Saturday, March 23, 2013

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Earth Hour: Symbolic Action or Empty Gesture?

At 8:30 local time millions of people all over the world will shut off their lights for an hour in support of Earth Hour. Earth Hour was created six years ago in Australia as "a way for citizens to show their desire for action on climate change and their willingness to be part of that process" according to Andy Ridley Executive Director of Earth Hour.

While Earth Hour certainly seems to have the best of intentions, there are also many outspoken critics of Earth Hour who feel that it is not only a meaning less gesture but may actually increase energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. According to Prof. Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, ""Earth Hour teaches us that tackling global warming is easy. Yet, by switching off the lights, all we are doing is making it harder to see." He goes on to say "And the cozy candles that many participants will light, which seem so natural and environmentally friendly, are still fossil fuels -- and almost 100 times less efficient than incandescent light bulbs. Using one candle for each switched-off bulb cancels out even the theoretical CO2 reduction; using two candles means that you emit more CO2."

In response to these charges Ridley says "How much energy does it save? I genuinely have no idea -- and more importantly, that genuinely isn't the point." "Earth Hour does not purport to be an energy [or] carbon reduction exercise, it is a symbolic action," says Keya Chatterjee, director of international climate policy with WWF. Ridley goes on to say "How could one hour in any way be enough?". Lomborg's counters by saying "Global warming is a real problem, but Earth Hour is not the answer. Taken to its logical conclusion, if switching the lights off for one hour is a good idea, why not for all the other 8,759 hours of the year?"

Earth Hour, good, bad or indifferent? Where do you stand?

Information from this blog entry came from these sources:

You can find the official home page of Earth Hour here:


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