Daylight savings doesnt mean extra daylight

I see the fatuous campaign for “an extra hour of daylight” has started up again, this time using alledged carbon savings as one of its many arguments. After so many previous attempts to introduce this, why has it failed before? Maybe its because all of their arguments are wrong, and their newest line of attack is no more correct that the others.

The first and biggest argument used is that this will save lives. Road accidents, they claim wil be reduced. As luck would have it, we can test this claim. Between October 1968 and October 1971, we went onto British Standard Time, where we were one hour ahead of GMT all year round. Campaigners, such as 10:10 and Lighter Later, point to this period as proof that accidents would be reduced. In 1968, 6,810 people were killed on Britain’s roads, the following year (the first full year of the experiment), it rose to 7,365. A blip? No, in 1970 it rose again, to 7,499, and then again to 7,699 and AGAIN to 7,763 in 1972. It only started to fall again until after the experiment. See the graph below, compiled from statistics from the Department for Transport.

Road deaths in the UK since 1965

Those red dots are the years when British Standard Time was in operation. I’ve put them in red because that “experiment” ended up killing 3,750 people over 5 years, unecessarily. I doubt that all of them were in Scotland. Even road accidents of all severities went up. In total an additional 37,000 people were killed or injured during the experiment. So let’s hear no more about it reducing accidents. Its not extra daylight, it means an extra hour of darkness in the morning. If you want to see the figures for yourself, its here.

Another so-called benefit is the boost to tourism. Its apparently 80,000 jobs, although nowhere is there any study to show where or how these jobs will be created. But lets look at that. During the winter, the extra hour will mean the sun setting at 6pm or earlier. Its hardly going to encourage additional visitors to tourist attractions or destinations. The winter weather will have a bigger effect than the daylight. During the summer, it is already light until gone 9pm during much of the summer, and often later, especially the further north and west you go. Are we really saying that theres a queue of people desperate to use Alton Towers at 10pm at night?

The argument used by sporting authorities is spurious for a similar reason. Apparently there are thousands of amatuer footballers who cannot play in the evenings during the winter without floodlights. Again, if they are playing after 6pm, they wont be helped – they’ll still need floodlights. If they play at the weekend, then matches usually take place on a Sunday lunchtime. Not a time that will be affected by this change.

Reducing crime is another argument used, but its difficult to see where this comes from. Our street lighting turns night into day for criminals as it is, so I dont think the real sort of daylight will deter criminals more than the artificial kind. IN any case, there are numerous studies which show that crime is reduced where street lights are turned off – criminals, like the rest of us, dont like working in the dark. If we want to reduce crime, we should switch off the streetlights.

Whenever this comes up, its often said that if Scotland is too affected, then they can have a different time zone. Should Devon have one too? And Wales? A simple check of the sunrise times for Plymouth in December show that under the new scheme, the sun wouldnt rise until after 9am for most of the month. And all we have to show for it is sunset as early as 5.15pm. The vast majority of people would still be going to work in the dark, and coming home in the dark. Its a little known fact that sunrise gets later the further WEST you go, as well as the further North.

Lastly we come to the most ridiculous argument of them all. The so-called Carbon savings. Now my day-job is to save energy. I am tasked with reducing the carbon footprint of our council, so I know what would save energy and what wouldnt. And unless this scheme gives us extra daylight, instead of just moving an hour of it from the morning to the evening, it wont save anything. And its not just my opinion, either. Studies have been done in Indiana, Australia and Portugal into what happened to energy bills when clocks were changed to give additional daylight in the evenings. In all 3 real-world cases, energy use went up, when it was predicted to go down. And the answer is pretty obvious, when you think about it. Theres an extra hour of darkness in the morning, an hour which needs artificial light, when it didnt before. That hour is a cold hour in the morning – it needs heating in a way it perhaps didnt when it was in the evening and people were still at work. By the time working people get home in the winter, its still dark. It doesnt matter to them whether its been dark for 30 minutes, or dark for an hour and a half, they still need lights. As Joe Romm says over at Climate Progress, Daylight Savings save as much energy as Daylight, maybe less.

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3 Responses to Daylight savings doesnt mean extra daylight

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Daylight savings doesnt mean extra daylight « John Ruddy's Politics Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Pamela says:

    Another excellent post. It is important to debunk the energy saving claims as those who bring this up perennially have really latched onto the energy saving bandwagon and have attracted more support because of it.

    Whilst theoretical studies in the UK have predicted that energy use will go down, real world examples – such as those you linked to – show the opposite happens.

    I think one reason that this is the case is the ‘extra’ hour of darkness requires more energy to heat to a given temperature in the morning because it is starting from the overnight low temperatures than the hour of darkness in the evening which begins with residual daytime temperatures.

  3. jruddy says:

    Yes, the same thing happens with our council buildings controlled by the Building Management system. When the clocks go back, the computer starts the heating a bit later, as it doesnt need so long to heat it up.

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