Mitch McConnell and others who are trying to obstruct climate protections will be regarded one day in the same way we think of 19th-century apologists for human slavery: How could economic interests blind them to the immorality of their position?
We can already hear the McConnellites' wounded outcries: The real immorality is the burden that new energy costs would put on poor people. The Obama administration is trampling the Constitution to do what Congress won't. And, of course, war on coal, war on coal.
McConnell has gotten a lot of attention by urging governors to refuse to submit state plans due to the Environmental Protection Agency in June for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, which builds up in the atmosphere and traps heat.
Last year was the warmest since Earth's average temperature was first recorded in 1880, exceeding the 20th-century global average by 1.24 degrees.
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Over the weekend, the Associated Press reports, President Barack Obama took McConnell, the Senate majority leader, to task for "telling the world" not to have confidence that the United States can meet its own climate goals.
McConnell has been arguing that the United States could never meet Obama's target for reducing carbon emissions even if the proposed rule survives court and political challenges.
Obama has a point. For years McConnell has been arguing that any U.S. sacrifices to tackle climate change would be futile because China and other big polluters won't curb their emissions. Now he's saying other countries shouldn't do anything because the United States cannot meet its goals.
While McConnell is getting applause from the usual right-wing think tanks and front groups, he's at odds with most Americans.
Polls find that two-thirds to three-fourths of Americans think the government should be making a substantial effort to combat climate change, including imposing stricter limits on power plants. A New York Times poll in January found that 71 percent expect to be hurt personally by climate change.
Not that long ago it wasn't even a partisan dispute. John McCain, the GOP nominee for president in 2008, called the evidence of "devastating" human-caused climate change "overwhelming" and said "we have an obligation to take action to fix it."
Fortunately for Kentucky, the Beshear administration is looking out for the state's future, rather than following McConnell's lead.
Energy and Environment Secretary Len Peters and his staff are tailoring a carbon-reduction plan that will protect Kentucky's ratepayers and 230,000 manufacturing jobs better than a federally imposed plan would.
Keep in mind this is the same Beshear administration that never saw a coal-mining permit it didn't like. No one in Frankfort is out to hurt the coal industry, but when change is inevitable the smart get prepared.
The Earth cannot spur us to action by firing the first shot like the rebels at Fort Sumter. But the frequency and intensity of extreme weather — and the suffering it inflicts — have put us on notice.
Political donors might reward elected leaders, but future generations will never forgive those whose vision ends with the next election.