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Simple Science: explaining COP28, viral penguin naps

Simple Science simplifies the past week in science news. 

This week in science, we will define COP28 and the Climate Change Conference and discuss their importance along with a newly published research study about the sleep habits of nesting penguins in Antarctica. 

What is COP28?

Nearly 200 countries convened for the annual United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference, also known as COP28, Nov. 30. The international meeting will last for 13 days, ending on Dec. 12.

COP28 will mark the 28th annual meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The COP includes the 154 countries that first signed the UN climate agreement in 1992 and the 43 countries that have since ratified the Convention. This group convenes annually to discuss the future of climate change. 

This year, nearly 200 countries are attending the conference to form the world’s “collective response to the global challenge of climate change,” according to COP28’s website

The conference is being held by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Dubai this year.

Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber will serve as President of COP28. As CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), he will be the first-ever CEO to serve as COP President. His appointment has received criticism due to his link to ADNOC, “a company that pumped 2.7 million barrels of oil a day in 2021.” 

In a letter to colleagues sent last July, Dr. Al Jaber highlighted four “paradigm shifts” that COP28 will focus on during the conference:

“Fast-tracking the energy transition and slashing emissions before 2030,“ "Delivering old promises and setting the framework for a new deal on finance,“ "Putting nature, people, lives and livelihoods at the heart of climate action” and "mobilizing for the most inclusive COP.” 

Also on the agenda is the first-ever global stocktake (GST) of the Paris Agreement; an international treaty on climate change signed by 195 countries at the COP in 2015. Scheduled to happen every five years, with the first occurring in 2023, the GST is a two-year-long process assessing the world’s climate progress since 2015. 

The most notable goal of the Paris Agreement is to “limit the temperature increase and the global average temperatures to 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels,” by 2100. 

In September, the first GST was published. In short, it was found that if the current rate of global progress on climate action is continued, the goals of the Paris Agreement will not be met. Thus, it is paramount that COP28 gets the world back on track. 


Published by “Science” on Nov. 30, a new study has revealed the unique sleeping habits of chinstrap penguins.

Everyone knows that parents of newborn babies are plagued with sleepless nights. Imagine being a nesting chinstrap penguin, surrounded by a colony so noisy that you’re all nicknamed “stonebreakers” due to the shockingly loud calls which are said to crack stones. On top of that, you’re constantly in danger of having your eggs or chicks taken by a hungry brown skua, a predatory bird. 

Typical nesting behavior for your species ensures that someone is always guarding the nest. However, when the other penguin parent is incubating the eggs, you’re off foraging at sea. 

In the wild, there is limited time for penguins to catch their Z’s, but new research has revealed the adaptive strategy that may be the penguin’s secret to sleep. In early December 2019, a research team traveled to Antarctica to investigate the sleep habits of this relentless species. 

Observing a nesting colony on King George Island, the researchers equipped 14 penguins incubating eggs with devices to track their sleep and location. 

They found that these penguins nodded off into “microsleeps,” a fleeting state of rest lasting about four seconds over 10,000 times a day. This peculiar habit allowed the nesting birds to accrue nearly 11 hours of sleep. 

These microsleeps allow penguins to quickly switch between states of vigilance and rest. Interestingly, this behavior was reported to occur both at the nest and in the sea. The restorative value of this behavior was not measured, but it provided insight into a possible link between reproductive behavior and antipredatory vigilance. 

This study highlights the increasing threat that human activities and climate change pose to natural habitats. As changing environments continue to grow increasingly disruptive, animals will have to adapt their behaviors accordingly. Although these penguins are currently free from human influence, it is crucial to understand how extraneous pressures can influence animal habits. 

To find out more, read the study here

Other notable news: 

New understanding of Bantu-speaking peoples in Africa and the widespread effects of their DNA.

The world’s biggest nuclear fusion reactor was introduced in Japan.

The expansion of the universe is beginning to grow more clear with new theories of a giant void.


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