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Glacier in Antarctica

Scientists Worried About Rapid Melting Of ‘Doomsday’ Glacier In Antarctica

Climate scientists have always regarded Thwaites glacier in Antarctica as a key factor in terms of climate change and global sea-level risings. The glacier itself is seen as one of the most vulnerable to be impacted by climate change, as its collapse would raise global sea levels by more than half a meter on its own. Its melting would also cause a chain reaction for other major bodies of water in Antarctica, potentially causing sea levels to rise by three meters!

Coastal cities across the globe would be severely impacted if this were to occur, and it’s one of the reasons the glacier has the nickname “Doomsday glacier.” This year, scientists noticed there was warm water near an integral part of the glacier that has never been there before. This warm water has already caused parts of the glacier to deteriorate.

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Thwaites glacier is 76,000 square miles, about the size of England. Ice has already melted from the glacier into the Amundsen Sea and caused 4% of global sea-levels to rise. As the world continues to warm, scientists are worried for the future of this glacier and its impact on the rest of the planet. Paul Cutler is a program director for Antarctic glaciology at America’s National Science Foundation, and he recently spoke with the media about the severity of this glacier melting.  

“The big question is how quickly it becomes unstable. It seems to be teetering at the edge. It is a keystone for the other glaciers around it in Antarctica if you remove it, other ice will start draining into the ocean.” 

Antarctica contains 90% of the world’s ice, most of which remains out of the water and on the continent’s land. The average thickness of ice in Antarctica is 1.6 miles deep, but it can reach depths of up to three miles. 

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The current sea level on Earth is almost 8 inches above what it was before the industrial revolution. The main cause in this rise is an increase in global sea temperatures brought on by intense sun exposure. The sun exposure is brought on due to a depletion in the Earth’s ozone layer, which is meant to protect all of us from intense UV radiation. For nearly 2,000 years before the industrial revolution, global sea levels remained almost completely static. 

Burning fossil fuels has only increased as society has become more modernized, and that burning has only further depleted the ozone layer in Earth’s atmosphere. Additionally, increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere act as heat traps for the sun. These warmer temperatures obviously cause major ice sheets and glaciers to melt, as they’re not only experiencing a rise in sea temperatures, but air temperatures as well. 

The annual rate in which our global sea-levels rise has doubled since 1990. As time has gone on, the rate at which these glaciers melt has only become more unpredictable, making it difficult for scientists to understand how to better preserve them. However, this more recent melting of Thwaites was specifically brought on by a massive heat wave in the Arctic; which is on the other side of the planet. 

Both the Antarctic and Arctic regions should be our number one priority, as they’re the coldest locations in the world, however, they’re both warming at rates faster than the rest of the world as well. Global warming has already caused such massive natural destruction within the past year alone, it’s time that our world leaders understand we’re currently battling a whole other pandemic in terms of our planets temperatures.

Architects working Together

Antonio Citterio Discusses Resilience And Sustainability In The Architecture Industry

Antonio Citterio’s aim as a designer and architect has always been to create spaces that evoke a sense of quality. Spaces that are useful for the individuals daily life while being creative enough to embody a sense of the client’s personality.

Hockey Stadium

Amazon Renames Seattle NHL Stadium ‘Climate Pledge Arena’ In New Green Initiative

Amazon has officially secured the naming rights for Seattle’s downtown arena that will be the home for the city’s new NHL team as well as the WNBA’s Storm team. Amazon made the announcement this week that they would be deciding the name of the arena, however, many were shocked to learn that the company wouldn’t include its name in the title; something that’s fairly typical when it comes to naming stadium-type establishments after the corporations that sponsor them (Staples Center, Citi Field, AT&T Stadium, etc.). 

Instead, the stadium will be named Climate Pledge Arena and will feature several new green initiatives to make the future of live sports entertainment more environmentally friendly. 

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“I think this is going to be a transformative moment in our industry. Amazon said, ‘We’ll act like a naming rights partner, but let’s do this the right way. We don’t need any more branding. What we need is to go save the planet.’ It was brilliant,” a spokesperson for the arena claimed. 

