Summer: It’s the perfect time of year to get outside and enjoy some of that wilderness the U.S. is so famous for. The perfect time of year, that is, except for a glossy three-leaved plant that will turn your skin into an itchy, bubbling mess.
Poison ivy, already everyone’s least favorite part of summer, is only going to get worse with climate change. As The San Luis Obispo Tribune points out, plants in the Toxicodendron family (including poison ivy, oak, and sumac) produce more urushiol oil — the stuff that makes you itch — as levels of carbon dioxide rise. A six-year study published by Duke University researchers in 2006 found that projected CO2 for 2050 will cause as much as a 30 percent increase in urushiol toxicity. Not only do the plants produce oil that’s more toxic, but they grow more leaves.
Over 80 percent of adults break out into nasty rashes when they come into contact with those leaves. Ain’t nature wonderful?
Perhaps there’s a silver lining: If worsening heat waves, drought, storms, and wildfires aren’t enough to make us give a crap about climate change, maybe that rash all over our beach bods will.