Daily briefing: The world’s oceans are losing their power to stall climate change

Major climate report highlights the critical state of Earth’s lifeblood: the oceans. Plus: Japan’s stem-cell boom and why science must know its history.

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The giant FAST project.

FAST will enable highly sensitive measurements of astronomical phenomenon.Credit: Ou Dongqu/Xinhua/ZUMA

Giant Chinese telescope officially opens

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) in southern China has just passed a series of performance assessments, and will be made accessible to researchers from around the world. The world’s largest single-dish radio observatory will use its exquisite sensitivity to hunt for gravitational waves, search for hydrogen in distant galaxies and study fast radio bursts.

Nature | 4 min read

Oceans losing climate-calming powers

The world’s oceans have long helped to stave off climate change by absorbing heat and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But that is changing, warn leading researchers in a high-level report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The oceans “can’t keep up” with humanity’s greenhouse-gas output, says Ko Barrett, vice-chair of the IPCC and a deputy administrator at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “The consequences for nature and humanity are sweeping and severe.”

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate

IPCC report

1.1 metres

Rise in sea levels by 2100 if greenhouse-gas emissions continue to increase, according to conservative estimates in the new IPCC report.

Sanctions damage science in Iran

Besieged researchers in Iran say that currency collapse, scientific isolation and psychological strain are hindering almost every aspect of their work. “The sanctions are affecting health, research and education, things that were not supposed to be their target,” says human geneticist Parham Habibzadeh.

Nature | 6 min read

Karen Kasmauski/Wellcome Photography Prize 2019

The Wellcome Photography Prize 2020 opens today. It’s free to enter, open to professionals and amateurs alike, and has a £15,000 (US$19,000) top prize.

This image of a father holding his baby at Mile Four Hospital in Abakaliki, Nigeria, won the Medicine in Focus category last year. It shows the practice known as kangarooing, which contributes to the survival of premature babies in places where incubators are not available.


Illustration by Señor Salme

We ignore the past at our peril

“Although history might not repeat itself, it often rhymes,” argues a Nature editorial. “Science has to know where it has come from.” That’s why, as part of our 150th-anniversary celebrations, Nature is publishing a series of essays by leading historians of science exploring how the past century and a half has forged some of the defining features of today’s scientific system.

David Kaiser’s opening essay on government funding illuminates how the powerful have steered — and have been steered by — science.

Nature editorial | 4 min read & David Kaiser’s essay | 11 min read

Japan’s stem-cell free-for-all

Clinics flogging unproven cell-based therapies are springing up all over the world. In Japan, however, they have a unique advantage: they are sanctioned and promoted at the top echelons of government, thanks to a pair of regulatory acts designed to stimulate business and position Japan as a world leader in regenerative medicine. Critics worry that companies are rushing untested therapies to market — and patients are paying the price.

Nature | 14 min read


Plan S: Learn from Latin America

Two researchers from Argentina write that they share the spirit of Plan S, the bold European-led attempt to shift much of the continent’s scientific publishing to an open-access model. But the plan ignores decades of relevant experience on equity for low-income researchers in Latin America.

Nature should practise what it preaches on plastic

Print copies of Nature shouldn’t be wrapped in plastic, especially considering the journal’s news coverage of the problems with the material, writes reader Philip Biggin. Springer Nature, the publisher, replies that it’s testing compostable packaging.

Correspondence is published every week in Nature. For more info on writing one yourself, please see the guidance on (Your feedback on this newsletter is always welcome at, but won’t be considered for publication in Nature.)


“The situation is quite dire and quite gloomy, but it is not hopeless.”

Actions to reverse climate change’s effect on the oceans would also bolster coastal economies and help lift people out of poverty, says marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco. (Nature)

Please do not enter this Airbnb competition to spend a month doing research alongside polar scientist Kirstie Jones-Williams in Antarctica, because I really want to win it myself. Just kidding, I wish you the best of luck and ask only that you also send me your opinion on this newsletter at

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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