As mentioned Climate Pledge Arena is going to run with the intention of remaining completely green. In fact, Amazon is attempting to make it the first arena in the world to earn a net zero carbon certifications by the International Living Future Institute.  There are a multitude of features that will be implemented into the structure, games themselves, and clean up procedures for the stadium. 

All ice for hockey games will be created using recycled rainwater thanks to a massive tank that’s located underground and adjacent to the arena. This tank is specifically designed to collect runoff rainwater from the roof of the arena, but the arena’s team is also working on a way to easily allow fans at home to bring their own recycled rainwater to help aid the running of the stadium.

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All events will also be “zero waste,” a decision that according to the team was inspired by singer Billie Eilish, who before the coronavirus pandemic was embarking on a world tour for her most recent album. Eilish asked every venue that she was planning to play on her tour to eliminate as much single-waste plastic as possible, to which they all happily obliged to get one of the biggest artists of the year to play at their establishment. 

 “I was like, I can’t believe she got an entire syndication of arenas to come along and finally address this issue. I was so in awe that she made this part of the deal. When we were debating this, I said if she could do it for a night, couldn’t we do this for 365 nights?” said Tim Leiweke, CEO of the Oak View Group. 

75% of the arena’s food vendors will be sourced seasonally by local farmers and producers as a means of helping local small businesses. Unused food that’s still edible and viable will also be donated to various food charities in the area. The arena will also solely run on electricity, and carbon emissions and sustainability performance is set up to be closely monitored and will also be made public record to all American citizens so they can see for themselves how green the arena is. 

The cost of the building overall is set to be around $900 million and will be able to hold 18,000 sports fans. Its projected to host around 200 events each year, which will also include concerts. The building is currently still under construction, as production was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s expected to make its public debut with Seattle’s brand new NHL team in 2021-2022 (the dates are subject to change based on how the pandemic progresses). 

Ozone Layer

Research Team Discovers Evidence Of Mass Extinction Event From 359 Million Years Ago

Researchers at the University of Southampton recently published findings in the journal of Science Advances that revealed evidence of a mass extinction that took place on Earth nearly 360 million years ago. The extinction was a result of high levels of UV radiation that destroyed the planet’s forest ecosystems and killed thousands of species of fish as well. This influx in UV radiation was a result of one of Earth’s climate cycles that collapsed part of the ozone layer.

The ozone layer depletion was a direct response to the rapid warming of the planet brought on by the ending of an intense ice age. The researchers behind these findings were adamant about sharing this evidence, as Earth’s current climate status is showing parallels to what it was like 359 million years ago when this mass extinction took place. The team’s research consisted of collecting rock samples from the mountains in East Greenland. The area of land they were specifically collecting from used to be the location of a huge ancient lake that was “in the arid interior of the Old Red Sandstone Continent, [which] made up of Europe and North America.”

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“This lake was situated in the Earth’s southern hemisphere and would have been similar in nature to modern-day Lake Chad on the edge of the Sahara Desert. Other rocks were collected from the Andean Mountains above Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. These South American samples were from the southern continent of Gondwana, which was closer to the Devonian South Pole. They held clues as to what was happening at the edge of the melting Devonian ice sheet, allowing a comparison between the extinction event close to the pole and close to the equator,” according to media reports.

In a lab setting the researchers dissolved the rocks in hydrofluoric acid which, according to the research, released microscopic plant spores that looked like pollen. These spores had somehow managed to remain preserved for hundreds of millions of years, and upon further exploration, the team discovered these spores had strangely formed spines on their surface. The spores also had dark pigmented walls, which led the team to believe both abnormalities were a result of UV radiation damaging the DNA of the spores themselves. 

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The conclusion was now that during a time of rapid global warming millions of years ago, the ozone layer must have collapsed for a short period, which then resulted in the Earth and all its living inhabitants to be exposed to extremely harmful levels of UV radiation, and thus triggering a mass extinction on both land and in shallow waters. 

