Key topics of climate change research

How does the current research-landscape of climate change look like? What are the key topics and main directions? Here we explore these questions with the help of recent research advances on text processing, network analysis, and the science of success.

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To overview the current landscape of climate change research, I collected all the related article titles from nature.com. These include more than twenty thousand research articles, news, views, comments, and opinions, dating back to 1861. During the last few decades, there has been an exponential boom in this line of research as well. For instance, the number of articles published in 2019 almost reached 2500, while in 2020, this number has already outmatched the annual total of 2009 at around 800 pieces.

Once collecting the titles, I applied several text cleaning and processing steps to create the co-occurrence network of the keywords mentioned in the article titles. Next, I built a network of keywords, where each node represents a word, and a link between two words exists if one follows the other in any of the article titles. The more frequently two keywords are co-mentioned, the stronger their connection is. In addition, the size of the nodes in this network is proportional to the number of times each word occurs in the title-corpus. The backbone-filtered network is shown in the attached figure.

This way we can immediately see by looking at the network visualization, that not surprisingly, these articles are all aligned to the lines of global climate change. The keyword-graph also outlines several major directions. While the red community describes researches dealing with general topics, which we can interpret as the mainstream of climate research, the outer network modules, marked by different colors, show more particular subfields. For instance, the topic-group marked by blue corresponds to research activity on climate change’s effect on glaciers, ice, and sea, also connected to sustainable energy sources. The rather pronounced green community highlights work on CO2 emission, also linked to forest- and food-related topics (yellow). Finally, the graph captures, marked by orange, an ecological and demographic perspective on how the global temperature change can influence the population dynamics of various species.

For the full-sized figure, click right and open image.

Milan Janosov

PhD in Network Science, Central European University

Physicist, network scientist

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