The residents of Canada’s most environmentally conscious province may have forgotten that last Saturday, March 29, 2014, was Earth Hour. This year B.C. residents reduced the province’s electricity load by only one per cent.
One percent is the equivalent of turning off 1.4 million lights. That’s not too bad, however, B.C’s energy savings during Earth Hour last year was 1.95 per cent.
In Vancouver, only BC Place and Canada Place turned off their lights for an hour – many other buildings, restaurants, and businesses did not participate.
But to what extent should we be commemorating Earth Hour? An article in the Slate by the Bjorn Lomborg, the adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, challenges the very concept of the annual power saving occasion.
“The organizers say that they are providing a way to demonstrate one’s desire to “do something” about global warming,” Lomborg writes. “But the reality is that Earth Hour teaches all the wrong lessons, and it actually increases CO2 emissions. Its vain symbolism reveals exactly what is wrong with today’s feel-good environmentalism.”
He argues that Earth Hour’s concept of simply switching off the lights only achieves one thing: it makes it difficult to see. Participants around the world are not asked to turn off anything that is really inconvenient, like heating, air conditioning, and everyday computers and electronics.
He cites the United Kingdom’s National Grid operators who have said that a small reduction in power consumption does not equate to less electricity being pumped into the grid. “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,” Lomborg writes.
Candles that are lit during Earth Hour are also almost 100 times less efficient than incandescent light bulbs. Lighting merely one candle would cancel our the theoretical CO2 reduction stated by Earth Hour proponents, and for those who light more than one candle (given the likelihood that one candle is not enough) this would emit even more CO2.
Furthermore, he suggests that staunch environmentalists in the industrialized Western world have ignored the benefits of electricity, its immense role in the advancement of human civilization, and the fact that it provides us with the high qualify of life we enjoy today.
Billions of people around the world do not have the same qualify of life we do because they lack access to electricity and the countless technologies that require power to operate. This includes electric stoves and heaters, while 3 billion people have no other method but to “burn dung, twigs and other traditional fuels indoors to cook and keep warm, generating noxious fumes that kill an estimated 2 million people each year, mostly women and children.”
In addition, “the refrigerator made it possible for almost everyone to eat more fruits and vegetables, and to stop eating rotten food, which is the main reason why the most prevalent cancer for men in the United States in 1930, stomach cancer, is the least prevalent now.”
In wealthy countries, electricity consumption on average is equivalent to having 56 servants while those in Sub-Saharan Africa consume electricity that is equivalent to only about three servants.
Hyper green and environmentally-friendly policies are also hurting the quality of life enjoyed by those in wealthy countries.
“Because of rising energy prices from green subsidies, 800,000 German households can no longer pay their electricity bills. In the United Kingdom, there are now more than 5 million fuel-poor people, and the country’s electricity regulator now publicly worries that environmental targets could lead to blackouts in less than nine months,” stated Lomborg.