It's tempting to dismiss all the talk as hype, but experts say not to fall for these misconceptions.
Myth #1: If global warming were an issue, blizzards would be on the wane.
FACT: We're seeing stronger blizzards because of global warming. As the air, land and sea get warmer, more water evaporates. So when a storm comes along, there's more water to pick up and dump, meaning more snow when it's cold out.
Myth #2: It's all a natural cycle; humans can't affect something as big as Earth.
FACT: Yes, Earth's temperature goes up and down with the ice ages. But scientists think temperatures should be dropping in preparation for the next ice age, and instead they're soaring. According to NASA, thermometers around the world find that the average global temp has been rising since 1880; 2014 was the hottest year yet. And before the Industrial Era, natural levels of carbon dioxide were about 275 parts per million (ppm). Now, due to all the coal, oil and gas we've burned, levels have topped 400 ppm. The explanation? Us.
Myth #3: It may be real, but it's not affecting my family right now.
Fact: Climate change is already hitting our pocketbooks: U.S. losses due to natural disasters like storms, floods, droughts and wildfires rose between 1980 and 2014. Your family may also be affected by worsening allergies from plants that bloom earlier and produce more pollen due to climate change.
Myth #4: Living "green" takes too much effort and cost.
FACT: Many of the reforms that help Earth can also ease your bottom line, and they're simple to implement. Food waste is the largest component of landfill, so by reducing it — eat leftovers! — we can all significantly lessen methane-emitting landfill material and save cash. More efficient appliances and cars may cost extra up front, but they use so much less energy over the lifetime of the product that you come out ahead.
Myth #5: Even if we did do something about it, China's building a coal plant a week. Why bother?
FACT: Our per-person carbon dioxide emissions are almost three times those of China. Yes, China has a lot more people, but the Chinese are doing something about it: They're number two in the world in solar power (we're number five), and they're also beating us on wind power — they're first, we're second.
Myth #6: I'm just one person — I can't make much of a difference.
FACT: Our lifestyle decisions control a shocking 75% of emissions in the U.S. If we all improved the energy efficiency of our homes by just 10%, it would be the equivalent of taking some 25 million cars off the road! And as voters, we control a portion of the other 25%. Check out the nonprofit Citizens' Climate Lobby, which can help you write letters to Congress in support of Earth-friendly legislation.