By Mistie Lawrence
Daylight saving time became a national standard
On November 5, 2023, the United States will no longer practice daylight saving time (DST), if the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021 becomes law. This bill would make daylight saving time the new, permanent standard time. That means, if it becomes law, once clocks spring forward next March they would not change in November of next year. Whether or not the bill will be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and signed into law by President Joe Biden remains to be seen.
The Standard Time Act in 1918 was the first introduction of daylight saving time to American clocks. The temporary measure lasted from spring to fall and was intended to cut energy costs during World War I. The act is also responsible for the five time zones still in place today.
Later, daylight saving time became a national standard in 1966 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Uniform Time Act, which was established as a way to continue to conserve energy. The thinking was, if it’s light out longer, that’s less time you’ll need to use lights in your home.
Today, not everyone participates in daylight saving time, Arizona and Hawaii, for example. More than 30 states are considering legislation related to the practice of changing clocks twice a year. Seven states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and Florida have already approved their legislation but need the approval of Congress to enact the change. Worldwide, more than 70 countries participate in daylight saving time in some fashion. The only major industrialized countries that do not observe daylight saving time are Japan, India, and China.
So Does Daylight Saving Time Have An Effect On Our Environment?
During the oil crisis of the 1970s the US Department of Transportation conducted a comprehensive study that found roughly 1% was trimmed off the use of electricity on the national level when compared to standard time. Other studies have come to the same conclusion, that daylight saving time reduces electricity costs between 0.5-1%.
Others suggest the later sunlight hours lead to greater energy demands and increases in carbon dioxide fumes citing more lights needed for those dark mornings, more intense use of air conditioning in the evening, and more people driving to engage in activities after work.
It has also been noted these impacts could be location specific, as a study found slight reductions in energy consumption in Norway and Sweden but an increase of energy use and pollution emissions in Indiana.
In October of 2016, Turkey chose to stay on daylight saving time. A national study was conducted that showed consumption levels of energy overall had little change but displayed a strong intra-day distributional effect, more usage in the early morning and less in the late afternoon. This distributional effect in the load shape led to reduced generation by dirtier fossil fuel plants and increased usage of cleaner renewable resources.
Overall staying on daylight saving time reduced CO2 emissions between 1,500-8,200 tons per day, showing this policy had a beneficial effect of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Even though permanently staying on daylight saving time reduces CO2 emissions, it neither increases nor decreases aggregate daily electricity consumption. The energy savings targeted by daylight saving time is cancelled out by the increase of power consumption in the early morning hours.
What Role Does Daylight Saving Time Play On Our Health?
The transition between standard time and DST is associated with adverse health consequences. The most obvious of these being the change to our circadian rhythm, which in turn throws off our sleep homeostasis. This results in sleep fatigue which feels like prolonged jet lag.
Additionally, DST can have long-term health effects. Studies show that DST is linked to a number of issues, including:
As well as an increased risk of developing certain disorders that range from cognitive and mental health issues to digestive and heart diseases. In those already suffering from these conditions, DST makes them even worse.
During the week after the shift to DST, research shows an associated rise in:
–Cardiovascular disease, with a 24% higher risk of heart attacks
–Injuries, including a 6% spike in fatal car accidents
–Stroke rate, which increases by 8%
–Mental health and cognitive issues, with an 11% spike in depressive episodes
–Digestive and immune-related diseases, such as colitis, which increase by 3% in females over age 60.
DST as it relates to the goal to save energy in aggregate by the use of daylight saving time is not being achieved, but it does have unintended positive implications in the reduction of CO2 emissions as it relates to the means of energy generation. But at the same time we must keep in mind the adverse effects to our health and weigh the benefits and disadvantages of DST and ask ourselves is this really worth it?