Let Your Lights Shine – For the Environment

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.


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27 Replies to “Let Your Lights Shine – For the Environment”

  1. We may well be without electricity for an hour tonight (or a lot more than an hour) whether we choose it or not. And our power in this country is generated by hydro plants…
    John Symons

  2. “Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness … it encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called ‘The Earth’, all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity.” – Professor Ross McKitrick

    Stephen Frost

  3. I agree it’s a symbolic gesture, since power turbines go into idle when demand reduces and the effect on CO2 emissions is moot. But that’s not really the point. Participating in Earth Hour is a way of reminding ourselves that we need to take some personal responsibility for the environment. If it causes people to think more about ways of reducing their energy consumption in the long term, then it will have an effect.

    As for candles and CO2 emissions, Lomborg’s point is only true in respect of paraffin candles. Candles made from soy or beeswax are carbon-neutral because any CO2 they release by burning was only recently absorbed by plants from the atmosphere. The current problem with greenhouse gases arises because we are pumping carbon into the atmosphere in a few decades that was sequestered over millions of years.

    Len Williamson, Qld

  4. Thanks Len

    As I mention in my piece, there is of course a place to be good stewards of planet earth. But many of the Green solutions being advanced are not only counterproductive, but will curtail the very thing that really can help the environment – economic growth. The worst polluting nations in the world also happen to be the poorest nations in the world. Many of the Greens hate business and productivity, and want to see it all curtailed.

    There is nothing wrong with engaging in these little bits and pieces, but it is always the bigger picture that we need to keep in mind. And the problem with such token symbolic gestures is that many will be tempted to think, ‘Well I did my bit for an hour, so now it is back to business as usual’.

    And the availability of cheap and reliable electricity has been such a boon for the world, that we really do need to resist the anti-electricity, anti-energy, anti-business and anti-free market forces who are often behind all this Green zealotry. See here for example:

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  5. It would be nice if the general public could get hold of the truth. No-one seems capable or honest enough to give us the numbers on so-called climate change and how a carbon tax will help. Even taxing ‘carbon’ that yucky black stuff that fires leave behind is misleading as what they really want to tax is a colourless, odourless gas that is one of the main nutrients of plant life.

    If coal is CO2 that has been in the ground for centuries surely that means that at one point all that CO2 was in the atmosphere, in which case we are just recirculating it.

    Kylie Anderson

  6. Don’t forget Jill Duggan, the Director General of Climate Action, couldn’t even specify the cost or impact of Europe’s ETS. You could tell during the interview with Price and Bolt that she hasn’t much experience talking to outsiders. Lives in a bureaucratic, hermetically sealed off bubble like much of the Left.

    Anyway, something that is going to cost in the billions or trillions and we don’t even know roughly how much it is going to cost or what difference in temperature?

    What a joke.

    Damien Spillane

  7. Len Williamson you have a faulty conclusion because of a faulty presupposition. Who says fossil fuels were “sequestered over millions of years”? And who says that by releasing that carbon now we will be creating a problem?

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  8. Ewan,

    “Who says fossil fuels were “sequestered over millions of years”?

    Geologists and Paleontologists do. It takes time, pressure and temperature to produce coal and oil, and many generations of decaying organic matter to produce the quantities found in reserves. If the process was quick we could simply make more by throwing trees into swamps and waiting.

    And who says that by releasing that carbon now we will be creating a problem?

    Climate scientists do. The greenhouse effect is real. If it wasn’t, the earth would be the same temperature as the moon, i.e. -15C. We’ve increased CO2 from 280 to 390ppm in a few generations, not to mention other greenhouse gases. The temperature and climate impacts are measurable and observable and agree with the predictions to date.

    Len Williamson

  9. Oops. It’s possible that some of us in NSW forgot Earth Hour while we were glued to the TV election results.
    Terry Darmody

  10. Re symbolic action: we need very little symbolic action. Nor do we need personalities pushing a barrow. We need policies of substance that will make a difference.

    And I do keep saying: “The trees and pasture grasses on my little farm, the vegetables and flowers in my garden, need all the CO2 they can get.

    Greg Brien

  11. Len, were you aware that Norway has had a ‘carbon’ tax since 1990, yet, according to Prof Bob Carter in the latest “Quadrant”, their CO2 emissions have still risen by 15% during that time?
    According to NOAA, satellite measurement of temperatures show that there have been no unusual variations in global temperatures in the recent past.
    The ‘hockey stick’ graph was a figment of Mann’s imagination.
    Dunstan Hartley

  12. Without any prompting from any one, I made a concerted effort to switch every light in my house on. This is not the first time that I have made this protest. I did note rather a lot of lights in houses around me which were not on. Still….nil desperandum!
    John Rayner

  13. Len

    Your first point is well taken but as for the second there is no agreement among climate scientists.

