March 21, 2016 - 2:33 PM EDT
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EDITORIAL: Bankers join scientists in acknowledging coal's dark future

March 22--Bad news for politicians who think there's a "war on coal": America's big banks have enlisted.

Wall Street is increasingly unwilling to finance debt for coal companies, The New York Times reported Sunday. That may be good for the planet, but it's not good for

St. Louis
. Peabody Energy Corp., the largest
coal producer and the only non-utility Fortune 500 firm still headquartered downtown, has a lot of debt it can't finance. It announced last week that it might have to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Politicians like Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-

, and Roy Blunt, R-
, have tried to blame coal's troubles on the Obama administration. That JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley no longer want to invest in coal shows that the industry's troubles are not personal or political. It's just business.

The U.S. Energy Information Agency reports that coal combustion accounts for 31.5 percent of all the greenhouse gases emitted in

the United States
. Petroleum accounts for 41.6 percent, but there are fewer alternatives to it. Cheaper natural gas from fracking wells has, just in the past 10 years, cut coal's share of electric-power generation to 39 percent from 50 percent.

Unfortunately for Peabody and its employees, including miners and retired miners who count on pensions for years of working in a dangerous industry, coal's days are numbered. It won't disappear overnight -- too much of America depends on it -- but the world finally has awakened to the existential threat posed by greenhouse gases.

There have been all sorts of estimates of the long-term dangers of a warming planet. The nations of the world are working on an effort to keep temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit over pre-industrial levels, which might be enough to stave off disaster. All of the bogus "war on coal" talk and other forms of denial have only delayed much-needed solutions.

We no longer have to wait 50 years to measure catastrophe. This month, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine published an important report outlining the rigorous new science of "climate attribution" for measuring the current effects of global warming.

Sometimes weather is just weather, but sometimes weather reflects the realities of 150 years of burning fossil fuels. Heat waves, the report says, can be expected to become far more frequent. Droughts and floods are more likely, and more likely to be severe. Policymakers -- for example, those who think designing levees to withstand a 500-year flood is still adequate -- should take note.

So while Donald Trump jokes that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese and "just a very, very expensive form of tax," serious people are taking it seriously. Climate change is not just for tree-huggers any more. Bankers have joined the fight.

Kevin Horrigan --314-340-8135

@oldsport on Twitter

[email protected]


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Source: News (March 21, 2016 - 2:33 PM EDT)

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