Tonight I am supposed to shut my lights off for an hour to help save the planet. At least that is what some people claim will occur if I revert back to a more primitive stage of human development. Well, sorry to spoil the party, but I won’t be taking part.
Instead, the lights will remain on in my house, and I will continue to get some work done. I encourage others to do the same. Indeed, whole organisations have been formed to proclaim that very message. For example, the Competitive Enterprise Institute is holding what it calls a Human Achievement Hour (HAH). They put it this way:
“On Saturday March 26, 2011, from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm, some people will shut off their lights and spend an hour in darkness as a symbolic vote against global climate change. Observers of Earth Hour want world leaders to ‘do something’ about pollution and energy use. What this means is that they want politicians to use legal mandates and punitive taxes to prevent individuals from freely using resources, hindering our ability to create the solutions and technologies of the future. Instead, the Competitive Enterprise Institute asks you to spend that hour with your lights on in celebration of Human Achievement Hour.
“HAH is an annual event meant to recognize and celebrate the fact that this is the greatest time to be alive, and that the reason we have come is that people have been free to use their minds and the resources in their environment to experiment, create, and innovate. Participants in HAH recognize the necessity to protect the individual persons from government coercion, so that we may continue innovating and improving our lives and the world around us.”
Quite so. The call to go without electricity for an hour is really little more than a stunt – it is pure symbolism which will achieve next to nothing. Sure it will assuage a whole lot of guilty consciences of Westerners who have looked upon environmentalism as a substitute religion.
Instead of dealing with real guilt before their Maker, they indulge in pseudo-guilt about a humanistic crusade to save the earth. Now all of us certainly should be responsible stewards of planet earth, and we all can do our bit. But this one hour of symbolism will do little good, and in fact may do much harm.
Environmental activist Bjorn Lomborg explains: “Copenhagen’s central square hardly competes with New York’s Times Square for glitz, but it is prime commercial space in my home, Denmark. Now there’s a new advertiser among the neon signs: a brightly lit billboard exhorts everyone to participate in Earth Hour, the 60 minutes tonight in which the whole world is urged to dim the lights to cut greenhouse emissions.
“There is a certain irony in renting brightly lit advertising space to exhort us to save electricity for one hour, but this is apparently lost on the organisers. Dimming the lights is promoted online as a ‘vote for mother Earth’ that will reveal ‘the impact we have on the environment’.
“Actually, the only real result will be to make it harder to see. The environmental effect of the past three annual lights-out hours has been negligible. If everyone in the world participated in this year’s Earth Hour, the result would be the same as turning off China’s carbon emissions for roughly 45 seconds.”
And using candles in this feel good foolishness will just make matters worse: “When we switch off the electricity, many of us turn to candlelight. This seems natural and environmentally friendly, but unfortunately candles are almost 100 times less efficient than incandescent light bulbs and more than 300 times less efficient than fluorescent lights. Using one candle for each extinguished bulb cancels the CO2 reduction; two candles emit more CO2.
“Millions of well-intentioned people will take part in Earth Hour. I commend the efforts by organisers to encourage participants to continue engaging in environmentally friendly choices such as recycling or saving energy after the hour has ended. But I fear the campaign is symptomatic of an environmental movement that is too focused on hollow, feel-good actions that at best only inch us in the right direction.
“In a bid to cut carbon emissions, the environmental movement has pushed for ‘green’ alternative energy to be used across the world. Many countries now provide financial support to solar panels and wind turbines. But this technology is still inefficient, so the environmental results are negligible.”
Turning off the lights for 60 minutes is all about Western consumers feeling good about themselves, but nothing much else. Indeed, when we look at the bigger plans to make substantial climate change, the scientists pushing all this admit that the results will be negligible, and will take a very long time indeed to do any good. Andrew Bolt has recently pinned down two of these experts. Consider this exchange between Bolt and Tim Flannery:
Bolt: But we’re just trying to get basic facts, without worrying about the consequences – about what those facts may lead people to think. On our own, by cutting our emissions, because it’s a heavy price to pay, by 5 per cent by 2020, what will the world’s temperatures fall by as a consequence?
Flannery: Look, it will be a very, very small increment.
Bolt: Have you got a number? I mean, there must be some numbers.
Flannery: I just need to clarify in terms of the climate context for you. If we cut emissions today, global temperatures are not likely to drop for about a thousand years.
Did you get that? A thousand years! And that is if we work for major emissions reduction in the years ahead, not just turn off the lousy lights for a paltry hour. Consider also Bolt’s discussion with Professor John Daley of the Grattan Institute:
Bolt: I’m very familiar with that argument, that if we don’t move, no one else will, and nothing’s done and it all goes to hell in a handbasket. What I’m trying to do is just get to the bottom-line facts: if we spend these umpteen billions on cutting emissions further, to the five per cent by 2020, how much will Australia’s action alone cut the world’s temperature by? That must be measured somewhere. That must be part of your report.
Daley: Well, I think it’s not been measured anywhere because it’s not seen as being the right way to think about this.
Bolt: Well it would be. People want to know the gain for the pain. Have a guess then.
Daley: The reality is that no country in the world is cutting their emissions alone…So to what extent are we doing our fair share?…
Bolt: Look, we’ve got that argument…. I’ll ask just one last time… If you don’t know just say so, but if you do know, I know it’s got all those caveats, but just tell us how much the world’s temperature will fall if we do what you recommend and what Julia Gillard plans.
Daley: As I said, we haven’t run the numbers on how much it will make a difference if Australia acts completely alone.
Bolt: You should have.
Daley: The reason we haven’t done that is because Australia is not acting alone. Therefore it’s not a very helpful thing to analyse.
Here we have more admissions of ignorance and futility, yet we are being urged to do something, do it now, and not worry about the economic consequences, the higher taxes, the reduction in the standard of living, and the diminution of our freedoms.
Given, all this, I suggest you watch the footy tonight, or surf the Net, or use your electric barbecue, or watch a DVD. It will be more satisfying and productive than so much of this environmental silliness being bandied about.