NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Earth Hour Will Harm Environment

March 18, 2013

March 23 is an important day for the world's electricity users. More than 1 billion people will participate in the environmental event dubbed "Earth Hour" by simultaneously turning off their lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. While the intentions of feel-good environmentalists are noble, Earth Hour will actually harm the environment, rather than save it, says Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center.

  • The first flaw is that Earth Hour only addresses a small fraction of total energy consumption by asking participants to only turn off their lights while leaving heating, air conditioning, television, computer, mobile phone and other appliances out of the picture.
  • If this were a truly beneficial action, why wouldn't we do it more often?

In fact, turning off the lights during Earth Hour will actually raise overall carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

  • While energy consumption and carbon output will be lower for that hour, firing up coal or gas stations to meet the surge of energy following that hour will offset the carbon benefits of this proposed idea.
  • Even candles, a fossil fuel energy source 100 times less efficient than incandescent bulbs, will create more CO2.

Electricity has already reduced the environmentally pollution from individual families burning coal, as was common 100 years ago in America.

  • Electricity has enabled the developed world to lower indoor pollution, mechanize many tasks, irrigate fields and stay up past sunset being productive.
  • The average amount of electricity consumed by an individual in the developed world is equivalent to 56 servants helping them.

People all over the world, from Africa to Asia, are the beneficiaries of expanding access to electricity, which raises the quality of life and economic output of their country. Increasingly, green subsidies and environmental targets in developed countries are threatening to make energy less affordable because the technologies that produce solar, wind and other renewable energies are too expensive.

  • Trying to reduce consumption is the wrong way to approach the future's energy needs.
  • The most appropriate action to address the world's energy needs is to support research and development, which will create renewable technologies that will outcompete fossil fuels and not require heavy-handed subsidies to survive in the marketplace.

Source: Bjorn Lomborg, "Blinded by the Light," Project Syndicate, March 13, 2013.


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