Fid­dling while Earth burns

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New York Daily News - - EDITORIAL -

ay no at­ten­tion to the burn­ing hill­tops of Cal­i­for­nia or to the huge swath of Texas still dry­ing out from a his­tor­i­cally hor­ri­ble hur­ri­cane: The White House is shred­ding Obama-era rules that asked each state in its own way to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions pro­duced by power-gen­er­at­ing plants.

Even as the man­i­fes­ta­tions of cli­mate change mount, the Pres­i­dent turns his back on the big­gest step the na­tion has ever taken to confront it.

All in the name of bringing back coal jobs — a my­opic Trump cam­paign pledge to prop up an in­dus­try that is in­creas­ingly on the outs with en­ergy mar­kets, and that has the ca­pac­ity to em­ploy not very much more than its cur­rent 50,000 Amer­i­cans. That’s noth­ing com­pared to the po­ten­tial in the clean-en­ergy in­dus­tries of the fu­ture.

Our story be­gins back in 2007, when the Supreme Court ruled that car­bon diox­ide and other green­house gases put out by power plants are pol­lu­tants, as de­fined by the Clean Air Act signed into law by Richard Nixon. That led to what reg­u­la­tors call the “en­dan­ger­ment find­ing,” which ob­li­gated the fed­eral En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency to take strong steps to curb those emis­sions.

Which the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, in 2014, did — with a plan that set tar­gets for each state and grants im­mense flex­i­bil­ity for how to reach them. That quickly got tied up in court and is now be­ing to­tally aban­doned by a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion hos­tile to the no­tion that cli­mate change is real.

Trou­ble is, not even Trump’s fos­sil fuel-in­dus­try cheer­lead­ing EPA boss, Scott Pruitt, is bold enough to chal­lenge the en­dan­ger­ment find­ing — be­cause he knows full well that the sci­ence is sound. Which means, like it or not, the agency he leads re­mains legally re­quired to do some­thing. And so, Pruitt, stuck be­tween Scylla and Charyb­dis with the waves grow­ing ever more fierce, deep sixes the Clean Power Plan — with no sub­sti­tute in sight but an ab­so­lute obli­ga­tion to act.

It’s a deeply dis­hon­est move, akin to say­ing the gov­ern­ment be­lieves there’s a vi­ral out­break that threat­ens pub­lic health, but also in­sists there’s no rea­son for the feds to lift a fin­ger just yet.

The toll of the Gulf Coast and Puerto Rico hur­ri­canes and the West Coast wild­fires will be know­able not only in lives but in mon­u­men­tal eco­nomic costs al­ready felt in a 33,000-job loss for the month of Septem­ber at­trib­ut­able to storms Har­vey and Irma, which knocked 1.5 mil­lion work­ers of­fline.

A study in the journal Sci­ence this year found a drag of 1.2% of GDP for ev­ery de­gree Cel­sius the tem­per­a­ture rises.

Trump, pan­der­ing to coal coun­try, can deny the ev­i­dence for man-made global warm­ing and flout the law re­quir­ing him to do some­thing about it. But sooner rather than later, the Amer­ica First Pres­i­dent has no choice but to act on his peo­ple’s be­half.

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