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The Never-ending Daylight Saving Debate

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Since the introduction of modern daylight saving time in the early 20th century, many countries have been adjusting the clock one hour ahead in spring and winding it back by one hour during fall.

This practice has been a controversial topic debated by both by the general public and politicians alike. timeanddate.com explores some of the main advantages and disadvantages of daylight saving time.

Daylight Saving Advantages

Many people around the world treasure the extra hour of daylight in the afternoon because they work later hours, exercise in the evenings or need to complete outdoor household chores such as mowing the grass, gardening or fixing windows, roofs or other parts.

Others have reported that daylight saving time could be linked to reduced road injuries. A joint Transport Research Laboratory and University College of London study predicted that less people would be killed and injured in road accidents if one hour of daylight was transferred from the morning to the afternoon. The study supports the adoption of Single Double Summer Time (SDST) in the United Kingdom, where politicians, together with the general public, voice their opinions on the introduction of an extended daylight saving schedule.

Some people believe that the extra hour of daylight in the afternoon or evening gives children more time to interact with a parent who works or studies during the day. It gives families time to socialize or enjoy an outdoor meal together. Others say that the increased daylight leisure time gives them a chance to participate in recreational activities, such as swimming, boating, surfing, or tennis, after a long day of work or study. One local newspaper reported that due to daylight saving time, golfers in Las Cruces, New Mexico (in the United States), came out later in the day and stayed longer into the evening.

And of course, there are arguments on the idea that daylight saving time reduces electricity usage and promotes energy efficiency.

Arguments for Energy Efficiency

In countries such as Canada, Cuba, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, the United States and other parts of the world, daylight saving time is used as a means of conserving energy as the demand for electricity and gas increases. Some say that the extra hour in the afternoon can counter for blackouts and other electrical failures that can occur later in the day. Others say that it influences people to spend more time out of the house, thus decreasing the need for artificial lighting as well as the likelihood of using home electric appliances.

Daylight saving time has already brought a recent one-percent reduction of electricity consumption in Brazil, according to a local newspaper. According to a 2004 Japan Productivity Centre for Socio-Economic Development report, titled Summer Time as a Means to Lifestyle Structural Reform, daylight saving time could reduce about 400,000 tons of CO2 and save energy – up to 930,000 million liters (or about 246 million gallons) of fossil fuel – in the short-term. In the long-term, lighter evenings can reduce bag theft by up to 10 percent. The forum responsible for the study believed that daylight saving time, also referred to as “Summer Time”, could help create an environmentally friendly society that considered energy conservation more often.

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Illustration Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/xpolar

Or is this Energy-Saving Method a Myth?

The California Energy Commission published a report, The Effect of Early Daylight Saving Time on California Electricity Consumption: A Statistical Analysis. According to the report, the extension of daylight saving time in March 2007 had little or no effect on energy consumption in California.

A California Energy Commission staff member released another report, Electricity Savings From Early Daylight Saving Time, in 2007. The report found there was no clear evidence that electricity would be saved from the earlier start to daylight saving time and that there was a chance that there could be a very small increase in electricity.

Research from the University of California showed that having the entire state to switch to daylight saving time would cost Indiana households about $8.6 million in electricity bills each year. The study also estimated social costs of increased pollution emissions that ranged from $1.6 to $5.3 million per year. Moreover, the reduced cost of lighting in afternoons during daylight-saving time was offset by higher air-conditioning costs on hot afternoons and increased heating costs on cool mornings.

Tourism Boost

However, many tourism operators around the world believe that daylight saving time could provide a financial boost for the tourism industry. According to the Belfast Telegraph, changing the clocks to give an hour of extra sunlight in evening could reap Northern Ireland at least £6.34m a year in extra cash from tourists. Shifting that extra hour to the end of the day could boost outdoor activities and bring in an extra two percent in revenue from visitors. Tourism operators throughout the United Kingdom, including North Wales, have already claimed that daylight saving time could boost the tourism industry by millions of pounds each year as the extra afternoon light would lengthen the tourist season.

In Australia, the New South Wales state government announced that an additional four weeks of daylight saving time, observed by the state during the summer period, would have a positive economic impact on the city of Sydney and regional New South Wales. According to the New South Wales government, visitors would be encouraged to stay out later, spend more money and enjoy more sight-seeing activities in New South Wales. An extra month of evening sunlight would also increase opportunities for tourism-related businesses such as retail, hospitality and transport as well as for festivals and events.

In the state of Queensland, Australia, a war of ideas centers on the thought of re-introducing daylight saving time. The decision to reject daylight saving time sparked anger among leaders of south-east Queensland’s tourism industry, many who claim that the state would lose out on millions of dollars by choosing not to adapt to daylight saving time.

The Queensland Government ruled out a referendum on the issue in 2007 after new research revealed that regional and rural Queenslanders remained opposed to the introduction of daylight saving. However, 69 percent of residents and 72 percent of businesses in south-east Queensland, which is highly urbanized and draws in tourism, supported the reintroduction of daylight saving time. There was also the suggestion of splitting time zones in Queensland, but many believed it would alienate regional and rural citizens from other parts of the state.

Other Disadvantages

The extended daylight saving time in some parts of Australia and New Zealand and has affected mobile phones, computers, and other electronic devices, including major integrated telecommunication company Telstra’s speaking clock. Many clocks needed to be adjusted manually or via software updates from device makers.

Mixed flight schedules and inaccurate transportation timetables have caused confusion among travelers, for both personal and business purposes, and regular commuters. The transport industry needed to take into account the costs for adjusting to new time schedules.

Other complaints about daylight saving include the safety fears in the dark mornings, especially for school children waiting for a bus in some areas. Such concerns meant that there was no daylight saving time in 2008 for countries such as Guatemala. The government placed the safety of those who went early to work or study, stating that if daylight saving was implemented, they would be leaving their homes in the dark, the time when crime was at its highest, putting them in potentially dangerous situations.

In countries such as Iraq, there are those who believe that life is less complicated without daylight saving time, thus minimizing confusion and interruption associated with time, including changes to schedules and food preparations.

Farming groups have also expressed anti-daylight saving views, saying that daylight saving time had a significant adverse impact on rural families, businesses, and communities. There are also those who express health concerns linked with daylight saving time. Read more about the link between daylight saving time and health.

Disclaimer: Please note that the opinions and views shared in this article do not necessarily reflect those of timeanddate.com regarding the daylight saving debate.

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