    “Climate scientists do. The greenhouse effect is real. If it wasn’t, the earth would be the same temperature as the moon, i.e. -15C. We’ve increased CO2 from 280 to 390ppm in a few generations, not to mention other greenhouse gases. The temperature and climate impacts are measurable and observable and agree with the predictions to date.”

    But you ignore the fact that humans contribute only 4% of that CO2 and the more that CO2 increases the less green house effect it has. And the ice core records show that CO2 increases are the effect, not cause, of global warming.

    Damien Spillane

  14. Damien,

    If what you say is true, Venus should be cooler than Mercury because it is further from the Sun. But it is much hotter, because of a runaway greenhouse effect.

    I don’t know where you get the 4% figure from. The increase from the pre-industrial average is about 39%. Ice core records show that CO2 levels haven’t, until very recently, risen above 280ppm for at least 300,000 years, long before human civilisation. There’s plenty of references for this if you care to look it up.

    Len Williamson

  15. Len, I still say you are wrong on both counts. Coal and oil can be produced in a laboratory in a matter of weeks. All it takes is pressure and heat and it can be produced in a short time. Anyone can see that the vast coal seams could not have been produced by slow and gradual processes. It makes much more sense under a catastrophic scenario.

    Nobody is arguing that CO2 does not produce a greenhouse effect and that this is beneficial to life on earth. As Damien says, there is great dispute as to whether anthropogenic contributions have any adverse effect whatsoever on the earth’s climate. In fact there are good reasons to think an increase in CO2 concentrations would be beneficial to life on earth.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  16. Bill, I find it hard to understand why you make these statements. I try to save electricity, water, fuel, gas and everything I use constantly. God has made me a steward of his creation and therefore I will continue to be conscious of everything I use, no matter how big or small a difference it makes to the world. I look after this earth because God has instructed me to do so, no matter what scientists say or if they are able to measure it.

    And if somebody came up with a good idea to bring awareness to people, I support them and spread the word that this should become a lifestyle, not just a yearly event!
    Werner Peens

  17. Thanks Werner

    But perhaps you have not read my article and the comments, or at least not read them very carefully. I should not have to repeat myself here, but I already said that we are to be good stewards of God’s planet, and we can all do our bit. But if a given action turns out to be counterproductive, or supports the agendas of those who wish to destroy or immobilise the West, then I am not at all interested in joining such efforts.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  18. Werner, I work hard to disciple people in caring for the environment and live an active example of picking up garbage off the street when I am walking and challenge my friends regularly about recycling instead of throwing their cans and paper in the garbage and so on. BUT at the same time I am not going to turn my lights off supporting agendas that are essentially anti creativity and productivity (which are also vital keys for our economies to continue to grow) and massively misinformed. There are a lot of ideas out there that seem good and helpful but the implications are devastating.
    Clive Ins

  19. Dear Bill, I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life as Earth Hour. I noticed it was advertised in our Church bulletin but I am not surprised as a lot of Catholics love to feel good. Ask them to stand on the grass verge outside an abortion clinic for an hour and pray they wouldn’t do that because it wouldn’t have the same effect. No wonder Jesus referred to humans as sheep because we can be just as silly.
    Patricia Halligan

  20. Anything that is not done for the glory of God will not in the end be for the true benefit of man either. It will fall far short of it’s goals and fizzle into nothing.
    C.S. Lewis says it well in his 1946 Lecture called “Man or Rabbit?”, “If Christianity should happen to be true, then it is quite impossible that those who know this true and those who don’t should be equally well equipped for leading a good life. Knowledge of the facts must make a difference to ones’s actions….”
    We all do things for different ideas and the rightness or wrongness of an idea will manifest in the actions coming from the ideas. As David Nobel says “ideas have consequences and wrong ideas have wrong consequences.”
    Just let’s continue to do things for the glory of the Living Lord Jesus and we can be pretty certain it will benefit man, for God so loved… and his character will be revealed through our obedience.
    Ursula Bennett

  21. Bill,
    The turning of lights for earth hour for an hour will only save about ten percent of the energy used in that hour. Also the carbon tax should include a breathing tax on all animals including ourselves because we breath in air and exhale CO2.

    Neil Herbert

  22. Apparently Fairfax is one of the owners of the stunt. Brisbane City Council has used its resources to get behind Earth Hour. I hope their sponsorship has not cost ratepayers, just so their PR machine could feel good.
    Actions 365 days a year shout much louder than Earth Hour.

    Phil Young

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