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I think it no coincidence that on Groundhog Day, a plot was hatched by a cabal of international scientists to undermine my influence and prestige earned from more than a century of weather forecasting--nay, weather manipulation (after all, any idiot can read a National Weather Service bulletin, but is there anyone else who, by their actions, can influence whether spring arrives early or winter endures for six more weeks?).
There always have been pretenders to my throne, from groundhogs such as Dunkirk Dave and Wiarton Willie, to crustaceans, including Claude the Crayfish, and countless human interlopers, from David Letterman to Willard Scott.
But when Feb. 2 comes around every year, who do people look to for their weather report? Me, Punxsutawney Phil.
Now, however, in an escalation of this long battle, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report that contends it is "very likely" that humans are responsible for global climate change, rather than this groundhog.
Of course, this "theory" has been bandied about for years, but it was on Feb. 2 that the IPCC, a group of scientists assessing the risk of "human-induced climate change," reported that it is more than 90% certain that human activity, in the form of greenhouse gas emissions, is the cause of global warming. Furthermore, the IPCC report contends that if human activity continues at its current pace, increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, world temperatures and sea levels will rise measurably, and there will be more severe weather and greater tropical storm intensity, among other unpleasant developments.
I must admit that I will study this report closely to determine the implications not only for my property insurance premiums but also my own climate model. My 2007 forecast, I am proud to say, already takes global warming into account, whatever the cause: After predicting more winter in each of the past six years, this year I called for an early spring.
If it is true that human activity is influencing global warming--and I cling like only a burrowing rodent can to the 5% chance that it is not--perhaps my example can offer a solution: If you hibernate 364 days a year, greenhouse emissions are sure to decline.
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Have you ever wondered what a groundhog would look like with all of its fur shaved off? Like a potbelly pig with razor burn? Like Mini Me, Vin Diesel or Brian Urlacher?
You can find out by supporting me as I again shave my head to raise funds for curing childhood cancers. Losing my hair is part of the annual St. Baldrick's charity event, in which volunteers shave their heads to raise pledges of financial support for cancer research. The head shaving displays solidarity with kids who have cancer, many of whom lose their hair during chemotherapy treatments.
The St. Baldrick's Foundation, now in its eighth year, was founded by a trio of reinsurance executives and continues to enjoy strong support from the reinsurance and insurance industries, both in terms of contributions and participation.
Add your name to the list of volunteers this year and join me in this fundraising effort. Sign up online, or learn more about this charity at www.stbaldricks.org. The "Business Insurance Baldies" team in Chicago would welcome you as a member! Your hair will grow back (unless it's already in short supply, in which case you might look better with a smooth pate anyway).
If not shaving, please consider a donation on my head by visiting www.stbaldricks.org and looking me up among the shavees. Your contribution will make a big difference in the fight against childhood cancer and will be greatly appreciated.
Punxsutawney Phil hijacks this space once a year to comment on issues important to him.
You can reach him at email@example.com, in care of Associate Publisher and Editorial Director Paul Winston, whose commentary will