true for this past weekend, where temperature highs were only a few degrees above freezing in the northeast due to a polar vortex. But take a look at this coming Thursday — there’s a 60% chance of thunderstorms with a high of 58 degrees.

It’s increasingly clear that climate stability is a thing of the past — and that Punxsutawney Phil is now a fraud. The days of white Christmases and crisp winter temperatures are gone, replaced by mud and thunderstorms.

It’s becoming harder and harder to put faith in our little Punxsutawney vermin. The period at the beginning of the year was often a transition from winter to spring, so most of his predictions weren’t too hard to believe. I’d even say that they were sometimes actually right. My point is, if this year’s prediction doesn’t completely disenfranchise Phil, he should at least get laid off until he proves he can provide accurate information.

Groundhogs hibernate during the winter, which I think is partially why Punxsutawney Phil is used as a weather predictor. If you’re not ready to end your hibernation, of course you’re going to “see your shadow” and turn around quickly to go right back to sleep in your den. Hibernating is fine, and honestly really beneficial considering that sleeping the entire time that resources are slim means that you won’t have to forage for food. In most winters of the past, you could rely on either snow and freezing conditions — but not rain and thunderstorms. 

With rain comes flooding, which is normally okay when mammals aren’t hibernating in dens underground. If Phil’s feral and less posh counterparts were above ground, they could just avoid flooded areas. Using this Thursday as an example, what happens to those who are still hibernating under Phil’s jurisdiction? Are they left to drown in a watery grave, all while they’re still asleep? Additionally, groundhogs are omnivores and often eat plants and bugs. With pesticide use killing insects, Punxsutawney Phil’s meal plan is cut in half. If the climate crisis continues, our planet will begin to even lack biodiversity in plants. What will Phil eat then? 

All groundhogs have a slim chance at getting a fulfilling meal in the future, so they may turn to the many plastic water bottles and granola bar wrappers that litter parks. They might have a chance at scrounging up at least an edible crumb. 

Human needs will always surpass the needs of Punxsutawney Phil, though. We’re already far more advanced than him. His whole job revolves around predicting one season — meanwhile, we can track global weather patterns through phone apps. At this point, Punxsutawney Phil is just around for fun, which is why I won’t be surprised if one day we need to cover Phil’s den with cement for additional housing or another industrial park. Either he’d wake up one day unable to escape, or he’d go to hibernate in the winter and be face to face with a human, shotgun in hand, who now owns his property because he can’t speak human languages. 

In the spirit of prioritizing human needs, who’s to say that we can’t turn Phil into a hot dog? We all know, and most are comfortable with, the fact that a hot dog is a random hodge-podge of mystery meats. I don’t think adding a groundhog to every batch would make that much of a difference. Sure, it might make it a little gamey, but that’s nothing that a little artificial flavoring can’t fix!

It’s honestly pointless if we don’t turn Phil into a hot dog — his predicting skills are shot, his nutrition options are running out and his housing is dangerous at best if it still exists. By turning him into ground meat, we save him the existence of this torturous humanity. Not only will he be snuggled up in an intestinal casing, but maybe he’ll be joined by his loved ones too. 

Before long, Punxsutawney Phil will be something of a dinosaur figure — children won’t believe he existed and they might start mistaking potholes for his den. As they get older, they might even laugh at the fact that we believed this furry creature to know everything about the weather — and that we had a day designated for him every single year. Groundhog Day might still exist in the future, but it’ll be one of those drinking holidays that are so far removed from the actual point that it no longer holds meaning. 

Punxsutawney Phil hasn’t lost his job yet, but the outlook isn’t looking so hot — well, physically it is, but you know what I mean. He’ll go extinct from the very thing he predicts if people don’t stop believing him before that. And there’s nothing he can feasibly do to stop it. 

So bundle up today, but be ready for shorts weather in a couple of days. If it’s nice out, grab a hot dog from a hot dog cart — and try not to think about the impending doom of Punxsutawney Phil.

Jessica Snyder primarily writes about the little things in life. Write to her at [email protected].