Sunday, March 28, 2010

Earth Hour: An Exercise in Futility?

According to the IESO website, 560 MWh of electricity use was avoided as a result of Earth Hour and I'm going to tentatively accept that figure for the sake of argument. The real question I want answered is how much carbon dioxide was really avoided with this exercise.

The way not to answer this question is by taking a chart of total capacities and dividing the 'savings' out among all the generation sources weighting them by capacity. This is because for one thing, nuclear power was not affected by Earth Hour.

Using data from the IESO generator reports we can get a pretty good idea. For simplicity's sake, I'm going to combine gas and coal because the amount of coal used was not very significant. And I'm going to combine the non-carbon sources, nuclear and hydroelectric as well.

Figure 1: Electricity Generation by Source for March 27th (Earth Day) [1]

As you can see, there was a slight dip where typically there is an increase, by comparing this to the electricity production for the previous week this becomes even more clear.

Figure 2: Electricity Generation by Source for March 20th [1]

Comparing these two we can make no solid conclusions, and by comparing a hundred graphs we probably could make nothing conclusive either because of the large number of variables (weather, overall production, etc...) that need to be taken into account. But yes, we reduced our electricity production by some amount.

However, electricity from coal and gas sources is consistent with the previous week in terms of overall production and the changes hour-to-hour. If anything, it looks like hydroelectricity production took a dip at 8pm. So on that basis, I'm willing to say that I believe no statistically significant amount carbon dioxide was avoided as a result of Earth Hour.

So to all you who dutifully turned out your lights on March 27th, congratulations, you did absolutely no good whatsoever in terms of carbon dioxide output.

[1] All data is publicly available on the IESO website.


Cherniak_WTF said...

For someone who calls his blog "a view from science" you are rather thick...

Was the point of "Earth Hour" to reduce carbon dioxide or some other goal?

Eric said...


Please discuss the topic without ad hominem attacks or you will be banned.

Earth Hour did not reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Ontario. You can believe that the purpose of Earth Hour was many things, but lets not pretend it had any effect on carbon dioxide emissions in Ontario.

Lynn said...

Eric, Earth Hour was symbolic! Symbolic of the lack of deep thought and research into anything,rather than a knee-jerk reaction.

Less power was saved in Toronto than last year, as more people are getting tired of alarmism,and people who want to decide how we should live.

Yeah, yeah, I know,"the science is settled".


Eric said...


That's ultimately the problem with a large part of the current environmental movement. There's this emphasis on 'looking' environmentally friendly rather than 'being' environmentally friendly.

I will buy arguments that we should reduce the impact we have on the environment, whether it be carbon dioxide, clear-cutting forests or large scale strip mining regardless of if global warming is correct or not.

But all events like these accomplish is a large number of people congratulating themselves on how environmentally they are while tut tutting about how everyone else is the problem.

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