Earth Hour impacting on climate change?

I created a Storify of the #earthhour event on Saturday evening (23 March 2013). In my home country, South Africa, the bulk electricity provider Eskom indicated that 629 megawatts of electricity usage was cut due the Earth Hour campaign. This, they said, was enough power to run the coastal town of Port Elizabeth for most of a day, and enough for the whole of Mozambique for a day (The Star 25 March 2013). Unfortunately though, such reduction in usage does not translate into emission reduction, as Eskom did not cut its production of electricity on Saturday evening.


(Source: Photo of Alex Masu;

Also, whilst the growth in numbers of participants, here and throughout the world, is impressive, I remain sceptical of the impacts of such events. How many people actually knew it was about climate change, and not just about having  a good time in a park or at a concert or in a back yard? How many will actually change their day-to-day lives to ensure reduced consumption (and eventually production or differently produced), or is Earth Hour simply about delayed consumption? With Earth Hour taking place on a Saturday, the target is clearly households, and less so businesses, despite the rhetoric. But is it the major use of (coal-produced) electricity households, or is it rather industries, mining and agriculture? Why then have it on a Saturday evening when most of these are in any case shut down? It’s the fleeting nature of earth Hour and the lack of structural changes flowing from it that has me uncomfortable I think.

Maybe here in South Africa the spin for Earth Hour should rather be: prepare yourself for the blackouts of the winter of 2013, join #earthhour.

NS: We should also look at the 49M campaign, a call to all South Africans to save electricity by making a pledge; that’s for another blog posting.