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Expand chart
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios - Note: Hover over the weekly rank on desktop to see articles and interactions for each candidate and issue.

Thanks to Greta Thunberg, climate change stories generated 18 million interactions on social media over the last two weeks, the most for the issue this year by far, according to data from NewsWhip provided exclusively to Axios.

Why it matters: Climate change has lagged in generating significant online interest, even as it's taken on a great urgency among Democrats and young voters. The latest findings suggest the messenger matters.

  • Climate change stories generated 5 million more interactions (comments, shares, likes on Facebook and Twitter) than the second-biggest two-week period of the year.
    • That's more than guns, immigration and the economy over this time.
  • If not for the Trump-Ukraine-impeachment story, climate change would have been the No. 1 issue.

The big picture: Climate change suffers in the attention economy because of the complexity of the issue and the scientific jargon in the specifics of proposed solutions.

  • The day-to-day news lacks the visceral emotional intensity of immigration and guns.
  • For those not devastated by extreme weather events, it lacks the immediate relevance that economic and social issues like health care and inequality offer.
  • While headlines about Trump administration environmental policies and projections of widespread harm grab attention, interest tends to wane quickly.

Between the lines: Greta Thunberg is a big reason for the uptick in climate interest.

By the numbers: The top articles from the last two weeks about climate change:

  1. 2 striking photos taken just over a year apart show how Greta Thunberg's climate strike inspired millions (Business Insider) — 742k interactions
  2. Personal attacks on Greta Thunberg prove that adults can't argue with her actual message (Mic) — 651k
  3. Obama meets with teen climate activist Greta Thunberg: 'You and me, we're a team' (CNN) — 636k
  4. Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg nominated for Nobel Prize (Australia's SBS News) — 452k - Note: The article was published in March.
  5. Trump Will End California’s Authority to Set Stricter Auto Emissions Rules — New York Times —403k

The bottom line: For an issue that will impact the younger generation most acutely, Thunberg's message has resonated more this year than the words of Al Gore, Jay Inslee or even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Our 2020 attention tracker is based on data from NewsWhip exclusively provided to Axios as part of a project that will regularly update throughout the 2020 campaign.

See all past editions of the tracker here.

Go deeper

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

, Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

45 mins ago - World

Australian PM pledges $700M for climate change-threatened Great Barrier reef

A green sea turtle is flourishing among the corals at Lady Elliot island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Friday a AU$1 billion ($703 million) investment plan for the Great Barrier Reef.

Why it matters: The nine-year plan for projects including water quality improvement, reef conservation and supporting some 64,000 tourism jobs comes months ahead of this year's federal election. It has been criticized by scientists and environmental groups for failing to tackle climate change.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.