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COP climate conference

Delegates applaud after a speech by Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber (C) during a plenary session on day thirteen of the UNFCCC COP28 Climate Conference.

Delegates applauding at the end of COP28 in Dubai.Credit: Fadel Dawod/Getty

COP28 names and shames fossil fuels

The United Nations climate conference, COP28, in Dubai has come to an end with a historic agreement that for the first time calls out fossil fuels by name. The deal includes a commitment to “transition away” from these fuels. It’s a painful compromise: oil cartel OPEC had tried to steer the wording away from the sources of emissions, preferring a focus on yet-to-be-invented ways of making them cleaner. Others, particularly the island nations facing obliteration by rising sea levels, wanted a clear call to ‘phase out’ the hydrocarbons at the root of climate change. Like all compromises, this one leaves many disappointed.

Early hopes were raised by commitments to a ‘loss and damage’ fund — money for low- and middle-income regions that are facing irreversible climate-related destruction. So far, it has collected around US$700 million in pledges. But that is just a tiny fraction of $4 trillion, the estimated annual cost of climate impacts, notes climate-policy analyst Joyce Kimutai.

The wider response seems to be that the commitments made at COP28 are insufficient — yet they are hopeful, because they reflect a wider sea change. “It tells us what we already knew,” wrote climate activist Vanessa Nakate. “The fossil fuel era is ending.” A Nature editorial agrees. “It is a question of when, not if.”

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: COP outcome of the first global stocktake

Get fully briefed in the outcomes of COP28 with a special breaking-news edition of Nature Briefing: Anthropocene.


“That it has taken an oil-producing country to introduce such a commitment into a COP outcome for the first time is remarkable. That the president of this COP is chief executive of the United Arab Emirates’ national oil company, Adnoc, almost defies belief.”

COP president Sultan al-Jaber, who was widely criticized over possible conflicts of interest, was jubilant as he gavelled through the ‘UAE consensus’, writes environmental journalist Fiona Harvey in her analysis of the summit’s outcome. (The Guardian | 5 min read)

Record number of papers retracted in 2023

The number of retractions issued for research articles this year has passed 10,000 as publishers struggle to clean up a slew of sham papers and peer-review fraud. Among large research-producing nations, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Russia and China have the highest retraction rates over the past two decades. The bulk of this year’s retractions were from journals owned by the publisher Hindawi. These journals have pulled more than 8,000 articles this year.

Nature | 4 min read

CAR T promising against immune disorders

Engineered immune cells have given 15 people with once-debilitating autoimmune disorders — lupus, systemic sclerosis or idiopathic inflammatory myositis — a new lease on life. CAR-T cells, which are created from a person’s own immune cells, work by targeting certain cells for destruction and are often used to treat cancer. All 15 participants have remained disease-free or nearly so since their treatment. At this stage, it’s unclear how much of this is due to the engineered cells and how much is because of the intensive chemotherapy that kills off many existing immune cells in preparation for CAR-T treatment.

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: The Lancet Neurology paper

First look at asteroid dust brought to Earth

NASA is still working to get inside the sample capsule that its spacecraft OSIRIS-REx brought back from the asteroid Bennu more than two months ago. In the meantime, curators have used tweezers to pull out what they could: 70.3 grams of material, much more than the mission’s goal. Early analysis suggests that the Bennu fragments are rich in volatile chemical elements preserved since the birth of the Solar System. “This alone makes the whole mission worthwhile,” says planetary scientist Dante Lauretta. “We now have abundant pristine material.”

Nature | 5 min read

The OSIRIS-REx curation team members set the sample from Ben asteroid down in the canister glovebox in a clean room.

Researchers handle OSIRIS-REx’s sample canister inside a glovebox at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.Credit: NASA/Kimberly Allums

Features & opinion

For open science, don’t overlook librarians

To ensure a smooth transition to open-access science, people need to overcome outdated misconceptions of librarianship, argues digital archivist Jessica Farrell. Librarians and archivists are already experts at preserving knowledge, and they can help to ensure that data don’t become inaccessible because of proprietary software or a lost password. “Information management is an academic discipline and should be treated as such,” writes Farrell.

Nature | 5 min read

What the Ottomans did for science

A monumental project is uncovering the untold story of science during six centuries of the Ottoman Empire. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu’s The Ottoman Scientific Heritage contains some of the results of this decades-long work. It delves deep into the empire’s scientific history, from early institutions of higher learning to modern medicine and military technology. “It is up to today’s and future generations to use this knowledge and further assess the role of science in the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire,” writes reviewer and Nature bureau chief Ehsan Masood.

Nature | 6 min read

Image of the week

wide-angle shot of a huge flat topped icecap with meltwater forming rivulets and waterfalls cascading into the sea

Credit: Thomas Vijayan/NPOTY 2023

This photograph of melt water pouring through the Austfonna ice cap on the Arctic island of Nordaustlandet, Norway, was one winner in the 2023 Drone Photo Awards. The melting sea ice is one of Nature’s picks of the best science images of 2023.

Quote of the day

“I think it's the first time that a new species was discovered during a school class.”

A beautiful fossil dungbeetle that was discovered during a lesson in science teacher Hiroaki Aiba’s classroom has been named Ceratophyus yatagaii, after the student that found it, Kota Yatagai. (Japan Times | 3 min read)

Reference: Paleontological Research paper