Over the last few months, chatter about “existential threats” to western civilization has become remarkably commonplace. Two of the most talked about threats to the prosperity and freedoms enjoyed in western democracies are Islamist extremism and climate change.  And one might add a horrifically bad deal with Iran and Vladimir Putin’s territorial ambitions to the growing list of leveling threats.

Our president repeatedly asserts that climate change – which now apparently means little more than bad weather - is the greatest and more immediate threat to humanity. And quietly behind the public scene, he continually advances his climate policy to supplant those hydrocarbon energy sources on which western civilizations are now utterly dependent. Announced Tuesday on medium.com, not exactly a mainstream platform, the State Department officially committed the U.S. to doubling the current rate of carbon reduction in order to achieve a phantasmagorical 80 percent reduction of CO2 by 2050. In defiance of Congress, the president is, indeed, leading the world toward an international treaty under UN auspice to be sealed this December in Paris. 

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Recent polls indicate that an overwhelming majority of the American people could care less about climate alarmism. The president’s widely mocked warnings, however, could prove prescient if slightly reformulated. Climate change policy -- not any changes in the physical climate -- may indeed prove to be the West’s undoing.

As evolved over the last three decades, the principal thrust of climate policy is government-created energy scarcity. Electricity prices two or three times higher than the U.S. average in countries that rushed to renewable energy are prompting claims of “systemic industrial massacre,” in the words of former EU Commissioner for Industry Antonio Tajani. British member of the EU’s Parliament Roger Helmer similarly told his colleagues that that the UK is losing its steel, aluminum and refining industries because of soaring electric prices driven by green policies.

The industrial base that Europe might need to resist Putin and bolster the Ukraine’s fight for freedom is apparently withering. Nations without a reliable energy supply to power steel, aluminum, chemicals and refining industries rarely muster the armaments and will to wage war.

Although the U.S.is five years behind the EU’s rush to renewables, our president’s executive actions could soon exceed the scope of Europe’s green schemes. Proposed last summer, EPA’s Clean Power Plan would federally command re-engineering our nation’s entire system of electric power toward zero carbon electric generation.  And the president’s recently announced pledge for additional carbon cuts goes well beyond EPA’s draconian rule.

Climate policies hardly evoke visceral reactions as do regular reports of unspeakable ISIS savagery or a nuclear-armed Iran. Climate policies to de-carbonize, however, already erode the physical foundation of modern industrialized societies, namely high energy consumption reliant on fossil fuels, for which there is now no comparable substitute.  Even Google’s engineers, tasked to achieve a rapid transition to green energy, ultimately concluded that renewables are a “false hope.”

The president’s goal to reduce CO2 by 80 percent in little more than 30 years would take our country back to the pre-industrial horizon of the 18th century.  A massive energy flow remains as essential to modern, prosperous countries as does metabolism for the human body. Beyond vitiating the foundations of economic growth, man-made energy scarcity would inevitably sap the physical power needed to overcome our enemies. To some extent, this already has begun within the Department of Defense in programs to replace power- dense aviation fuels with far weaker bio-fuels.

Our president sticks to his story that climate change -- neither Islamist terror nor Putin’s revanchist ambition -- is the greatest threat to civilization. A fight against ISIS or Putin means fighting for the hallmark of western civilization- individual freedom.  Policy prescriptions to avert global warming, however, require surrendering individual freedoms.

Over the last thirty years, UN officials and climate alarmists have the declared the necessity of “planetary management” to prevent “irreversible disruption of the biosphere.”  And it is communism- not democracy- that offers the more effective system for fighting climate change according to Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN’s climate program. These climateers have long sought the strong hand of centralized national or global governance.

If Obama’s executive actions to “de-carbonize” take root, climate change policy could so weaken our economy, industrial base and military power, that the U.S. could find itself unable to defeat an enemy that, indeed, aims to destroy our civilization. 

White is distinguished senior fellow and director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and is a former Chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.