Slate: Earth Hour is all wrong

Ah yes. Another annual opportunity for slacktivism approaches. If you’re all done with clicking LIKE to cure some Indian child with a facial abscess and you’ve signed that online petition against whales (or Wales), you too can switch your lights off for an hour and save the planet.

Or… er… not:

If switching off the lights for one hour per year really were beneficial, why would we not do it for the other 8,759?
Hypothetically, switching off the lights for an hour would cut CO2 emissions from power plants around the world. But, even if everyone in the entire world cut all residential lighting, and this translated entirely into CO2 reduction, it would be the equivalent of China pausing its CO2 emissions for less than four minutes.

Well worth it then? No.

As the United Kingdom’s National Grid operators have found, a small decline in electricity consumption does not translate into less energy being pumped into the grid, and therefore will not reduce emissions. Moreover, during Earth Hour, any significant drop in electricity demand will entail a reduction in CO2 emissions during the hour, but it will be offset by the surge from firing up coal or gas stations to restore electricity supplies afterward.

But if you do still decide to continue with switching the lights off, then don’t even think about lighting a candle:

[They] 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.

That won’t bother anyone taking part though, because they will feel that they are doing their bit, making a difference. And while a little bit of me wants to correct them on that fact, it’ll only upset them. And the only thing worse than a misinformed tree-hugger is a sad tree-hugger.

But, if you are one of those people who thinks that they can absolve themselves of all their environmental misdeeds simply by clicking a switch on Saturday, perhaps you should consider a better way of reducing your impact on the planet, because what you are planning is a complete waste of time – and electricity.

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