Earth Hour produces a lot of hot air


In case you missed it – or were smart enough to avoid it – the second annual Earth Hour took place Saturday.

Earth Hour, for ignorant troglodytes too wrapped up in working, raising families or generally going about their lives, asks people to turn off their lights on the last Saturday of March between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. and seeks to spread darkness around the world as a symbol of humanity’s desire to affect climate change.

According to the movement’s website Earth Hour “is a global call to action for every individual, every business, and every community. A call to stand up and take control over the future of our planet.”

Of course, Earth Hour is really nothing more than a style over substance because, as Jason King explains, “turning off light bulbs will almost certainly both increase energy usage and spend more money in the process.”

In fact, Earth Hour may actually damage the environment because of one of the most critical laws of economics: the law of unintended consequences, according to King:

“Let’s first consider what a family is saving by turning their “nonessential” lights off. To do this we’ll do some very simple math: being generous, one 100-watt light bulb costs around a penny per hour to operate and generates around 1 tenth of a pound of carbon. If one therefore ran 10 light bulbs, then, a little over 1 pound of carbon would not be emitted and a dime would be saved by Earth Hour.

“The question all individuals should ask themselves is, since this decision doesn’t occur in a vacuum, what alternatives are present to sitting in a dark, lightless house. What is this family going to do in the dark? They might burn candles — and if they’re paraffin, they are based in fossil fuels and will provide a dubious savings in either carbon or monetary cost. If they were to use flashlights instead of light bulbs the result would be an increase in carbon because candles and light bulbs are less energy efficient.

“What if that family drove for 15 minutes, went and watched the stars, and drove back home? That trip would cost whatever a half-hour’s worth of driving costs. If this trip took a gallon of gas, that would create around 20 pounds of carbon dioxide and would cost over $2 … for a dramatically increased cost in cash and carbon.

“One can wonder further about the ramifications on safety and efficiency of turning off “nonessential” lights  and conclude that no meaningful savings can be had. Because households are responsible for only 25% of the total electric lighting, we must also consider the commercial and industrial sectors. Instead of being at home, in darkness, will shopkeepers have to return to their stores to guard them for an hour? Will adults turn on lights in dark rooms when they need to move around the house? Will candles generate more fires? Obviously none of these unforeseen circumstances — all of which seem plausible — will improve our carbon footprint.”

Yes, as with so much else involving the environmental movement, Earth Hour isn’t about real change, it’s about symbolism and empty rhetoric, along with healthy doses of class envy and anti-capitalism. 

Going along with Earth Hour is a sucker’s bet, one the environmental movement is counting on a majority of people to buy into.

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