MythBusters

1) “Taking action at home to stop global warming will cost me a lot of money.”
Reducing your contribution to global warming at home doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. In fact, many steps taken to reduce your carbon emissions will also save heating, cooling, gasoline, and electricity costs. In the U.K., for example, 80 percent of the energy used at home goes to heating and hot water, so this is a good place to look for savings. Turning the thermostat down by 1 degree could reduce carbon emissions and cut fuel bills by up to 10 percent. According to some estimates, swapping out the five standard light bulbs you use most for compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) can save roughly US$60 each year on electricity.
Sources: Directgov, “Greener Living”; Natural Resources Defense Council, “How to Reduce your Energy Consumption”.

2) “CFLs are too dangerous to use because they contain mercury.”
There is no reason to worry about the mercury in compact fluorescent light-bulbs (CFLs). CFL bulbs contain very little mercury – an average of 4 mg – about the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. In fact, using CF bulbs actually prevents more mercury from being released into the air by power plants: power plants emit about 10 mg of mercury to produce the electricity needed to run an incandescent bulb, compared with only 2.4 mg of mercury needed to run a CFL for the same amount of time. When the bulb is burned out, consumers should take advantage of available local recycling options to properly dispose of the waste.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, CFLs and Mercury Fact Sheet.

3) “If I use CFLs, I would have to sacrifice light color and quality.”
Once dismissed as buzzing tubes in offices, fluorescent lights have gone compact and upscale. Energy-saving compact fluorescents light-bulbs (CFLs) now rival the cozy, warm light of traditional incandescent bulbs. Today’s energy-saving bulbs can be used just about anywhere—as reading lights, in vanities and wall sconces. Some are dimmable; others work in three-way lamps. Matching the right CFL to the right kind of fixture helps ensure that it will perform properly. You can ensure to obtain the kind of light you want by checking the color temperature and wattage.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Energy Star.

4) CFLs can not be used with dimmer switches.”
Many CFLs are made to work on dimmers. Be sure to check the fine print on the back of the packaging for the proper applications to see if there are any restrictions on the product’s use. Dimming an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL that is not designed to work with a dimmer switch can shorten its life significantly.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Energy Star.

5)“Fluorescent lights are slow to start.”
By choosing an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, you are assured that it will turn on in less than a second, and reach at least 80% of full light output within 3 minutes.  Additionally, many lighting manufacturers offer “instant on” CFLs.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Energy Star.

6) “Turning my computer to sleep mode during the day is bothersome and doesn’t really make a difference anyway.”
The average desktop personal computer wastes nearly half of the energy it consumes as heat. This wasted electricity translates to higher electricity bills and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Using power management features on your computer can save nearly 1/2 a ton of carbon dioxide – the most common greenhouse gas – and more than US$60 a year in energy costs. With just a few simple steps, your computer can be set to automatically go to “sleep” when it’s not in use.
Source: World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Climate Savers Computing Initiative.

7) “Leaving appliances plugged in when not in use is fine as long as they are switched off.”
As long as they are plugged in, electronic devices continue to use electricity – even when they are turned off. In the average U.S. home, 40 percent of electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off but still plugged in. For example, a computer uses up to 10 watts when it is turned off but still plugged in. According to some estimates, you can reduce your electricity bills by as much as 10 percent just by unplugging appliances and electronics when they are not in use.
Sources: City of New York, GreeNYC; World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Climate Savers Computing Initiative.

8) “Only a tank can provide a large amount of hot water.”
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, hot water usage in U.S. households consumes between 15 and 30 percent of a home’s energy demand. Whole-house, natural gas-fueled tankless water heaters (TWHs) or on-demand technologies can provide significant energy savings. In fact, traditional tank-based water heaters are not designed to heat cold water rapidly enough to keep the out-flowing water at a constant temperature. In contrast, properly sized TWH systems are designed to keep out-flowing water at a constant temperature.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Consumers Guide to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

9) “A tankless hot water system can’t provide enough continuous hot water for an entire household.”
To overcome any problems, you can install two or more tankless water heaters, connected in parallel for simultaneous demands of hot water. You can also install separate tankless water heaters for appliances—such as a clothes washer or dishwater—that use a lot of hot water in your home.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Consumers Guide to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

10) “Tankless water heating systems cost more to operate.”
Like any profitable investment there is an immediate outlay of cash, but when you factor in the lower operating cost and longer (20-year) service life, tankless water heaters (TWH) save their owners a substantial amount of money. Tankless water heaters can shave 10 to 20 percent off your water heating bill. That savings results from elimination of standby losses -- energy lost from warmed water sitting in a tank.
Source: ToolBase Services, Tech Specks- Tankless Water Heaters .


