(If the threat to our country came in the form of a military threat, I'm positive that those same people would be willing to raise taxes, increase regulations, and increase government spending. Just look at recent events in the US.)
The troubling thing is that the opponents of large government do not phrase the environmental debate in terms of how we should respond to global warming; they deny the existence of global warming. Thus we have wasted years arguing about whether there is a problem, and are not making progress on how to address it.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been clear for some time that our pollution is causing global climate change. The most recent IPPC report states that this is "unequivocal". This isn't just a small committee. Wikipedia says, "The report was produced by around 600 authors from 40 countries, and reviewed by over 620 experts and governments. Before being accepted, the summary was reviewed line-by-line by representatives from 113 governments". I challenge anyone who doesn't believe the IPCC to say that they support big government; I don't think any such person exists.
There is a place in the environmental debate for people who are wary of big government. In fact, Canada's Green Party takes a very small-c conservative (even a big-C Conservative) approach to the environment by calling for a new tax structure that taxes waste and pollution. (I think the idea is crazy, as I have said before, on two grounds: (1) the tax system tosses out out the foundation of our current system, that people should pay proportionally more as their income rises, and so will have all sorts of unintended and negative social side effects; (2) their proposed tax system has no hope of being adopted in Canada, so the Green Party is wasting our time having this as the center of their environmental policy when they should be talking about more pragmatic, possible policy.) But the strategy is working for the Green Party - they are picking up right-wing voters.
In Europe, where big government is not such an anathema, environmental issues have been acknowledged and addressed much more effectively than in North America. And, gee willikers, the environmental initiatives haven't created behemoth public corporations, high levels of taxation or crushing regulatory bureaucracy. The free market isn't destroyed by wind power, tighter car emission standards, better urban planning, or better public transit infrastructure. It's nothing new... it's just smarter.
Germany, which is leading the way in environmental initiatives, now produces one-third of the world's wind power. It has the highest targets for cutting greenhouse gases in the EU, and is ahead of schedule. It has pioneered energy-sufficient towns and carless towns. It is the world leader in development of solar power. As one blogger writes, "Bad choices aren't banned outright (you can still buy a Hummer in Germany if you really want one), but better choices are encouraged. Discouragements: $6 a gallon gas, and special taxes on extremely inefficient vehicles. Encouragements: An efficient public-transport system, and compact, diverse neighborhoods." That kind of encouragement is no different from the Canadian government encouraging us to drive cars by paying for hiways but not for rail transit, or by zoning so much low density housing.
Germany is showing us all how to meet environmental targets. It has made huge environmental improvements without curtailing freedom in any way. An example: only one-third of German hiways have a speed limit. Argue that one if you like, but Germans like to drive fast, and they do.
Me, I'm a proponent both of free markets and of big government. In fact, I don't think markets work without a lot of government "interference". Take financial markets as an example - stock exchanges are arguably the most tightly regulated markets going, and that's what keeps them humming. If you lose investor confidence you lose investors. Hence the biggest proponent of free markets - the US - has the most tightly regulated financial sector.
I love government regulation, and I want more regulation and more enforcement throughout society. But I can see that not everyone agrees with me, and I respect that. So let's get down to work here and find a way to address the environmental issue that we can all live with, as Germany has done. Otherwise we're heading for a fall.