“During the extinction, plants selectively survived, but were enormously disrupted as the forest ecosystem collapsed. The dominant group of armored fish became extinct. These extinctions came at a key time for the evolution of our own ancestors, the tetrapods. These early tetrapods are fish that evolved to have limbs rather than fins, but still mostly lived in water. Their limbs possessed many fingers and toes. The extinction reset the direction of their evolution with the post-extinction survivors being terrestrial and with the number of fingers and toes reduced to five,” said Lead researcher Professor John Marshall, of the University of Southampton’s School of Ocean and Earth Science. 

As previously mentioned, Professor Marshall’s main goal with releasing all of this newfound research is to warn humanity of how similar our planet’s current climate looks to how it did right before this mass extinction that killed thousands of species and redirected the way we evolved. The team plans on continuing their remote research in Greenland in hopes to further learn more about past climate emergencies, and how to better prepare for them today.

Hurricane

Hurricanes Continue To Get Stronger As A Result Of Climate Change, According To New Study

Climate change is still just as much of an issue as it’s been for the best decade, however, the intensity of concern over our planet’s climate crisis has subsided due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Even so, it’s becoming increasingly evident to scientists around the world that major natural events such as hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical cyclones have the potential to become much more deadly as the planet continues to heat up. 

According to a study performed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the probability of storms reaching a hurricane status of category 3, with winds exceeding 110 miles-per-hour, has consecutively increased every decade for the past 40 years. 

“The change is about 8% per decade. In other words, during its lifetime, a hurricane is 8% more likely to be a major hurricane in this decade compared to the last decade,” said Jim Kossin, author of the study.

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The idea that natural disasters get stronger as climate change worsens is not a new concept, and the data has clearly proven this to be correct within the past four decades. The study states that initially researchers were just looking at data from 25 years ago, however, looking back even further would give them even more evidence as to what aspects of man-made global warming that have had the most detrimental effects on the planet. 

“Almost all of the damage and mortality caused by hurricanes is done by major hurricanes (category 3 to 5). Increasing the likelihood of having a major hurricane will certainly increase this risk. The study reveals that global warming has increased sea surface temperature in regions where tropical cyclones form. The combination of these warm temperatures along with changes in atmospheric conditions, have allowed storms to more easily reach higher intensities,” Kossin said.

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Within the past few years specifically, Kossin and his team have been noticing these trends more in the Northern Indian Ocean, but he believes that’s mostly because data collection in that part of the world isn’t as advanced for this type of research, so the disaster occurrences seem much more random when they’re not. This study in particular neglected to include the past two years as well, which Kossin also knows could have skewed the data. 

The research also concluded that global cyclones should be the planet’s top concern for future natural disasters, as they’ve shown the most evidence for growing in intensity as a direct result of global warming. This is due to our ocean temperatures increasing, which results in stronger hurricanes to build out in the middle of the ocean and grow even larger before they hit land. 

“Here, the authors apply an objective technique on four decades of satellite data to create a consistent record of global tropical cyclone intensity, their results are consistent with the theory that increasing sea-surface temperatures are indeed increasing the intensity (but not frequency) of the strongest storms of at least major hurricane strength,” said Ryan Maue, a private industry meteorologist not involved in the recent research.

There are a multitude of natural reasons why these natural disasters have also increased in intensity, however, the evidence is clear. If we want a shot at a more healthy planet in the future, it’s up to us and our world leaders to fix all the damage we’ve caused.

Writer

Dara McAnulty: Meet The 16-Year-Old Author Who’s Trying To Save The Planet

Dara McAnulty is a 16-year-old published author who, in his novel, discusses life in the Northern Island, advocating for climate change policies, living with autism, and finding peace in a world that is often so cruel.

Great Barrier Reef

How Coral Bleaching In The Great Barrier Reef Has Impacted Its Inhabitants

Climate Change has caused countless environments throughout the world to be destroyed, ecosystems to change, and species to face endangerment/extinction. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia has faced some of the greatest challenges throughout the past decade, and now, its enduring its third mass bleaching event within five years.

