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Policy & Politics change the clocks to cut carbon emissions

Published on June 25th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan

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Research: Move Clocks Forward to Cut Carbon Emissions



change the clocks to cut carbon emissions

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A peer-reviewed study soon to be published in the journal Energy Policy shows that moving clocks forward an hour in Britain would substantially cut carbon emissions.

The new study by Dr Elizabeth Garnsey of Cambridge University’s Department of Engineering shows that if Brits moved their clocks forward an hour for the whole year, the carbon emissions saved would be the same as taking 200,000 cars off the road.

“The carbon savings associated with this clock change are significant, equivalent to the carbon footprint of the production of 1,800 plastic bags for every home in Britain every year, or taking around 200,000 cars off the road,” Dr Garnsey says.

The 10:10 campaign has been pushing for exactly this for some time now. It’s Lighter Later initiative proposes a 1-year trial of this idea.

But making this change is not just about carbon savings — matching our daily schedules with the sun’s would benefit people in multiple ways.

“Lighter evenings make us happier, healthier and safer,” Eugenie Harvey, director of 10:10 UK, said on Sunday, the longest day of the year. “But after today the nights will start drawing in again. We’re renewing our call to the government for a trial of Lighter Later’s proposals.”

Of course, doing so in other countries would cut carbon emissions and help people in these other ways as well.

Beyond this macro-scale solution, though, if you want to help to reduce your carbon emissions while living a healthier life, try to match your daily schedule with the daily schedule of the sun in your area yourself. I know this is something I should be doing more, and it was actually my biggest Earth Day resolution. With the days getting shorter again, this becomes more and more important.

I think changing the clocks would be a great move, but we should at least try to do our part on our own if we can.

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Photo Credit: Roby Ferrari via flickr/CC license

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • J

    What makes you think that people’s biological clocks simply won’t “reset” over time and negate those savings.

    Rather than try to re-engineer the human, why not promote energy efficiency. Why shouldn’t efficient lights, tv’s and computers be the order of the day?

    Energy efficiency + renewable energy = problem solved.

  • Jill-E-Bean

    Edit: I meant “increasing” our need for air conditioning..

  • Jill-E-Bean

    This probably has a lot to do with the amount of energy used during winter- The bulk of energy consumption in the residential sector happens during the cold months, in most parts of the world- because most people live in more temperate and cold areas, rather than tropical or even sub-tropical or desert regions.

    To avoid getting into the various climate differences around the world- Here is a link for reference.. http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/climate.htm it should not be assumed that just because it would be better for UK people to warm their homes naturally by day, by setting their clocks forward throughout the year, doesn’t mean that this would be an energy saver for people all over the world. Great Idea for the Brits, but not an especially good idea for people who live closer to the equator- people in the tropics tend to have hotter weather in the late afternoons, so for those people without air conditioning, going to bed is more comfortable if the sun has been down for some time. It stands to reason, then, that if they had A/C, they would probably have to run it for longer, if the sun went down later in the day.

    I live in Florida, and our power expenses generally pile up in the summer months, rather than winter. This past year was the exception- we had an exceptionally cold winter this year, and everyone’s power budgets were stretched thin..

    However, if we hadn’t “fallen back”, as you said, we would have had another hour of natural warming, reducing our need for air conditioning.. I just think we have it all backwards, really- we should fall back in the spring and spring forward in the fall. It only makes sense, because everyone leaves the house to go to work anyways, where the sun is naturally warming their offices and buildings during the day.. and warming their homes up, too.. vice versa in the summer- they get up later, when it’s hotter, don’t get time to adjust to the heat, and are slammed with hot air all day, so the A/C gets cranked a little lower.. If people woke up at sunrise in the summer, and an hour later than sunrise in the winter, this problem would not be an issue.

    DST has stuck as a tradition designed to help farmers, who really just get up at the same time every day anyways and don’t care about DST..

    Plus, the idea of making a change like this in hopes that the simplistic idea will take the equivalent of 200,000 vehicles off the road can be equated to taking a carbon footprint the size of a gallon of water, and only emptying it of a teaspoon’s worth of water.. I am no expert here, either, and hey maybe a teaspoon here and a teaspoon there can help us reduce our humongous carbon footprint.. It just seems that we could be working a teensy bit harder towards making those magnet concept cars a reality (by mixing magnesium in with the asphalt we pave roads with now) instead of coming to a stalemate with nature, by applying concepts to the entire world that only really apply to a certain climate..

    That’s my two cents.. may not be worth much, but hey. =)

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