Cars

11) “Cars should run in an idling mode for several minutes before being driven.”
While this may have been common in the past, today’s electronic engines do not need more than a few seconds of idling time before they can be driven safely. In fact, the best way to warm up a car is to drive it, since that warms up the catalytic converter and other mechanical parts of the car, in addition to the engine.
Source:  Environmental Defense Fund, “Attention Drivers! Turn Off Your Idling Engines”.

12) “Repeatedly restarting your car is hard on the engine and quickly drains the battery.”
Frequently restarting your engine does negligible damage to the engine and does not drain modern batteries excessively. In fact, the opposite is true: idling an engine forces it to operate in a very inefficient and gasoline-rich mode that, over time, can degrade the engine’s performance and reduce mileage. And, the added wear to the car from idling is much less costly than the cost of fuel saved. Source:  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “National Idle-Reduction Campaign”.

13) “I couldn’t improve my car’s fuel economy unless I bought a new one.”
You don’t have to spend a lot of money or buy a new fuel-efficient car in order to minimize your contribution to global warming from driving. Just cleaning out your trunk can help: removing 100 pounds (45 kilos) of extra weight improves your fuel economy by up to 2 percent. On the highway, exceeding the speed limit by a mere 5 miles per hour results in an average fuel economy loss of 6 percent. Even keeping a roof-rack on top of your car can cost up to 5 percent in fuel economy. A tune-up could boost your fuel economy anywhere from 4 to 40 percent. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for every 5 miles per gallon you increase your car’s fuel economy, you can prevent 1,500 pounds (680 kilos) of greenhouse gases from entering our atmosphere over the life of your vehicle. By some estimates, regular car maintenance can save a vehicle owner up to 165 gallons of gas per year, for a potential savings of $655 a year.
Source:  Natural Resources Defense Council, “How to Fight Global Warming”, Co-op America, “Climate Action”.

14) “I couldn’t reduce my contribution to global warming from driving unless I gave up using my car entirely.”
You don’t have to entirely give up using your car to help fight global warming. There are several ways to reduce the carbon emissions from your car, including regular car maintenance, avoiding carrying excess weight in your car, and avoiding excessive idling.  Additional resources may be available in your area, such as car-pooling, combining short car-trips into one, and telecommuting. According to some estimates, if all commuters worked from home just one day a week, we could save 5.85 billion gallons of oil and cut over 65 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.
Source:  Co-op America, “Climate Action: Living Car-Lite”.


Energy

15) “It’s too difficult to determine if my home is ‘energy-efficient’.”
In fact, there are numerous on-line tools that provide a picture of a home’s energy use and inefficiencies. With minimal data input about daily activities and lifestyle, these calculators can estimate your energy use, carbon emissions, and suggest easily implementable solutions.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star tools can be a good place to start.

16) “Buying renewable energy for my home would be a complicated and confusing process.”
Given the rising use of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, to help combat global warming, prices have fallen and greater resources exist to help consumers make renewable power purchases. Today, about 75 million electricity customers in 42 U.S. states have the option to buy this “green” power through their utility or an alternative power supplier. U.S. consumers can find out if green power is available in their area by visiting the U.S. Department of Energy’s green pricing page.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Green Power Network, “Can I buy green power in my state?

