The Corner

Europe’s New Religion

I just returned from a foreign-policy conference in London. Among the things that was most striking to me is that climate change is a huge issue in Europe, one whose importance is hard to overstate. Global climate change is, in fact, considered more than merely an issue; among many Europeans (and not a few Americans) it is considered a supreme moral value. It struck me as a kind of proxy for religion in a continent that is increasingly secular. Many Europeans want to deescalate the war against jihadism and deemphasize the advancement of democracy; it is global climate change that must be, in their estimation, at the top of the trans-Atlantic agenda for the next president. And I suspect that for many Europeans it will not be enough simply for the next administration to accept that global warming is real and needs to be addressed; what will be demanded of the next American president is that he (or she) commit to a global regime that is collectivist in nature, that concentrates and increases the power of the state, and that restrains the economic dynamism of the West. This issue is a good deal more complicated than much of the public discourse would lead one to believe, and the next president will find that Americans are far more open to market-oriented approaches and new technology solutions than Europeans — and that they are a good deal less eager than the European Left to sacrifice liberty and economic prosperity. Once McCain, Obama, or Clinton become president, the general agreement that climate change needs to be addressed will quickly give way to a debate about specific solutions and even underlying philosophies — and at that point, things will get very intense very quickly.

My other impressions of my trip to Europe can be found here.

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