Interdisciplinary Research in Climate and Energy Sciences

Xiaofeng Xu, University of Texas at El Paso
Santonu Goswami, Oak Ridge National Laboraotry
Jay Gulledge, Oak Ridge National Laboraotry
Stan Wullschleger, Oak Ridge National Laboraotry
Peter Thornton, Oak Ridge National Laboraotry


Due to the complex nature of climate change, interdisciplinary research approaches involving knowledge and skills from a broad range of disciplines have been adopted for studying various strategies for mitigation (i.e. greenhouse gas emissions reductions) and adaptation (i.e. withstanding or managing the impacts). The successful deployment of renewable energy sources as eventual replacements for fossil fuels is widely regarded as an essential long-term mitigation strategy that entails a wide variety of potential energy sources with their own potential risks and benefits, requiring the synthesis of knowledge from engineering, technology, and natural and social sciences. However, it is unclear if the interdisciplinary approach has been used to consistently address climate change problems in different geographic regions across the world and, if so, how this endeavor has changed over time. In this study, we used an evaluation matrix of keywords to do a comprehensive literature survey, in combination with a word cloud analysis, to evaluate the spatiotemporal dynamics of scholarly discourse about interdisciplinary approaches to climate change and renewable energy research. Publications that discuss interdisciplinary approaches to climate change and renewable energy have substantially increased in the last 60 years, it appears, however, that the nature, timing, and focus of these publications vary across countries. Over the recent three decades, the country-level contribution to the interdisciplinary research for climate change and renewable energy has become more evenly distributed. The research topics themselves have also evolved over the study period, research for water resource management was emphasized from 1990s to 2000s, management was deemphasized from the 2000s to 2010-2013, while vulnerability became an important topic for interdisciplinary research during 2010-2013. Our analysis also indicates that interdisciplinary research for renewable energy might have lagged behind that for climate change.