Saturday, March 31, 2012

Problems with Earth Hour

Edinburgh Castle on the WWF site
Switching electricity off for 60 minutes on the last Saturday of March is a token, reminding us how good it is not to use electricity.

Three problems.

Likely shale gas reserves
First, while saving money and resources is good, the generation of electricity has brought huge good to humankind and it will be a shame if our token switch off implies the use of electricity and resources is bad per se.  On the contrary, resources add value to human life and existence, especially as a means of relieving poverty as Ross McKittrick emphasises in this article which is well worth a read.  Here is an extract:
"Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century. Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity. . . . The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. . . "
Second, Earth Hour is all to do with the fear of catastrophic climate change.  The Earth Hour website says so. (Note how the page is short on a making a direct connection between human activity and changing climate. It implies our action in Earth Hour is needed to counter 'the greatest threat to the planet', global warming.)  So it is not about economy or efficiency or even careful husbanding of resources.  It is about 'preventing dangerous climate change'.

Thirdly, since we have mentioned tokenism and the 'mentality' around Earth Hour, could there be other effects not mentioned on the website.  I suggest the event contributes to a Luddite response to opportunities to address pressing issues which affect people and especially the poor.  Why is it that we are not seizing opportunities to improve the lot of human kind?

Take shale gas for example.
"Thus shale gas has changed the game and not only in terms of hydrocarbons supply: it has provided the US with a chance to launch an economic recovery based on manufacturing and exports." The full article from Standpoint magazine is well worth reading.
Yet the pressing issues of the day are lost on WWF, promoters of Earth Hour. Fear of global warming, 'the greatest threat to the planet' at some future point, in their mindset trumps opportunities to improve the human condition now.
". . .a new dash for gas could see global temperatures skyrocket."  Note the repeated alarmist rhetoric at its website here, ignoring the well established facts surrounding shale gas
Earth Hour and WWF depend on an alarmist mindset which assumes CO2 emissions are causing a catastrophe.  So much of the evidence served up for this assumption has proved faulty so far.  The tokenism and mindset is to set the well being of people well below the fear of catastrophe.

So this evening I will celebrate the usual efficient use of the resources available to me.  I care for people and for the planet.  But I am not a Luddite.


  1. I used to support the WWF but no longer for most of the same reasons you have highlighted in your post.

    An article you may be interested in about the latest WWF report can be found at:

    Basically the WWF, and groups like them, would rather we take a backwards approach to save the planet and end up in extreme poverty with no technical advances.

    I do think we should be lowering our impact on the planet as much as possible, but I am a great believer that improving technologies is the answer.

    However the current renewables will never lessen our impact, and specifically with wind turbines, this may actually be increasing our impact on the planet, and is another technology that serves as green tokenism with little to none actual environmental benefits.

  2. Exactly. And the article seems a good analysis.