On Saturday, March 28, cities around the world turned off their
lights to observe “Earth Hour.” Iconic landmarks
from the Sydney Opera House to Manhattan’s skyscrapers
darkened to encourage reduced energy use and signal a commitment
to fighting climate change.
While a one-hour blackout will admittedly have little effect
on carbon emissions, what matters, organizers say, is the event’s
symbolic meaning. That’s true, but not in the way organizers
We hear constantly that the debate is over on climate change—that
man-made greenhouse gases are indisputably causing a planetary
emergency. But there is ample scientific evidence to reject the
claims of climate catastrophe. And what’s never mentioned?
The fact that reducing greenhouse gases to the degree sought
by climate activists would, itself, cause significant harm.
Politicians and environmentalists, including those behind Earth
Hour, are not calling on people just to change a few light bulbs,
they are calling for a truly massive reduction in carbon emissions--as
much as 80 percent below 1990 levels. Because our energy is overwhelmingly
carbon-based (fossil fuels provide more than 80 percent of world
energy), and because the claims of abundant “green energy” from
breezes and sunbeams are a myth--this necessarily means a massive
reduction in our energy use.
People don’t have a clear view of what this would mean
in practice. We, in the industrialized world, take our abundant
energy for granted and don’t consider just how much we
benefit from its use in every minute of every day. Driving our
cars to work and school, sitting in our lighted, heated homes
and offices, powering our computers and countless other labor-saving
appliances, we count on the indispensable values that industrial
energy makes possible: hospitals and grocery stores, factories
and farms, international travel and global telecommunications.
It is hard for us to project the degree of sacrifice and harm
that proposed climate policies would force upon us.
This blindness to the vital importance of energy is precisely
what Earth Hour exploits. It sends the comforting-but-false message:
Cutting off fossil fuels would be easy and even fun! People spend
the hour stargazing and holding torchlit beach parties; restaurants
offer special candlelit dinners. Earth Hour makes the renunciation
of energy seem like a big party.
Participants spend an enjoyable 60 minutes in the dark, safe
in the knowledge that the life-saving benefits of industrial
civilization are just a light switch away. This bears no relation
whatsoever to what life would actually be like under the sort
of draconian carbon-reduction policies that climate activists
are demanding: punishing carbon taxes, severe emissions caps,
outright bans on the construction of power plants.
Forget one measly hour with just the lights off. How about Earth
Month, without any form of fossil fuel energy? Try spending a
month shivering in the dark without heating, electricity, refrigeration;
without power plants or generators; without any of the labor-saving,
time-saving, and therefore life-saving products that industrial
energy makes possible.
Those who claim that we must cut off our carbon emissions to
prevent an alleged global catastrophe need to learn the indisputable
fact that cutting off our carbon emissions would be a global
catastrophe. What we really need is greater awareness of just
how indispensable carbon-based energy is to human life (including,
of course, to our ability to cope with any changes in the climate).
It is true that the importance of Earth Hour is its symbolic
meaning. But that meaning is the opposite of the one intended.
The lights of our cities and monuments are a symbol of human
achievement, of what mankind has accomplished in rising from
the cave to the skyscraper. Earth Hour presents the disturbing
spectacle of people celebrating those lights being extinguished.
Its call for people to renounce energy and to rejoice at darkened
skyscrapers makes its real meaning unmistakably clear: Earth
Hour symbolizes the renunciation of industrial civilization.
Keith Lockitch, PhD in physics, is a fellow at the Ayn Rand
Center for Individual Rights. Ayn Rand Institute and promotes
the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and