Here are some noteworthy science and environmental links folks are Digging today:
— Global warming causes sea levels to rise for two main reasons: melting polar ice and the swelling of seawater fueled by hotter temperatures. Taking into account only the second factor, British and Spanish scientists have calculated that climate change will cause the Mediterranean Sea to rise by somewhere between 3 and 61 centimeters (about 1 inch to 2 feet) over the next 90 years, depending on what happens with greenhouse gas emissions during that time.
— Yes, it snowed during a global warming protest this week. Pointing that out is kind of like mentioning that no A-bombs are going off during a rally against nuclear proliferation, but the juxtaposition still drew plenty of mockery. More bemusing to me is that organizers were content to announce that "We shut this coal plant down!" even though they clearly hadn't, and it opened again the next day. But TIME makes a worthwhile point about the main success of this rally: Instead of focusing on things like polar bears and sea levels, it emphasized the unfairness of climate change — that those least responsible for the warming will suffer the most, and that it leaves the planet in worse shape for future generations.
— Simulated warfare is designed to prepare soldiers for battle without actually putting them in harm's way, but it's still far from harmless. Practice shells are less powerful than battlefield versions but still explosive, and duds scattered among 1,400 Army practice sites could cost $20 billion to clean up. On top of that, all these munitions leach toxic chemicals such as phthalates into the ground and, therefore, into groundwater. To fix both of these problems, a weapons company is supplying the Army with a new, greener type of shell that uses bursts of light instead of sound and fire and contains no toxins.
— The U.S. Energy Information Administration bluntly projected on Dec. 17 there would be "virtually no growth" in U.S. oil demand until at least 2030. Last week the agency revised its 2008 data that helped inform that projection, showing last year's consumption was actually 4 percent lower than previously reported, making 2008 America's least oil-thirsty year since 1998. For more about U.S. demand and dependence on foreign oil, see Translating Uncle Sam.
• Coast to Coast AM [photo]: "Creepy Tree"
— Sure, its googly, facelike features are creepy, and it's quite possible a tree could grow like this naturally. Still, the prevalence of Photoshopped, humanlike trees on the Web and the source of this photo — Coast to Coast AM, a paranormal-centric late-night radio show that specializes in tales of UFO abductions and ghost sightings — make me skeptical. But I want to believe.