The last time the reef endured a mass bleaching event as intense as this one is gearing up to be, a third of all corals were killed, and fish populations declined rapidly, which also caused the specific ecosystems/species within the reef to change for the worse as well. A recent study wanted to analyze what actual effects these bleaching events have on the fish species that live among the coral reefs, as that could help us better prevent these types of things from occurring in other reefs around the world.

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The scientists behind the international study used something called “gene expression” as a tool to understand how well fish are able to handle hotter temperatures, which is an effect of coral bleaching. According to the study, gene expression is “the process where a gene is read by cell machinery and creates a product such as a protein, resulting in a physical trait.” Using this process, scientists were able to predict which fish species would specifically be the most at risk/affected by repeated heat waves that lead to bleaching. 

The study initially began in 2015 when the researchers collected liver biopsies from several species of coral reef fish after global ocean temperatures increased by 1 degree Celsius that year, however, at the time the team of scientists had no idea how different everything would look in just 5 years; in terms of coral bleaching, ocean temperatures/acidification, and climate change in general. 

It wasn’t until one year later that things took a turn for the worse. In 2016, Jodie Remmer, a lead author on the study, along with one other researcher on the project went to the Great Barrier Reef to work on a completely different project when they realized that the ocean temperature around them read as 33°C. This was absolutely shocking in the worst way possible, as 33°C was the same temperature that Remmer claims to have been used in a climate change simulation where scientists predicted what the world would look like, environment wise, by the year 2100, meaning climate change has intensified to a much more urgent level than anyone expected by 2016.

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After one week, Remmer claimed they watched entire patches of coral reef turn bone-white, as fish populations abandoned their homes in search of new resources for food. During that time, scientists collected genetic samples from a multitude of fish and coral species. What they were looking for is how these species “switched their genes on and off” based on environmental conditions. Some genes should always be on, and others should be regulated and used as a response to things like temperature stress (like during a bleaching event). 

The ability to turn these genes on and off is what gives all species the ability to maintain proper metabolic, respiratory, and immune responses to environmental changes. When this gene expression is compromised, so is the ability to survive, hence the massive decline in coral reef ecosystems/fish populations. 

“Our findings not only have implications for specific fish species, but for the whole ecosystem. So policymakers and the fishing industry should screen more species to predict which will be sensitive and which will tolerate warming waters and heatwaves. This is not a ‘one size fits all’ situation. Fish have been on the planet for more than 400 million years. Over time, they may adapt to rising temperatures or migrate to cooler waters. But, the three recent mass bleaching events are unprecedented in human history, and fish won’t have time to adapt,” Remmer stated. 

Remmer went on to say that her and her team’s goal has always been to protect the ocean and all of its inhabitants as much as possible. This new information and data isn’t very encouraging, however, it does give scientists and the government the sense of urgency they often need in order to justify a global response.

Air Pollution

COVID-19 Pandemic Indirectly Leading To A Reduction In Air Pollution

The coronavirus pandemic has been causing a lot of industries to completely shut down, which is indirectly benefiting the environment. A lack of industrial activity is temporarily causing air pollution levels to decrease, according to the European Space Agency which released satellite images showing the fall in global nitrogen dioxide levels. 

The sudden shift in atmospheric levels is being referred to as the “largest scale experiment ever” in terms of industrial emission rates in the atmosphere when certain businesses are shut down for long periods of time globally. According to the European Space Agencies (ESA) satellite images, over the past two months, levels of nitrogen dioxide over the planet’s most metropolitan and industrialized areas in Asia and Europe were marked much lower when compared to last year’s data. 

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This is massively significant, as a decrease in these levels is relatively uncalled for, especially considering how fast and advanced the world runs when it’s not in the middle of a pandemic. nitrogen dioxide in general is produced from car engines, power plants, and basically any industrial business that’s known for its gas emissions. nitrogen dioxide is also known to speed up the development of respiratory illnesses.

