Although it may seem as though it is an important symbolic step in the right direction, noted environmentalist Bjørn Lomborg says that Earth Hour is just a waste of time. In fact, Lomborg noted that the event sends the wrong message to the world.
In an opinion piece for USA Today, the Copenhagen Business School professor and ex-director of the Environmental Assessment Institute argued that the popular movement was simply a “feel-good campaign.” In fact, Lomborg proceeded to articulate his view that Earth Hour actually works to increase CO2 emissions and therein negatively impact climate change.
Lomborg’s main argument centers around the fact that there are some 1.3 billion people without any access to electricity. He notes that this leads to dangerous practices such as burning manure for light and warmth which is linked to millions of deaths annually.
It is Lomborg’s belief that Earth Hour is promoting lofty idealism without a hard look at the facts. By asserting the necessity of renewable energy sources and moderation when considering electricity usage, Earth Hour hurts the poorest people the most.
Lomborg attests to an unfair standard that is used when considering energy sources for the developing world. Western powers often refuse to back the development of coal or gas-fired plants due to their high emissions, although the developed world only uses 0.8% renewable energy. In this sense, Earth Hour reinforces faulty notions. Essentially, the Copenhagen environmentalist says that the hour is a waste of time as it does very little to solve any real problems, sends the wrong message to the poorest people, and ignores the harsh double standards that the West often employs to feel good.
In fact, numerous cities across the globe are reporting lackluster reductions in energy usage. For instance, the city of Calgary had reductions that were just a negligible fraction of a percent. Some years have actually seen increased usage of electricity in recent years during Earth Hour. In total, Lomborg attests that the entire movement across the world will be equivalent to stopping China’s emissions for only four minutes.
On top of that, there have been counter-Earth Hour movements that have sprung up in response to some of the accused ineptitude of Earth Hour. Human Achievement Hour is one such response and it encourages its followers to celebrate capitalism and liberty by acting in an otherwise normal fashion, but appreciating the electronic devices around them.
Lomborg argues that for real and substantial change to occur, the environmental movement must recognize the real and substantial problems facing the world’s environment. He argues Earth Hour is a comp-out as it were that deflects interest in tangible solutions, and although its proponents have the best of intentions, their efforts are in fact counter-intuitive.
Instead, Lomborg encourages people to look for solutions that benefit both those who are most poor and most needy as well as the longevity of Earth’s natural environment. Although the environmentalist says that the Earth Hour movement is a waste of time, perhaps more general and concerted efforts to reduce environmental impact while at the same time considering the planet’s least fortunate are in order.
By Brett Byers-Lane