MAY 2022

Climate change research collaboration

Climate change is a global crisis. In this paper, we draw attention to climate change research collaboration and the main research topics within the scientific literature over the past 20 years.

Research topic diversity is low and focuses on natural science themes, but recent emphasis on social and public research demonstrates a greater need to inform and educate the public. While international collaboration has increased, climate change research generally remains a nationally focused issue.

We cover the following topics:

  • defining a methodology for identifying a dataset of climate change papers
  • understanding the main topics in climate change research, as well as more specific research subtopics
  • analyzing the emerging trends in the latest climate change research topics (past ~10 years) and how they may reflect growing prioritization of the role people, organizations and governments play in addressing climate change
  • exploring regional output to compare regional research (sub)topics—we also depict the top three by output
  • analyzing the number of papers published over a decade involving climate change research collaboration, and how this has increased over time.

Climate change research trends

As a truly global challenge, climate change research must be conducted internationally, assembling scientific expertise, innovation and technologies to address critical issues that have vital implications for all of life on Earth. And yet, climate change research has an interesting history, and it has changed overtime as global warming accelerates and new climate change trends emerge.

Extreme weather was one of the defining features of the summer of 2021. With wildfires in Greece, Russia and wide swathes of the United States; flooding in Europe and Mainland China; and prolonged droughts in extensive parts of the Middle East and Africa, the entire world watched the effects of global warming on the planet.

The United Nations published an extensive report that summer which focused on the dramatic changes in climate, its main causes and major implications. The report featured heavily across the global news media and drew the world’s attention to humankind’s role in effecting these changes. Evidence presented within the report included greenhouse gas and aerosol increase, stratospheric ozone depletion and ocean acidification.

The United Nations member states also recommended an international approach to climate change collaboration as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Among the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is Climate Action (SDG 13). As part of this goal to combat the climate crisis, member states advise six Climate Positive Actions. One of these touches directly upon climate change research collaboration: “Cooperation—no country can succeed alone.” Many of the studies discussed in this paper also align with other SDGs, including SDG 12: Responsible Production and Consumption, SDG 14: Life Below Water and SDG 15: Life on Land.

In this ISI Insights paper, we provide an overview of climate change research collaboration and its evolution over the past 20 years. Additionally, we analyzed how the world collaborates on various subtopics with the purpose of highlighting the latest climate change research trends and future needs.

Climate change research collaboration: our analysis

To pinpoint the most relevant documents, our analysis used the Web of Science™ to focus on articles with ‘climate change’ in their title published from 2000 to 2019. This search provided a dataset of ~34,000 papers. To investigate topics, we utilized the meso-level classification from InCites Benchmarking & Analytics™ Citation Topics — a document-level classification scheme based on citation relations.

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Climate Change Research