Earth Hour 2017: Is Turning Off Your Lights For An Hour Really Helping The Environment?


On March 25, Saturday, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m local time, Earth Hour will be observed in 7,000 cities spread in more than 170 countries. The occasion will be marked by the city skylines in most countries going dark.

At the anointed hour, lights will go off and all buildings including thousands of global landmarks from Vegas to Giza will go dark to observe the occasion.

During the event, people will voluntarily turn off lights and try to reduce emissions in a symbolic way. The event's organizer, World Wildlife Fund, has claimed that this is the largest voluntary action in the world.

Earth Hour As Voluntary Abdication Of Electricity

The abdication of electricity at least for an hour in a year will be supplanted with gestures like dinner under candlelight and cooking in a bonfire. These gestures at a collective level will add solidarity to the efforts in saving energy and of doing something for the planet's preservation.

By switching off lights in houses, businesses, and public buildings for one hour, awareness about energy issues, emissions, and climate change are brought to the center stage.

Earth Hour brings the issue of energy conservation and energy efficiency to the mainstream by seeking changes in the way energy is used. According to physicist David MacKay, an American uses double the amount of energy than his European counterpart in maintaining the same quality of life.

Though the goals of Earth Hour are lofty, there are dissenting voices that doubt its efficacy.

Criticism Of Earth Hour

Energy blogger Maggie Koerth-Baker is of the view that Earth Hour is not sending an adequate message. The blogger criticizes the media as well, as coverage of Earth Hour has been short on discussions regarding energy efficiency.

Also, many people may be disillusioned in knowing that Earth Hour is not contributing much to the actions to combat climate change. Baker says the event limits itself as a symbolic platform to demonstrate to "do something" about global warming.

Yet another critic is Bjørn Lomborg, who said many wrong lessons are being taught by Earth Hour. In reality, Earth Hour only increases carbon dioxide emissions. He says the event smacks of symbolism and reveals what is bad about feel-good environmentalism.

According to Lomborg, the prime message of Earth Hour is that tackling global warming is easy. All that is required is switching off the lights.

The expert says even if the entire world switches off all residential lights for one hour to reduce carbon dioxide emission, that would only match China halting its carbon dioxide emissions for less than four minutes.

Earth Hour Increases Emissions

Lomborg also highlights the paradox that Earth Hour is becoming a cause of higher emissions. There is the finding by National Grid operators in the UK that a mere drop in electricity consumption does not reduce the energy received by the grid and emissions will not be down.

This is because, during Earth Hour, even if there is any reduction in CO2, that will be offset by the additional firings of coal and gas stations for resuming electricity supplies later on.

Even the cozy candles used during Earth Hour are fossil fuels, which are 100 times less efficient than incandescent light bulbs.

Lomborg is also critical of the message from Earth Hour that downplays electricity consumption. Electric power has given humanity huge benefits and allowed mechanization of the world and saved millions of people from backbreaking work.

The author says the best idea that can be promoted during Earth Hour is the greening of the world's energy. He also calls for a new policy that replaces subsidy for unreliable solar and wind energy so that green technologies can phase out fossil fuels.

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