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Changing Clocks Could Cut Carbon Costs

Imagine if improving our quality of life was as simple as changing the times on the clocks?

According to the U.K.’s Lighter Later Campaign, extending our days by an hour year round might be the ticket to solving a host of problems. It would not only bring more daylight into our lives (making our lives safer, happier, and more fulfilling) but it would drastically bring down carbon emissions, too.

Research by Cambridge University’s Centre for Technology Management, shows that implementing Single Double Summer Time (SDST) would save around 500,000 tonnes of CO2 in the winter months alone, which is equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road. Demand at peak times would also go down, resulting in lower electricity prices and reduced pollution.

The Lighter Later campaign came about after U.K.-born climate-change campaign 10:10 commissioned a study of the 20 top climate policies. “Changing the clocks came out as the clear winner because of its instant impact, large number of co-benefits, and cheap implementation cost,” says Daniel Vockins, Lighter Later’s campaign manager.

The "co-benefits," as Vockins calls them, are social and economic too. According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Accidents, advancing Britain’s clocks forward by an hour throughout the year could avoid at least 80 road deaths a year and 212 serious injuries. (An under-publicized trial of SDST between 1968 and 1971 resulted in 2,500 fewer road deaths, for instance—which could also mean significant savings for the National Health Service.)

According to Lighter Later campaigners, dusk acts as a sort of social curfew. Eliminating it would include a reduction in crime and the fear of crime; increased participation in sports and outdoor activities (thereby tackling obesity and improving fitness); and a reduction in the impacts of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Elderly people and children would also benefit, as the former are afraid of being out after dark and the latter are often taken indoors by concerned parents once night falls. The economic case for SDST is also strong with industry groups predicting a £3.5bn boost for the leisure and tourism sector, and up to 80,000 new jobs.

With the benefits of a move to SDST apparently outweighing any disadvantages, the scheme’s detractors are few, and decreasing. Even traditionally opposed groups, such as farmers, who are very early risers, have stopped complaining. “The National Farmers Union has recently removed its opposition to the issue and a recent poll in Scotland [where opposition has traditionally been strong] showed the public marginally in favour of the change,” says Vockins.

Supporters of the Lighter Later campaign are calling for a three-year trial of SDST and have lobbied to take the issue to parliament (it will be debated in the House of Commons in December). Their message is simple. With more people awake later in the day than in the early mornings, what are we waiting for?

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