Food

17) “If I’m eating foods that are ‘organic’ then I’m doing all I can to fight global warming.”
In fact, there are many ways in which small changes to your daily or weekly diet can help combat global warming. For example, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads. Having one meat-free day per week would be the same as taking 8 million cars off American roads. Buying from local farmers and ranchers cuts emissions from food transportation even if you don’t cut out any meat. And, frozen food uses 10 times more energy to produce, so eating fresh is both health and energy-saving. About 14,160 pounds of carbon dioxide per U.S. household results from just growing, preparing and shipping our food; even small changes can make an impact.
Source: University of Chicago, Department of Geophysical Sciences, “Diet, Energy and Global Warming”.

 

Recycling

18) “I don’t always remember to recycle, but it doesn’t have a significant impact on global warming anyway.”
Recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps prevent global climate change by reducing the amount of energy used by industry, which involves burning fossil fuels like gasoline, diesel and coal – the most important sources of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. Additional benefits are derived from reduced emissions from incinerators and landfills and by slowing the harvest of trees, which are natural carbon sinks. According to some estimates, recycling reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 2 million metric tons of carbon equivalent in 2004.
Source: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Recycling Saves Our Environment.


Basic science

19) “Humans are only responsible for a small amount of the carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere each year, so global warming must be natural.”
In fact, human activity since the beginning of the industrial revolution has been the primary reason for the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) started to be burned, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased from about 280 parts per million to 380 parts per million in just 200 years. Land use changes have contributed to increased carbon dioxide levels, and emissions of methane and nitrous oxides from human activities have also contributed to global warming. In 2003, the average U.S. household produced 12.4 tons of carbon dioxide from its household operations and approximately 11.7 tons from its automotive uses; the total indirect carbon emissions per household (e.g., from electricity purchase and consumption) were 35 tons.
Sources:  U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Fourth Assessment Report: Working Group I Report “The Physical Science Basis” February 2007; Catherine Brahic, NewScientist.com, May 16, 2007.

20) “Current global warming falls within historical changes – the Earth has been warming and cooling for millions of years.”
It is true that the Earth goes through cycles of warm and cold periods due to the interaction of many factors, including especially small variations in the planet’s tilt and rotation. A big difference now, however, is that pollution from human activity is causing the climate to change. This change is very rapid by historical standards. In fact, eleven of the last twelve years rank among the warmest since temperatures were first recorded in the late 19th century.
Sources: U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2007 Synthesis Report, p. 30; National Audubon Society, “Global Warming: Get the Facts”.

21) “The science of global warming is too uncertain to take action.”
The most respected scientific bodies have stated unequivocally that global warming is occurring, and people are causing it by burning fossil fuels (like coal, oil and natural gas) and cutting down forests. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, which in 2005 the White House called “the gold standard of objective scientific assessment,” and 10 other National Academies of Science have stated that “the scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action.” The only debate in the science community about global warming is about how much and how fast warming will continue as a result of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, and we have more than enough facts to implement solutions right now.
Source: The National Academies, Joint Statement of National Science Academies: Global Response to Climate Change, 2005.

22) “A temperature rise of a few degrees is inconsequential.”
Even small increases in average global temperatures can have devastating effects on people, wildlife, and the places we live. An average rise of the Earth’s surface temperature of 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit in the last century caused average sea level to rise by 7 inches (17.8 cm). What may seem like a small temperature change has devastating consequences, including loss of Arctic habitat, extinctions, increasingly intense hurricanes, and drought and famine.
Source: National Audubon Society, “Global Warming: Get the Facts”.

23) “Global warming is caused by the sun, not humans.”
Variations in the amount of solar energy reaching Earth have a huge influence on our atmosphere and climate. But there is no correlation between solar activity and the strong warming during the past 40 years. For the last 40 years, while the Earth’s temperature has been rapidly rising, the sun has shown no trend of increased solar radiation. The scientifically recognized reason for global warming is higher levels of greenhouse gases trapping more of the sun’s heat.
Source: Fred Pearce, Climate myths: Global warming is down to the Sun, not humans, NewScientist.com, May 16, 2007.

24) “Scientists only have 145 years of temperature data. This is not long enough to draw accurate conclusions about climate change.”
Historical climate data, including average temperatures, can be derived from sources other than just actual temperature recordings. Studies of the geological record, pollen deposits, oceanic deposits, sea levels and ice cores all reveal important information about climates of the past. This evidence indicates that temperatures have risen about 1.3 degrees F since the late 19th century while greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere have increased by 18% (nitrous oxide), 35% (carbon dioxide), and 148% (methane).
Source: National Wildlife Federation (NWF), Global Warming Myth Busters.

