Earth Hour is here again, and the World Wildlife Foundation is calling on millions of people all around the world to switch off their lights for an hour at 8:30 p.m. tonight (Saturday, March 23) to show their concern for the environment.
Last year saw lights go out in almost 7,000 different cities and towns. This year, more than 150 countries will countries and territories are expected to participate, with Palestine, Tunisia, Galapagos, Suriname, French Guyana, St. Helena, and Rwanda joining the movement for the first time.
At the global media launch for Earth Hour 2013 in Singapore last month, CEO and co-founder Andy Ridley, highlighted the grassroots nature of the movement:
"People from all walks of life, from all nations around the world, are the lifeblood of the Earth Hour interconnected global community. They have proven time and time again that if you believe in something strongly enough, you can achieve amazing things. These stories aren't unique, this is happening all over the world."
Although intended to raise awareness, some energy experts have also said that Earth Hour could result in an increase in carbon emissions and place great strain on electricity grids. Fossil-fuelled power stations could be required to fire up quickly when everyone turns their lights back on, "rendering all good intentions useless at a flick of a switch".
While some believe global warming is still an unproven scientific theory, scientists are not backing down.
A new study published in Science provides context for just how dramatic our planet’s recent warming trend is. In the last century, during which humans have been burning fossil fuels on a widespread scale, the planet’s temperatures have changed more dramatically than they had during all of recorded human history — more dramatically than they had since the last ice age ended.
"We already knew that on a global scale, Earth is warmer today than it was over much of the past 2,000 years," said Shaun Marcott of Oregon State University, the paper’s lead author. "Now we know that it is warmer than most of the past 11,300 years."
"This research shows that we've experienced almost the same range of temperature change since the beginning of the industrial revolution as over the previous 11,000 years of Earth history — but this change happened a lot more quickly," said Candace Major, program director in the National Science Foundation, which helped fund the study.
Will the WWF's efforts to raise awareness actually raise awareness? With more and more countries partaking in Earth Hour, it seems the answer to that question is yes.