Coal is a disaster for the climate and, although it provides good-paying jobs in areas where there often are no others, it also is a disaster for coal communities and miners themselves. For those reasons, with his last election campaign a success, President Obama should push hard to get regulations in place that work to force an end to most coal mining—a ban on mountain-top removal, regulations that control CO2 emissions of existing plants, more funding for enforcing health and safety regulations while coal is still mined, installing every obstacle the executive branch can come up in the path of soaring U.S. coal exports and negotiating a no-exports pact with the world's other leading exporters (Russia, Australia, Indonesia). He should also find various innovative means to support and invest in the future of coal miners and other coal-company employees who will lose their livelihood as coal production is cut back.
Undoubtedly, Congress and the fossil fuel industry alike will try to block such moves in every way they can. But that should not stop the president from trying in every way he can find to act.
Over the past 30 years, we've been through several overlapping phases of denial since the menace of global warming first breached the science labs and journals and made it into the general public's view, most notably when James Hansen testified at a Senate hearing in 1988. By then he'd been studying the subject for more than a decade.
As first, deniers went so far as to claim that the greenhouse effect itself could not alter the chemistry of something as large as the earth's atmosphere. Then they said it could, but that it wasn't happening. That phase of denial lasted a long time. No surprise since it was heavily funded by Exxon and the Koch brothers and other self-interested parties. Shills such as Fred Singer took their money and spread their agenda. Not only was global warming not real, they said, but scientists who said it was already happening were labeled quacks with an agenda. They smeared them, called them liars, said they were just out for grant money and got the likes of Sen. Jim Inhofe and the brilliant climatologist Rush Limbaugh to ridicule them whenever a heavy snow fell somewhere. As recently as eight years ago, they were claiming that the ice of Greenland and the Arctic Ocean were not retreating.
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