Obama Calls Clean Energy Progress 'Irreversible'

Moving away from fossil fuel use and toward clean energy can boost innovation, productivity and efficiency, President Barack Obama said. (Image credit: Mark Wilson/Getty)

In these days of transition, President Barack Obama summed up his view of the progress the U.S. had made on clean energy as well as his vision for its future.

Obama laid out this argument in an article that was published online today (Jan. 9) in the journal Science, saying that clean energy is not only sustainable, but that progress toward adopting such environmental policies is also an "irreversible" trend that benefits economic growth, and it will continue long after he leaves office.

In the journal article, Obama talked about how U.S. dependence on fossil fuels has declined since 2008, and explained that the economic opportunities presented by clean energy left him confident that this progress would continue after his presidency ends this month. 

In fact, evidence from around the world suggests that decreasing the use of fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions does not restrict economic growth, Obama added. Further evidence hints that ignoring the costs on the environment that are exacted by fossil fuels can only strain the global economy and restrict growth. [8 Ways Global Warming Is Already Changing the World]

Between 2008 and 2015, carbon emissions dropped by 9.5 percent, even as the economy grew by over 10 percent, supporting the conclusion that reducing emissions neither reduces living standards nor hobbles markets and the economy, according to the article.

Adopting clean energy allows businesses to operate more efficiently, lowering costs to their customers and creating capital that can be reinvested in the business — a direction that drives job creation, Obama said.

And the costs of reversing this trend and thereby accelerating the pace of global warming could be severe. Economic models predict that a temperature rise of 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) over average temperatures from preindustrial times could drive annual losses in U.S. revenue of approximately $340 billion to $690 billion, Obama said.

"It's good business and good economics to lead a technological revolution and define market trends," Obama said in the study. "The latest science and economics provide a helpful guide for what the future may bring."

Original article on Live Science.

Mindy Weisberger
Live Science Contributor

Mindy Weisberger is an editor at Scholastic and a former Live Science channel editor and senior writer. She has reported on general science, covering climate change, paleontology, biology, and space. Mindy studied film at Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.