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Bigger than Brexit: Theresa May's parting shot is a gift to the world

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If anything can distill the essence of conservative philosophy, it is Edmund Burke's paean to the "great primaeval contract of eternal society".

His Reflections on the Revolution in France laid out our obligation to our children's children through the ages: "A partnership between those who are living, those who have lived before us, and those who have yet to be born."

I doubt that Burke would have had any difficulty concluding that the risk of runaway global warming today is a threat to this "contract between the generations".

There were plausible reasons for climate scepticism in the early 2000s during the "hiatus" in surface temperatures - if you overlooked the oceans - but this has since been overwhelmed by the hottest years on record and an avalanche of science.

Historians might judge Theresa May's parting shot - her plea for zero emissions by 2050 - to matter more than her Brexit travails..Credit:Bloomberg

Our knowledge is orders of magnitude greater than 15 years ago. The weight of evidence points only in one direction.

Theresa May is the authentic Tory in this intra-party fight over climate policy. Her plea for zero emissions by 2050 - the first legally-binding target among major nations - was almost Burkean. She called it the "defining decision of this generation in fulfilling our responsibility to the next".

Historians might judge this parting shot to matter more than her Brexit travails. It is certainly good diplomacy.

The UK led humanity with the first climate law in 2008. It has now beaten Emmanuel Macron's France to the ultimate pinnacle.

Mrs May's ambition confounds the false global narrative of an island sinking into self-absorbed nostalgia and the swamp of........

© The Age