05 June 2006

Climate Change: Coming to a Backyard Near You

The New York Times reported this weekend on a new study linking climate change to increases in some of the most common summertime backyard pests: poison ivy, mosquitoes, Japanese beetles, and ticks.

According to the Times, "Duke researchers," including Dr. William H. Schlesinger, a Duke professor, "discovered that when exposed to higher levels of CO2, the greenhouse gas released in ever-increasing quantities from human activity, poison ivy goes haywire...The plant also produced a more noxious form of its rash-causing chemical: a more poisonous poison ivy."

Not all the increases in plant growth from additional carbon dioxide are undesirable, however. Dr. Schlesinger noted increases in growth of many tree species, including some that are beneficial. "If you're a timber products company, you look at that favorably," he said in a quote.

There are related issues with increased plant growth, which anyone who suffers from seasonal allergies can tell you. Already there have been increases in asthma cases related to higher levels of allergens such as pollen from ragweeds and pine cones. The Duke study "showed that both plants produced more pollen under higher levels of CO2."

The Times article concludes, that "while much of the discussion of climate change focuses on the big picture of rising sea levels and increasing global air and ocean temperatures, the Duke finding helps explain the smaller picture. Climate change may be a real nuisance in the backyard."

(On a related note: The toxic chemicals of poison ivy appear so strong that, after reading the article, I developed a p-i rash on both arms. Get the Calamine!)

Read more at: New York Times

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