“We are now, inadvertently, conducting the largest-scale experiment ever seen. Are we looking at what we might see in the future if we can move to a low-carbon economy? Not to denigrate the loss of life, but this might give us some hope from something terrible. To see what can be achieved. A reduction in air pollution could also bring some health benefits, though it’s unlikely to offset loss of life from the disease [coronavirus],” said Paul Monks, professor of air pollution at the University of Leicester.

While the health benefits of this reduction in air pollution may not offset the number of deaths as a result of COVID-19, it can help reduce the overall spread of the virus, as higher levels of pollution in the air causes those with pre-existing health conditions to have an even more compromised immune system. Additionally, individuals with respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, living in these areas that are typically concentrated in nitrogen dioxide will benefit from the cleaner air in the long run. 

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The World Health Organization (WHO) describes nitrogen dioxide as “a toxic gas which causes significant inflammation of the airways,” which is why it tends to intensify preexisting conditions, especially those of a respiratory nature. The biggest drop in pollution levels that also works to support the connection between the coronavirus and the improvement in air quality, comes from Wuhan, China, where the virus initially spread. The city itself has 11 million citizens and is one of the largest transportation hubs in the world, it also has hundreds of thousands of industrial factories throughout it. Now, according to NASA nitrogen dioxide levels have decreased up to 30% when compared to last year!

Other areas of Europe and Asia that support the “largest experiment in history” include South Korea, which is typically dependent on a multitude of power plants and industrial facilities in China. Milan, Italy, one of the most COVID-19 affected countries, has seen a 40% drop in nitrogen dioxide emissions. Many are crediting this to Italy’s current lockdown policy that the country is still enduring.  

In the United Kingdom, road traffic alone accounts for about 80% of all gas emissions, now that the UK has announced their own plans to lockdown, it’s predicted that they’ll see a similar drop as well. While coronavirus may be disrupting a lot of aspects of life right now, at least one small positive is coming out of this entire ordeal, and the planet is healing more and more everyday.

Swarm of Locusts

China To Deploy 100,000 Ducks To Combat Swarms Of Locusts

When it comes to the detrimental effects of global warming on our planet, one of the most unexpected issues that needs combating is the plagues of locusts that are currently ravaging through the planet’s farmlands in countries such as Pakistan and Uganda.  Swarms of locusts are not uncommon in certain areas of the world, in fact, when they appear at their expected time in their expected numbers it actually benefits the planet and the species living in these areas.   

Most recently, Pakistan has declared a state of emergency regarding the swarms of locusts clouding the skies. Officials are stating that the numbers are the worst they’ve been in two decades for the country. This is a huge problem as locusts eat through vegetation so fast you can blink and an entire field will be cleared. Even a small swarm of locusts can eat enough food to feed over 35,000 individuals in just a day. 

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A single swarm of locusts can contain up to 150 million individual insects per square mile of farmland, where they like to feed the most. Some countries are attempting to combat the issue by using drones to spray pesticides amongst the plagues of locusts, and others are taking a more creative and predatory approach. 

China is looking to help aid Pakistan with this infestation problem by deploying 100,000 ducks to the country. Agricultural experts claim that a single duck can eat more than 200 locusts in a single day, and are much more effective, not to mention safer, than spraying pesticides from the sky and into the atmosphere.  

“The ducks are biological weapons, while chickens could eat about 70 locusts in one day a duck could devour more than three times that number. Ducks like to stay in a group so they are easier to manage than chickens,” Lu Lizhi, a senior researcher with the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences claimed

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Lu went on to explain how within the coming months the Chinese government will begin trial runs of duck deployment as a means of combating the locust issue. After they test how well the ducks do in western Xinjiang, they will be sent to Pakistan; specifically the provinces of Sindh, Balochistan, and Punjab, where the locusts populations are the highest. 

On paper, bringing a locusts predator to them to combat overpopulation sounds like a smart idea, however, there are still concerns, the main one being that the arid desert environment in Pakistan is not equipped to handle ducks, who rely heavily on water. 

