Fall Back or Fall Away – The Debate on Daylight Savings Time

The Introduction – in which the backdrop is set and the argument conceived

Go back to last Saturday, and one might find countless students realizing to their relief that, for the one night, they would be rewarded an extra hour of sleep. This is no one time occurrence. Go back half a year, and one may find individuals stressed over losing one hour on the clock. Daylight savings time (DST) can be, no doubt, a significant part of our year, albeit an infrequent one. The idea of changing the time to fit the daylight of each season dates back to the Romans. The modern system of DST, however, was the brainchild of George Vernon Hudson, a New Zealander who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. First implemented by Germany and Austria in 1916, during WWI, DST quickly caught on. Soon, scores of other nations were implementing DST systems of their own, hoping that in doing so, fuel might be saved for the war effort. The first spread of DST was short-lived, however, with Canada, the UK, France, among few others being the only countries to retain the system after the war. Daylight savings time would once again make its debut later on, and today, DST is used in one form or another across 81 nations. With its widespread usage and DST’s relevance to recent events, Chris and Jack have found it necessary, as many have done so before, to debate the merits of DST. To fall back? Or to fall away? Is daylight savings time necessary or worth the trouble? Jack says yes, Chris says no.


The First Casein which the two parties engage in fierce combat

Yes – Jack D.

            How many of you groaned at the prospect of losing an hour of sleep half a year ago? More importantly, how many of you rejoiced last week at the prospect of gaining an hour of sleep? Whether we are procrastinating when the time rolls back, or hurrying up our work when the time springs forward, it is indisputable that we have learned to live with the culture of DST, and even value it from time to time. Furthermore, considering that DST is responsible for extending the hours of daylight year round during peak periods of human activity, DST is a valuable tool in reducing not only energy costs but also visibility-related motor accidents otherwise assisted by darkness.

            Daylight savings time was first implemented during the First World War to extend daylight hours for the purpose of diverting electricity-generating fuels to the war effort. Extending daylight hours are still the principal motive for DST today. During the days of spring and summer, the clock is shifted forward to further delay the time at which the sun sets. In doing so, lights generally become unnecessary during the evening, during which the sun will shine. This is absolutely critical to effectively utilize available daylight to the people’s benefit. In a U.S. study, it was documented that far greater numbers of individuals are awake during the evening, as opposed to early morning4. In shifting the hour forward, DST keeps the quiet summer mornings dark, and the bustling evenings, bright. As winter approaches, standard time takes over to stop the early morning rush hour from becoming too dark. This not only reduces unnecessary energy consumption from lighting, but is also responsible for contributing to safer roads and communities.

In maximizing hours of daylight during the busiest time frame of human activity, DST ensures that visibility does not become an issue for commuters. The IIHS, a leading organization on traffic and vehicular safety, has shown that the transition from daytime to darkness is responsible for up to a 300% increase in visibility-related motor accidents4. In shifting the hour forward during the summer, DST ensures that the deadly hour of sunset is also delayed to a time at which less motorists are on the road.

Energy conservation and reduction of traffic are just some of the great reasons DST is an essential part of our lives. The notion of eliminating DST, however, has yet to face its final and biggest challenge, the fact that everyone is accustomed to DST.

No – Chris S.

Indeed, DST is largely responsible for increasing the amount of daylight, and with it, the electricity wasted powering inefficient air conditioning systems. Although most of the

countries which observe DST in the summertime are indeed closer to the poles, there are some considerations to take when that generalization is made. Many of these countries, such as Spain, Italy and Mexico have daytime highs of around thirty degrees centigrade in the summertime. These people neither need nor want more sun. As the efficiency of modern artificial lighting increases, with the demise of the incandescent bulb ushering in the time of the ubiquitous fluorescents and LEDs, the potential energy savings netted by DST diminish year upon previous year.

However, there is another underlying factor which is rapidly rendering DST as a concept more trouble than it’s worth. With the digital age upon us, people are choosing to spend less time outside all year round. Even if days seem longer in the summertime because of DST, it won’t make a dent in our energy consumption because people will be inside, using electricity to power their lights, computers, and central air conditioning systems. The discrepancy between the energy consumed by the population in the industrialized world in the summertime and in the wintertime is rapidly closing up. Again, this factor helps ensure that DST’s effectiveness in reducing energy consumption decrease steadily, and will only continue to do so as time progresses, energy demand skyrockets, and more of the world industrializes. As indicated by this report, DST saved Americans 1.3 terawatt hours of electricity in the year of 2007. This energy cost Americans an astounding $156 000 000, which translates to a whopping $0.518 per individual American per year.[1] No matter which income bracket you happen to fall under, chances are you don’t care enough about fifty cents a year to drag yourself out of bed an hour early every day in that dreaded week when DST begins. Especially if you’re an IB student, sleep is valuable.

