Earth Hour hopes to shed light on climate

Earth Hour hopes to shed light on climate

By James Bruggers, USA TODAY

New York City's Empire State Building is scheduled to go dark for one hour Saturday night.

So are the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza and many other iconic structures.

The lights will be going out for Earth Hour, organized by the World Wildlife Fund to draw attention to global warming, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday local time around the world. That's when organizers of the event, which began in Sydney in 2007, want everyone to turn off non-essential lights.

About 2,800 cities in 83 countries — including 250 in the United States — had signed up, according to Dan Forman, a spokesman for World Wildlife Fund, an international conservation organization that boasts 1.2 million national members and close to 5 million globally.

Forman said organizers want to send a message to Congress and to global leaders working this year on climate change legislation and a treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

"It's all about the symbolism," he said. "We fully recognize that one hour does not put a dent in the climate crisis."

The effort has its critics.

"We think Earth Hour, even if you are super-concerned about global warming, is a little lame, and we are making fun of it," said Eli Lehrer, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a Washington, D.C., think tank that supports limited government and decries global warming "alarmism."

CEI has announced a "Human Achievement Hour" to counter Earth Hour. The group says millions of people will participate by turning the lights on, going to a concert or seeing a movie. "It's obviously tongue-in-cheek," Lehrer said.

Many companies, however, are serious in support of Earth Hour, Forman said. Coca-Cola, for example, has pledged to turn off its big signs around the world, including a marquee in New York's Times Square.

Schools and universities across the country are also participating, including the University of Louisville.

"We are trying to change the cultural attitudes and behavior," said professor Barbara Burns, chairwoman of the university's Sustainability Council. "And one of the first steps is awareness."

Bruggers reports for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal

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