25) “We can’t even accurately predict the weather a week from today, how can we predict what will happen 50 years from now?”
“Weather” and “climate” are very different terms. A weather prediction is a short-term outlook of an hour, a day or perhaps a week. Analysis of the climate, however, involves studying long-term trends over decades or even centuries. The long-term trends of increased temperatures are readily revealed not only in temperature data collected for well over a hundred years, but also in detailed studies of ice cores from Antarctica. Furthermore, sophisticated long-term climate models which accurately track climate changes of the past century can be used to project into the future. Projections for increases in extreme weather events have already been verified by an increasing prevalence of droughts and heavy precipitation events.
Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, “Predicting Climate Change”.

26) “In the 1970s scientists were predicting a coming ice age. Now they say the globe is warming. Why should they be right this time?”
This myth is largely a product of the misinterpretation of scientific findings. While a few scientists thought that global cooling might be happening, there wasn’t the widespread scientific evidence and consensus among scientists that exists today about global warming.
Source: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, “Earth's Temperature Tracker” November 2007.

27) “Ice is building up in central Antarctica, so global warming can’t be happening.”
Ice is building up in central Antarctica, but being lost on the edges and being lost very rapidly in Greenland. The loss of ice from Greenland has doubled in the past ten years, and the vast majority of glaciers around the world have been retreating over the past half century, meaning that they are melting at an alarming rate. In 2007 a record low area of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean was observed, which represented an area of sea ice lost that is equivalent to the size of Alaska and Texas combined. While a few areas of the Earth may actually become cooler as the climate changes, most areas are experiencing significant increases in temperature, with a worldwide average increase of 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit.
Source: National Wildlife Federation (NWF), Global Warm Myth Busters.

28) “Global warming doesn’t affect me.”
How global warming affects you depends on such factors as where and how long you live. Just about every part of the planet has warmed since 1970. As global temperatures climbs to 3°C above present levels – which is likely to happen before the end of this century if greenhouse emissions continue unabated – the consequences will become increasingly severe. Agricultural yields will start to fall in many parts of the world. Millions of people will be at risk from coastal flooding. Heatwaves, droughts, floods and wildfires will take an ever greater toll. Even countries that escape the worst of the direct effects will feel the economic, social and political effects of what happens elsewhere.
Source: Michael Le Page, NewScientist.com, Climate myths: It's too cold where I live - warming will be great, May 16, 2007.

29) “It’s too late to stop climate change.”
Climate change is a continuing process that is already underway. Even if we made drastic cuts today to reduce our emissions from cars, power plants, land use, and other sources, the world would continue to warm because past emissions will stay in the atmosphere for decades or more. Although it is certainly too late to stop all climate change, the longer we delay effective action the more severe the impacts will eventually be. The IPCC (the United Nation’s scientific panel) concludes that, if we take no action to reduce emissions, there will be twice as much warming over the next two decades than if we had stabilized heat-trapping gases and other climate relevant pollutants in the atmosphere at their year 2000 levels.
Sources: Fred Pearce, NewScientist.com, May 16, 2007, Climate myths: We can't do anything about climate change; U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Fourth Assessment Report: Working Group I Report “The Physical Science Basis” p. 12, February 2007

30) “The ‘hockey stick’ graph showing increases in carbon dioxide has been proven to be flawed.”
Scientists have used thousands of independent pieces of evidence gathered over decades to determine that global warming is primarily a result of human activities. The “hockey stick” graph describes the pattern of Northern Hemisphere mean temperature changes over the past millennium, and is so called because of the recent dramatic temperature rises make the graph look like a large hockey stick.  It has been extensively scrutinized, with an independent assessment by the National Academy of Sciences, which in 2005 the White House called “the gold standard of objective scientific assessment,” supporting its conclusions.
Source: Union of Concerned Scientists, “Past, Present, and Future Temperatures: the Hockeystick FAQ”.