Daily briefing: How to figure out which climate-change policies really work

Daily briefing: How to figure out which climate-change policies really work

An 'evidence bank' could synthesize research to show how well different policies — from carbon taxes to the promotion of electric vehicles — work to address climate change. Plus, a satellite made from magnolia wood and whether scientists make good presidents.
  1. Flora Graham View author publications

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Takao Doi, an astronaut and engineer at Kyoto University, holds the world's first wooden satellite.Credit: Kota Kawasaki/Yomiuri Shimbun via AP/Alamy

Flaming magnolia satellites

Space exploration could become more environmentally friendly, if a project from a group of Japanese scientists goes according to plan. Last month, they revealed a satellite made from magnolia wood, amongst other components. If it sounds like it might burn up in the atmosphere, that's the plan. The effects of pollution from burning up end-of-life metal satellites are unknown, whereas the magnolia satellite is expected to leave only carbon dioxide and water vapour at the end of its 6–12–month life.

Nature | 4 min read

A menu of climate solutions that work

The evidence for human-caused climate change is overwhelming — the big question now is, what to do about it? Scientists are lobbying for an 'evidence bank' that synthesizes research showing how well different policies — from carbon taxes to the promotion of electric vehicles — work to address climate change, and under what conditions. "This 'what works?' question is now the central question in climate policy," says climate researcher Jan Minx, who is leading the effort. A meeting in Berlin on Sunday — the What Works Climate Solutions Summit — will be the first to bring together specialists in climate, policy and evidence synthesis to discuss the idea.

Nature | 7 min read

South Africa's birds given isiZulu names

South Africa's birds have officially been recognized with names in the isiZulu language. The chirping Calamonastes fasciolatus is isanyendle ('like a cricket') and the bushy-browed Heteromirafra ruddi is unonhlozi (eyebrows), amongst other monikers. The names are a recognition that all South African people have a role in species conservation. "We must all engage with our natural heritage in any language we choose," says Nandi Thobela from BirdLife South Africa.

Nature | 3 min read

Reference: S outh African Journal of Science paper

The African pitta's isiZulu name unothingo — meaning rainbow — is a reference to its brightly coloured plumage.Credit: Richard Flack/NaturePL

Features & opinion

Do scientists make good presidents?

The president-elect of Mexico, Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, has a strong scientific background — but some researchers in the country have expressed concerns that she won't prioritize evidence-based decision-making. Historians and policy experts who spoke to Nature say science expertise is a double-edged sword among political leaders. Researchers "know very well how to gather information from various actors in society", says historian of science Sayaka Oki. At the same time, if they rely too much on their own intellect instead of listening to constituents, they can get "trapped in their own self-righteousness".

Nature | 7 min read

Futures: 1,001 best hikes on Mars

A trail guide invites us to retrace the journey of the infamous Peterson expedition of 2058 in the latest short story for Nature's Futures series.

Nature | 6 min read

'We wanted rights other children had'

As an exceptional 12-year-old secondary-school student, inspired by Martin Luther King, Freeman Hrabowski was jailed and almost expelled for participating in the civil rights movement. "It was not a positive experience, as you might imagine, but it taught us that even children could have an impact on their own lives," he says. "We wanted a better education and we wanted all the rights that other children in America were experiencing every day." The mathematician later founded a scholarship programme, the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, that has become one of the leading pathways to success for Black students in STEM subjects in the United States. He spoke to Nature for our new Changemakers series.

Nature Podcast | 37 min listen

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"We document a pattern of low exposure to false and inflammatory content that is concentrated among a narrow fringe with strong motivations to seek out such information."

There's a misconception that misinformation is widely read and influential, write five researchers who examined the evidence. Falsehoods are most harmful when they intersect with extremist groups — and that's where researchers, policymakers and platforms should focus their energies. (Nature | 40 min read)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-024-01737-7

This week, Leif Penguinson is living up to their species name by rock-hopping in Germany's Bavarian Forest National Park. Can you find the penguin?

The answer will be in Monday's e-mail, all thanks to Briefing photo editor and penguin wrangler Tom Houghton.

This newsletter is always evolving — tell us what you think! Please send your feedback to [email protected].

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Katrina Krämer and Sara Phillips

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