Groundhog Day All Over Again

Bonn, Germany—Welcome to Groundhog Day.

Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early end to winter back in February, and indeed the weather has been pleasant here, but it still feels like déjà vu all over again for a more ominous reason.

Almost invariably for the past few years the international climate negotiations have opened against the backdrop of extreme weather somewhere in the world.

There was the infamous Warsaw meeting when a catastrophic typhoon captured the world’s attention and underscored loss and damage as a reality for vulnerable communities.

Shortly after the held in Geneva in 2015 an onslaught of powerful tropical cyclones tore through the Pacific, upending decades of development progress along the way.

Deadly floods, droughts, heatwaves and other climate change impacts seem to go hand and hand with UNFCCC meetings.

And this time, the first UN climate change meet since an historic agreement was reached in Paris is no different.

Scientists say a combination of global warming and a strong El Nino has led to an unprecedented 12 straight months of global temperature records, with April surpassing the old mark by half a degree.

“These kinds of records may not be that interesting, but so many in a row that break the previous records by so much indicates that we’re entering uncharted climatic territory (for modern human society),” Texas A&M University climate scientist Andrew Dessler told reporters.

A NOAA’s climatologist said: “We are feeling like broken records stating the same thing” each month.

The impacts have been particularly problematic for AOSIS’ members this year. Cyclones Ula, Winston, and Zena wreaked havoc in the South Pacific; Severe droughts struck parts of the Caribbean and the Western Pacific led to dangerous water emergencies; And a massive coral-bleaching turned reefs bone white across the tropics.

Scientists also recently confirmed the loss of 5 islands to sea level rise in the Solomon archipelago.

None of this is a coincidence, of course. As carbon dioxide continues to accumulate in the atmosphere, simple physics tell us we can expect warmer temperatures, wetter conditions in some areas, and drier ones in others.

Escaping this loop, to carry the Groundhog Day metaphor a step further, will require us to see the world differently and break the cycle of fossil fuel dependency that so far has doomed us to make the same mistakes over and over again.