In his speech to the UN on climate change, President Obama warned that the “security and stability of each nation and all peoples—our prosperity, our health, our safety—are in jeopardy” and that “we must seize the opportunity to make Copenhagen a significant step forward in the global fight against climate change.”

This message of fighting climate change in order to ensure national security has become a major element of mainstream environmental rhetoric, so much so that many have likened the battle to a full-scale “war.” While examples of this are numerous, a few stand out: in a speech given at Oxford this summer, Al Gore said that the fight against climate change can be compared to the way in which “Winston Churchill aroused this nation in heroic fashion to save civilisation in World War II.” Likewise, Britain’s Environment Agency Chief Executive, Lady Young, has said that the fight against climate change is “World War Three…We need the sorts of concerted, fast, integrated and above all huge efforts that went into many actions in times of war.”

The Obama Administration has emphasized many times that the fight against climate change has two goals: to reduce carbon emissions on the one hand and to strengthen national security on the other. The problem is that this legislation cannot achieve both goals together but can only achieve a reduction of emissions at the expense of national security and the economy. According to James Carafano, a leading expert in defense and homeland security at the Heritage Foundation,

“A sharp decline in economic productivity would likely have a deleterious impact on U.S. security. For example, a collapse in U.S. economic growth would result in even more draconian cuts to the defense budget, leaving America with a military much less prepared to deal with future threats. Indeed, if America’s military power declines, there would probably be more wars, not fewer. Likewise, a steep drop in American economic growth would lengthen and deepen the global recession. That in turn will make other states poorer, undermining their ability to protect themselves and recover from natural disasters.”

If the Obama Administration decides to fight this war on climate change, the United States will ultimately lose, coming out of the battle with a weaker economy, weaker security, and weaker personal freedoms. Unlike World War II or the Cold War, when America sought to advance the security of nations and the cause of freedom, this war on climate change will do much to weaken national security and shackle the freedoms of Americans. In its wake, the government will have unprecedented control over the energy industry: the development of fossil fuels will no longer be an option for Americans and the government will decide what kinds of energy can be produced or purchased.

As the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference draws near, the words of President Reagan again become relevant. In his famous “tear down this wall” speech towards the end of the Cold War, Reagan argued that freedom is an essential ingredient for the security of nations:

We believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.”

Reagan’s words remind us that policies that weaken defense, the economy and personal liberties are not the answer in our efforts to keep America safe and free.