Climate Letter #1102

Permafrost is loaded with toxic mercury that could be released by thawing (Washington Post).  Rather surprisingly, permafrost soils hold “twice as much mercury as the rest of all soils, the atmosphere, and ocean combined,” built up during and since the last Ice Age.  Scientists are fearful the mercury will end up in the food chains of associated ecosystems.  The authors of this study believe that “with current emissions levels through 2100, permafrost could shrink by between 30 and 99 percent,” which of course implies a perhaps even bigger problem from the release of carbon it contains.
Is it possible for all of Earth’s humans to have the minimum resources needed to live a “good life” in a sustainable manner?  A scientific study, reviewed here by the LA Times, has examined that possibility and found all sorts of complications.  The authors think it could be done, at least in theory, but only as a result of making drastic changes that would particularly affect the way things are done in today’s more wealthy countries.  They also think that failure to take the necessary steps would invite environmental catastrophe.
The world’s largest “virtual power plant” is planned for construction in Australia.  It will supply the electricity needs of 50,000 homes from rooftop solar panels, plus storage, all interconnected.  All capital funds and operating controls will be provided by private interests; homeowners are expected to save an average of 30% on their power bills with no investment required.  The project was instigated by coordinated efforts of Tesla and the South Australian government.
Microplastic pollution of terrestrial ecosystems is compared to similar pollution of ocean waters, perhaps even worse.  A new study has all the details of a threat that has been greatly underestimated and therefore basically unpublicized.  The authors see a need for much more effort devoted to gathering data.
Storms off the coast of Ireland have moved some enormous boulders.  As recently as 2013-14 a boulder weighing 620 tons was moved several feet by a storm.  An even larger boulder, similarly situated, became emplaced at an unknown time and by an unknown cause, possibly a tsunami.  They are both pictured.
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