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Friday Finds: Congress Brakes on Transit Breaks

Transit riders run over by reduced tax breaks
Thanks to a lack of action by Congress before the holidays, mass transit commuters will have to pay an additional $550 in taxes this year, reports the New York Times, while those who commute by car will benefit from an increase in pre-tax benefit for monthly parking. In addition to encouraging the number of cars with single occupants, the move will no doubt clog already congested streets and increase carbon emissions. It also takes a jab at people who, for the most part, already deal with enough aggravation (think late bus arrivals, screaming babies and the person who insists on practically sitting on your lap despite the availability of other seats.) Maybe when Congress gets back in session, they’ll consider making the tax benefit, at the very least, apply equally to car and transit users.

Acidic oceans threaten entire food chain
Sharks are already stressed by the public’s taste for shark fin soup and warmer weather meddling with their dating habits. Now it looks like they will have to add acidic oceans to their list of worries. Increasingly acidic waters thin the shells of their main food source, tiny marine creatures, reports MSN. But it’s not just sharks that rely on these species for food. Virtually every creature from salmon to seals to even humans will be affected, thanks to a little thing we like to call the marine food web. Scientists already know that as oceans absorb more carbon, the waters acidify, which makes living conditions very uncomfortable for any animal with a shell, and creates food scarcity for everyone else. Add this to the already overwhelming threats of pollution, habitat loss and overfishing, and it’s clear to see that the oceans—and the people who work to save them-- including Earthjustice—have their work cut out just trying to keep their heads above water. 

Congressional staffers take bets on wildfire occurrences
As the U.S. wraps up the third-worst wildlife season since 1960, a group of morally challenged congressional staffers are taking bets on how many acres of land will burn in wildfires this year, reports Grist. Last year, wildfires burned more than 9 million acres of land, putting countless firefighters, residents and their homes at risk. With climate change causing hotter and drier temperatures, the number of wildfires is certain to increase in the coming years. But instead of focusing on ways to mitigate climate change by pushing for cleaner energy sources, staffers working on natural resource and energy issues are instead busy crunching numbers and playing guessing games—all in order to win a silly hat from the Frank Gladis, a professional staffer who runs the contest. Worse yet, rather than apologize for their crude behavior, the participants of this twisted game recently justified their actions by arguing that the game is simply meant to educate the staffers and highlight their “concern with Forest Service’s treatment of public land.”
 
Wine drinkers get drunk off of climate change
Hotter temperatures are making Napa Valley wines a bit boozier, reports the Napa Valley Register. As the temperatures get hotter, the grapes’ alcoholic content increases, inspiring bartenders and winos everywhere to raise a glass. But the boozy benefit may not last for long. Each type of grape has a heat threshold. Once it’s reached, wine quality starts to decline, which could mean that an expensive Cabernet sauvignon from Napa may one day taste more like Two-Buck Chuck. Many winegrowers in Napa are already preparing for the inevitable climate changes, while those in Mendocino and Lake counties eagerly await the day when hotter temperatures make their regions the next Napa. The situation is causing one of those rare occasions where both parties should drink up, either in celebration or in sadness.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.