Knowledge production is a co-evolutionary process where scientific topics and concepts are debated, discussed and assessed between scientists. We assess, we analyze, we “interpret” the world, and, at the same time, we communicate with one another, and we value certain knowledge more than other knowledge, based on some measure of prestige, conformism or past events. Here we analyze the evolution of research topics over the past 30 years (from 1990 to 2019) and assess how research topics have evolved by jointly analyzing topic evolution and the citation network related to climate change adaptation, mitigation or transformation. We found that (1) the research focus has evolved from emissions and modelling to social impacts (i.e. local policies), (2) research on climate change (and possibly research in general) is often confined within specific research areas, hinting that interdisciplinary and convergent work may open opportunities for integrative research able to foster innovative thinking in climate science, and (3) the climate change literature is increasing in overall complexity, requiring novel tools to make sense of the literature such as the implementation of more refined machine learning and natural language process algorithms to identify causal mechanisms and synthesize the body of work to generate new knowledge.