We won’t be participating in Earth Hour at Bag End tonight, just as we haven’t in previous years. Apart from the fact that we’re on solar power here, so turning off the lights for an hour, a week or even a year won’t reduce our CO2 emissions, I think Earth Hour is a crock.
Earth Hour, which since 2007 has been promoted by the WWF and the Fairfax press in Australia, seems innocuous enough at first glance. If you’re concerned about climate change, turn your lights off for an hour, shut off the TV and sit in the dark. The promoters of the event make a big deal about figures showing lowered electricity demand during the annual event, and claim their event raises awareness.
Awareness is not action. Climate change is the possibly greatest threat human civilisation has ever faced, and the increasingly gloomy predictions of runaway global warming this century and beyond are a call to action. Most of the people who participate in Earth Hour won’t take any substantive action to reduce their greenhouse emissions, because Earth Hour peddles the dangerous mistruth that you can combat climate change through small-scale actions like changing to fluorescent light bulbs or using ethanol-blended fuel.
To prevent global warming, the developed world will have to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% by 2050, and even then some warming will occur before the global climate stabilises. Even the small amount of warming that has occurred to date has had significant effects, with more severe storms, widespread drought and glacier melt. Species have already become extinct. I’m sure I don’t have to go through all the science in detail.
The changes that will be required to prevent a global catastrophe are huge, and every day that passes without coordinated global action increases the scale of what is needed and the cost of acting. Symbolic actions like Earth Hour may increase awareness about climate change, but they also risk encouraging complacency – “We did our bit during Earth Hour; now we can go back to driving our kids to school in huge 4WDs and flying around the planet at the drop of a hat.”
Earth Hour doesn’t reduce CO2 emissions in any meaningful way (in fact, all the paraffin-wax candles burning tonight will go a fair way to cancelling out any saving). You could have Earth Hour 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it still wouldn’t be enough. You can’t shop your way out of the climate crisis – the only solution is to massively reduce greenhouse gas emissions now, and move quickly to a renewable energy-based economy. Climate change is a looming catastrophe that needs a ‘war effort’-like response, not a bunch of middle-class do-gooders sitting around by candlelight and singing Kumbayah.
So I’m against Earth Hour, and won’t be playing along tonight. If you happen past my house at 8:30 tonight, it’ll be modestly lit with low-wattage bulbs powered by solar energy, as it is every night. If you choose to participate, good on you, but I hope you’ll be fighting for real action as well.
OTOH if you’re one of the loonies joining the ‘Human Achievement Hour’ protest, I hope your SUV kills you.