Outdoor LED lights were supposed to be a solution to light pollution, but a new study revealed that they have only made things worse.
Artificial light is found to be growing brighter and becoming more extensive every year, as the world's nights are slowly being lost.
The Problem Of Light Pollution
Light pollution refers to the excessive and inappropriate usage of artificial outdoor light. The phenomenon disrupts the sleep cycle of humans, resulting in metabolic disorders and affecting health. It can also affect the migration and reproduction patterns of animals such as birds and fish, and was found to have brought spring to the United Kingdom a week in advance.
A team of researchers from Germany studied satellite observations from five previous Octobers, and discovered that the artificially lit outdoor area of the Earth increased by 2 percent every year from 2012 to 2016.
However, researchers pointed out that the light pollution problem is actually worse than that. This is because the imaging sensor on the weather satellites that took the images are not able to detect the blue that is generated by LED lights, which means some light is missed.
LED Lights Make Light Pollution Worse
"Honestly, I had thought and assumed and hoped that with LEDs we were turning the corner. There's also a lot more awareness of light pollution," said Christopher Kyba of the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences. "It is quite disappointing."
Kyba and his colleagues expected to see declines in light pollution in wealthy cities and industrial areas as the trend of switching from orange sodium lights to more energy-efficient LED lights continued. However, according to their research, the United States stayed just as bright while the United Kingdom and Germany became even brighter.
LED lights offer the advantage of lower energy consumption, making the switch to using the technology an easy decision. However, instead of LED lights leading to energy savings and decreased levels of outdoor lighting, the technology has backfired. Due to the energy savings, there are now even more lights outdoors, contributing to the light pollution problem instead of helping solve it.
How To Fight Back Against Light Pollution
LED outdoor lights as a way to fight back against light pollution is a bust, but there are other light pollution solutions available.
The International Dark-Sky Association, an organization that looks to address light pollution, recommended families to switch to energy efficient bulbs and to keep their blinds and curtains drawn at night. The IDA also urges people to only use outdoor lighting when necessary, including installing motion detector lights so that they would only activate when needed.
Perhaps the most effective way of solving the light pollution problem, however, is to spread awareness. Light pollution is not a widely discussed topic, but if more people talk about it and understand the negative effects, then there may be bigger initiatives in fighting back against it.