Back to search

The Top 30 Global Sustainability Research Papers in 2019

In 2019, record-high global temperatures and climate change took central stage in global news headlines, culminating with a declaration from more than 11,000 scientists from around the world that a climate emergency exists on Earth. This declaration got people talking on social media and in the news, more so than any other scientific publication in 2019.

Altmetric annually ranks the 100 scientific papers that glean the most media attention as a simple measure of what sparks public interest. In 2019, they examined over 62 million media mentions of 2.7 million research articles. The altmetric score does not measure the calibre of the research or researcher.

At Future Earth, they used the list to identify the top 30 global sustainability articles. The authors were guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which recognize that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, combating inequality within and among countries, preserving the planet, creating sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and fostering social inclusion are linked to each other and are interdependent.

Taking a closer look at the top five, the rising threat posed by climate change (SDG 13) was a central concern in 2019 as reflected by this year’s top two papers. The health of our oceans (SDG 14) and global terrestrial biodiversity (SDG 15) also find their way into the top five, with the third ranked paper discussing increasing vulnerability to sea level rise and coastal flooding, while the fourth ranked paper examines the potential of global reforestation to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Rounding out the top five, a global study between 1990-2017 analyzed the health effects linked to dietary risks (SDG 3). Together, these papers reflect the many connections among natural and human systems by highlighting just how important the life supporting SDGs (6, 13, 14, and 15) are to supporting healthy, equitable, and sustainable livelihoods on Earth.

Read on for the full top 30 of 2019 and see earlier lists here (January – April 2019), here (May – August 2019) and here (2018 in review).

articles top 5 sdgs