Global climate change is attracting widespread scientific, political, and public attention owing to the involvement of international initiatives such as the Paris Agreement and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We present a large-scale bibliometric analysis based on approximately 120,000 climate change publications between 2001 and 2018 to examine how climate change is studied in scientific research. Our analysis provides an overview of scientific knowledge, shifts of research hotspots, global geographical distribution of research, and focus of individual countries. In our analysis, we identify five key fields in climate change research: physical sciences, paleoclimatology, climate-change ecology, climate technology, and climate policy. We draw the following key conclusions: (1) Over the investigated time period, the focus of climate change research has shifted from understanding the climate system toward climate technologies and policies, such as efficient energy use and legislation. (2) There is an imbalance in scientific production between developed and developing countries. (3) Geography, national demands, and national strategies have been important drivers that influence the research interests and concerns of researchers in different countries. Our study can be used by researchers and policy makers to reflect on the directions in which climate change research is developing and discuss priorities for future research.