As virtually everyone living in south-east Queensland knows, our state does not have daylight saving, and the southern states do. I regularly read in newspapers that most people in south-east Queensland wish we did have daylight saving, and it is those in the more sparsely populated north and the west of the state that oppose it.
I wrote last summer that I am in the minority – I assume – of Brisbanites who are not too keen on adopting daylight saving. Apart from anything else, I don’t like the idea of the heat of the day not finishing until one hour later. Certainly most people I talk to look at me as though there’s something wrong with me when I say I’m not personally in favour of it.
It may be that the people I talk to are more likely to have an environmental bent, but one reason I’ve heard given in favour of daylight saving for many years is that it would reduce energy consumption because people wouldn’t turn their lights on until later. I often wondered how valid this was, particularly since the widespread adoption of air conditioners around Brisbane, as daylight saving would mean people are more likely to get home while it’s still stinking hot and turn on their air conditioner to cool their house.
I saw a piece on Peter Martin’s blog today which touched on this issue. Apparently there is new leglislation in the USA which will this year bring forward the start of daylight saving to March instead of April, “as a means of reducing power consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.”
However, Martin quotes a study – based on analysing Australian data – which suggests that daylight saving can lead to increased energy consumption, rather than a reduction. Although the study looked at the effect of extending daylight saving for longer, rather than whether or not to do it at all, I don’t see why the principle behind the result wouldn’t the same.
As noted above, for some reason talking against daylight saving seems to instinctively be seen as an open invitation for ridicule, with lots of tired jibes about ‘fading the curtains’ and the like, so I will emphasise that I am not suggesting by any means that this should be at the forefront of our efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions. None the less, given how difficult it is going to be to reduce our emissions by the amount we need to, the energy impact of what time we set our clocks in Australia might merit some further examination. At the very least, I wouldn’t like to see environmental arguments being used to convince Queenslanders to take up daylight saving if the reality is that it would make energy emissions worse.
PS: If you’re interested in some background information on daylight saving and its history in Australia, this link goes to a research note by the Parliamentary Library. I think the following quote from it is a lovely example of the way international political compromise can work, even on arcane issues like this:
In 1970 the Coordinated Universal Time system was devised by an international advisory group of technical experts within the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The ITU felt it was best to designate a single abbreviation for use in all languages in order to minimize confusion. Since unanimous agreement could not be achieved on using either the English word order, CUT, or the French word order, TUC, the acronym UTC was chosen as a compromise.