“Ducks rely on water, but in Pakistan’s desert areas, the temperature is very high. Although ducks have been used against locusts since ancient times, their deployment hasn’t yet entered the government assistance programme and is an exploratory method,” said Zhang Long, a professor from China’s Agriculture University. 

The United Nations reports that this heavy infestation was likely caused by the 2018-19 cyclone season in the areas that are being affected. Heavy rainfall in arid environments creates the perfect breeding ground for locusts, so when climate change causes natural disasters, such as cyclones, to become more frequent and intense, and unprecedented amount of locust breeding is the result. 

Currently parts of China, the Middle East, South Africa and South America are trying to deal with these “unprecedented” swarms of locusts clouding their skies and consuming their resources, only time will tell if the world’s troops of ducks can actually help.

Plastic Bags

New York Plastic Bag Ban Goes Into Full Effect This Week

New York’s plastic bag ban will go into full effect this Sunday (3/1) and store-owners throughout all five boroughs are preparing themselves by buying paper bags in bulk, and implementing new marketing strategies to encourage customers to bring their own bags. A lot of establishments throughout the state of New York have already begun transitioning out plastic bags from their businesses, however, for others it’s a bit of a scramble. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation last year on Earth Day as a means of reducing litter throughout the state, especially in New York City, but also to combat climate change in general by protecting wildlife from eating said litter, and reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions that are directly linked to plastic bag production, distribution, and disposal. 

As previously stated, the ban goes into full effect on March 1st and states that all New Yorkers will either have to bring their own reusable bags when going grocery shopping, or pay a five cent fee per paper bag they need; the fee does not apply to individuals who use SNAP of WIC. Certain bags are exempt from the ban, such as garbage or garment bags, or any kind of bag that’s used to wrap perishable foods. 

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“It’s self-explanatory. It’s the right thing for the environment, and we really care. Our clientele also appreciate the fact that we care about the environment. Yes, it’s going to be a little bit of transition for many stores — being a shortage of bags or whatever it may be — but we wanted to be proactive on it,”  said Carlos Alfara, director of produce for all Union Market stores in NYC.

Union Market has also created their own informational campaign that they’re calling “BYOBag” as a means of informing all NYC residents on the specifics of the new law. Part of their campaign also instructs all sales representatives and cashiers to talk to customers about the new policy, as well as offering a 10 cent discount to every customer who brings their own bag.

For Union Market, however, as a chain making this transition isn’t as financially impactful as it would be for smaller, independently owned businesses who are paying nearly three times the amount for paper bags, hence the fees. Store owners are encouraged to also keep all cardboard boxes they recieve in case customers want to use those for groceries as well. At the end of the day, customers will get used to the change, and the planet will surely thank New Yorkers in the long run.

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New York has now become the third state in America to fully ban plastic bags statewide; California and Hawaii being the other two. According to Riverkeeper, a water advocacy nonprofit, New Yorkers use more than 23 billion single-use plastic bags every year, and the average life cycle of each bag is about 15 minutes long, before being improperly disposed of. Riverkeeper has also been outspoken about their discontent with this specific ban, stating that it’s simply not enough, especially when compared to the massive amounts of single-use plastic that New Yorkers go through in general annually. 

Plastic containers used for take out throughout the hundreds of thousands of places to eat in New York contributes to some of the most plastic waste for the state. Additionally, critics of the ban claim that while it is a step in the right direction, the amount of fossil fuels required to transport containers and paper bags is just as much as it would be for regular plastic bags. 

“They’re [plastic bags] cheap, convenient, waterproof, strong enough to hold groceries but thin and light enough to make and transport using scant energy, water or other resources. Though they’re called single-use, most people reuse them, typically as trash can liners. When governments ban them, consumers buy thicker substitutes with a bigger carbon footprint,” wrote John Tierney in The Wall Street Journal.

The Department of Sanitation for New York City will be scattered throughout the five boroughs this Friday handing out reusable bags as preparation for the change. While it may not be the biggest accomplishment in terms of combating climate change, it’s this type of systematic action that we need worldwide if we want a shot at saving our dying planet and all its inhabitants.