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Physical and economic bias in climate change research: A scientometric study of IPCC Third Assessment Report

Journal article
Authors Andreas Bjurström
Merritt Polk
Published in Climatic Change
Volume 108
Issue 1-2
Pages 1-22
ISSN 0165-0009
Publication year 2011
Published at School of Global Studies, Human Ecology
Pages 1-22
Language en
Keywords Climate change research, IPCC, science for policy, interdisciplinarity
Subject categories Sociology, Library and information science, Technology and social change


This study demonstrates that IPCC Third Assessment Report is strongly dominated by Natural sciences, especially the Earth sciences. The Social sciences are dominated by Economics. The IPCC assessment also results in the separation of the Earth, Biological and Social sciences. The integration that occurs is mainly between closely related scientific fields. The research community consequently imposes a physical and economic bias and a separation of scientific fields that the IPCC reproduces in the policy sphere. It is argued that this physical and economic bias distorts a comprehensive understanding of climate change and that the weak integration of scientific fields hinders climate change from being fully addressed as an integral environmental and social problem. If climate change is to be understood, evaluated and responded to in its fullness, the IPCC must broaden its knowledge base and challenge the anthropocentric worldview that places humans outside of nature.

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