Last Year’s Most Popular Global Warming Paper Was Written By … Obama?

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The most widely reported and shared global warming-related paper from a science journal last year was not written by a scientist, but none other than former President Barack Obama.

Obama’s article, “The irreversible momentum of clean energy,” was published in mid-January in the journal Science, just before he left office. It was the most widely reported and shared climate article in 2017, according to data compiled by the website Carbon Brief.

Obama’s article resulted in “232 news articles and tweeted more than 9,000 times,” according to Carbon Brief. The article’s popularity is hardly a surprise given that it was written by a sitting president.

“Despite the policy uncertainty that we face, I remain convinced that no country is better suited to confront the climate challenge and reap the economic benefits of a low-carbon future than the United States and that continued participation in the Paris process will yield great benefit for the American people, as well as the international community,” Obama wrote.

“Prudent U.S. policy over the next several decades would prioritize, among other actions, decarbonizing the U.S. energy system, storing carbon and reducing emissions within U.S. lands, and reducing non-CO2 emissions,” he wrote.


Some of the article is dedicated to highlighting Obama’s own policies, including fuel and appliance efficiency standards and new green building codes. The article ends with a plea for President Donald Trump to remain in the Paris climate accord and to continue pushing green energy policies.

Trump’s pretty much ignored that plea. In June, Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris accord, and his administration has spent the last year rescinding Obama-era global warming regulations.

Obama also made an argument that “the trend toward a cleaner power sector can be sustained regardless of near-term federal policies.” It’s a line common among environmentalists and Democrats — the green energy revolution is inexorable.

However, Carbon Brief did not count Obama’s journal article as a research paper in its ranking because it’s a “commentary.” So while it was the most popular article published in a science journal, it’s not an actual research paper.

“But as the article is a commentary, it does not make it into Carbon Brief’s leaderboard of research papers,” the website’s Robert McSweeney wrote.

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