Trump's climate policies put China in charge of our future

Mark Lynas is a writer on climate change, and visiting fellow at the Alliance for Science at Cornell University. The opinions in this article belong to the author.

(CNN)In a rational world, people would take climate change more and more seriously as real-world evidence for its damaging effects mount.

The dying of the Great Barrier Reef; the crippling, ongoing drought in East Africa; the thawing of Arctic ice. All of these should make us more determined to tackle the problem at the source by reducing our worldwide carbon emissions.
But we don't live in a rational world. Tracking the rapid rise in global temperatures has been an equally fast increase in the politically motivated denial of the basic science of climate change.
This process of anti-science posturing has now reached its nadir in the determined effort by the Trump administration to unravel former President Barack Obama's efforts to tackle global warming.
    The Trump administration's war on science is fast becoming its most destructive attribute. We will never be able to tackle climate change if we continue to live in a post-truth age, where factual accuracy plays second fiddle to political ideology.
    Hundreds of thousands of scientists and science supporters are expected to take to the streets April 22 in a worldwide March for Science. The fact that this mobilization is needed at all speaks volumes about our terrifying global predicament.
    Before his election, Donald Trump tweeted that he believed climate was invented by the Chinese to undermine US manufacturing. This absurd conspiracy theory would be laughable if it had not come from someone who is now the world's most powerful man.
    Accordingly, his administration is now aiming to dig and burn more coal from federal lands, force through controversial oil pipelines such as the Dakota Access and Keystone XL, relax fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, and revoke Obama's Clean Power Plan.
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    Partly these measures are symbolic, a sop to the deep Republican loathing of liberal environmentalism in America's culture wars. Coal is no longer the cheapest option for electricity generation, and the clean energy revolution led by the combination of renewables and super-cheap fracked gas is beginning to look unstoppable.
    But symbolism is important, particularly if China takes its cue from Trump's America that the era of carbon controls is over. This is what really matters to the future of the planet.
    Obama's most important climate legacy was the US agreement with the Chinese leader Xi Jinping that in return for American carbon reductions, China would seek to peak its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
    Whether or not China continues to aim for this goal -- now that the United States has made clear its intention to fail in its side of the bargain -- is uncertain. The answer to that question will decide whether the globe faces a future of catastrophic climate devastation associated with global warming of 3 degrees Celsius or higher, or a more manageable warming of 2 degrees or below.
    After years of stalling, China now finds itself in the unenviable position of being world leader on climate change, thanks to Trump's willfully blind irresponsibility.
    Yes, we must all March for Science on April 22, and we must all fight to defend scientific truth and cut our own carbon budgets. But whether these collective efforts succeed or fail in curbing disastrous global warming will ultimately be decided in Beijing, not Washington.