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What's happening to Earth's core? - Shannon Odell

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Earth School

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A hydrogen atom is traveling high within the outermost layer of Earth’s atmosphere. This particular atom first entered the exosphere millions of years ago, but today it overcomes Earth’s gravitational pull and escapes, joining the roughly 90 tons of material that leak out of our atmosphere each day. Should we be worried about these leaks? Shannon Odell digs into our planet’s imperfect plumbing.

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Orphan Oil and Gas Wells

Scattered throughout the U.S. are millions of old oil and gas wells with no known operator known as orphan wells.  They’re a significant source of methane emissions and can leak contaminants into the groundwater. The emissions of these wells are the equivalent of more than 2.5 million more cars on the road every year. But it’s hard to locate these wells, as many were drilled before modern mapping and recordkeeping technologies became widespread. It will cost billions to clean them up, but for the first time, major federal funding is devoted to doing just that. Meet one ex-oil executive and his team as he hunts down and plugs forgotten oil wells. The Environmental Defense Fund partnered with McGill University to create a map of orphan wells across the US and detailed their impacts: air pollutants, water contamination, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Nine million Americans live near an orphan oil and gas well. Many of these oil wells are concentrated in rural and historically marginalized communities. Tens of thousands of those wells are polluting Latino and Native American communities across the country and some politicians are trying to pass bills to force the industry to pay for the cleanup. Fortunately capping abandoned wells is one issue that is bi-partisan, favored by both Republicans and Democrats. 

On top of reducing climate change and cleaning up the air and water, new research shows that plugging orphan wells will create hundreds of thousands of jobs. According to the report, if the US plugs 500,000 wells, this could result in 120,000 new jobs, compared to the roughly 76,000 jobs lost in the oil and gas industry from February to June 2020. 

Keeping the oil and gas in the ground

The most lasting solution to issues of leaking wells is not to drill them in the first place. Over 400 organizations have signed an open letter to world leaders to do just that. Back in 2016, Bill McKibben found of 350.org, explained why we need to keep 80% of known oil reserves in the ground. On a global scale, the policy form of this would take the form of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. Watch Tzeporah Berman passionately make the case for the idea at the 2021 Ted Countdown in Edinburgh, Scotland. This global initiative for transparency and accountability in phasing out fossil fuels forever, and is supported by the Dalai Lama, Nobel Prize laureates, and many more.

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We can save the world. Speed and Scale shows us how to unlock a cleaner, healthier and safer future by laying out a roadmap that will get us to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. How’s it going to work? We need to electrify transportation, decarbonize the grid, fix food, protect nature, clean up industry and remove carbon. To learn how we’re going to do all that - and to learn how you can take action now - explore this page.

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