What would it take to offset this meager and modest gain? As it turns out, not a whole lot, which will be elaborated upon in the coming paragraphs. These reasons mentioned above set the stage for the final and most compelling argument against the current notion and implementation of daylight saving time, which is that DST really is more trouble than it’s worth.


The Clash and Second Case in which the fight continues and grows

Yes, and still so – Jack D.

As much as it may be argued that the energy consumption caused by the implementation of DST is in existence, little can be said to justify the extent of its impact. It has been mentioned that the extended daylight as a result of DST can raise air conditioning energy consumption. This statement is completely groundless seeing as air conditioning is by no means common in all nations that implement DST. Conversely, the positive effect DST has on reducing energy bills from unnecessary lighting is far beyond whatever air conditioning cost DST may be racking up. Furthermore, the 1.3 terawatts energy savings asserted previously may seem like small potatoes, but it translates to over 988 831 000 kg of CO2 emissions reduced per year. On this fact alone, the entire argument against DST aforementioned in this debate could be refuted. Moreover, Chris has neglected to even touch on the benefits DST has given through extended daylight hours.

Energy savings and increased daylight when it is needed are of course, one of the many benefits of DST. Although the justification of DST, especially in this age, is perfected by our familiarity with DST as part of our lives. I want to ask my question again, how many of you groaned at the prospect of losing an hour of sleep half a year ago? How many of you rejoiced in gaining an extra hour of sleep/procrastination last week? The yearly trend of DST is something we in this nation have gotten used to, and as with all old habits, DST is not something to simply fall away and die. The behavior of automatically switching the hours to match daylight savings time is programmed into our pattern of life, Furthermore, DST today is also programmed into countless devices which we call our companions. Computers, phones, “smart” clocks and electronics of all sorts. With DST ingrained into our society in this way, there is no way to “simply drop” DST.

From this, we can clearly see that there is more hassle than benefit in eliminating daylight savings time from our lives. Conversely, the benefits offered by DST make it a very attractive system to continue to implement. The rhetorical question central to the issue here, is “why go to the trouble of ditching something good?”.

No, and ever more so – Chris S.

First of all, I would like to point out some assumptions which Jack has perhaps unfairly made. He claims that daylight savings time is ingrained into our routines and our schedules as a culture, and that abandoning the system would cause a needless and unwanted disruption. How fortuitous it is that in reality, although it was used some time before, DST was only widely adopted in the Western world in the 1970s. The notion that a custom which has been practiced for less than half a century is something which should be preserved because of its age and tradition is clearly ridiculous. Equally misconceived was the argument that DST cannot be easily eliminated because it is somehow invariably enshrined in our electronic devices. If DST really is as critical to maintaining the standards of living which we enjoy today as Jack makes it to be, then how does the majority of the world’s population get by?

With areas implementing the DST concept shown in blue and orange, former users of the system in light grey, and staunch abstainers in dark grey, it’s apparent that most of the world’s population gets through life just fine without the hassle of adjusting their timepieces forwards and backwards again every single year.

The second assertion made was that 988 831 000 kg of CO2 is saved annually by DST. This number may seem misleadingly large, however some simple arithmetic reveals that this is in fact less than 3.3 kg of gas per American per day. For reference, an average person produces 900 grams of CO2 per day by breathing.

This is an utterly insignificant amount of energy gain, and furthermore it is completely mitigated by unnecessary waste generated by the DST system. This waste is generated primarily through lowered efficiency in the classroom and the workplace due to sleep deprivation.

Wastage and costs incurred indirectly by a shift forward by one hour in the morning totalled nearly half a billion dollars, almost three times the amount purportedly ‘saved’ in energy costs. These estimates however put the damage at far below its actual potency, because they didn’t consider intangible and immeasurable collective drops in the mental acuity and creative

output of the workforce at large, incited by the loss of one collective hour of sleep in the morning. No matter how it’s put, daylight savings time simply costs the world money.


The Conclusionin which the fight subsides

No, and no until the end – Chris S.

In short, DST as a system to reduce waste has failed because it does precisely the opposite: not only does it fail to broker any significant energy savings for the industrialized world, it wastes far more in productivity costs than it does save. It makes no sense, the majority of the world’s population gets along without it just fine, and it has serious detrimental effects upon the world’s creative and economic output. As a relatively recent invention, the implementation of DST is both inconsistent and confusing throughout the patchwork of time zones within and across nations, and it has not had the time to take hold and really be assimilated into our culture. Daylight savings time is wasteful, cumbersome, confusing and it’s getting worse year after year. Fortunately, it’s also easy to get rid of, for the aforementioned reasons. So why haven’t we?

Yes, for as long as is foreseeable – Jack D.

For the entirety of this debate, Chris has neglected to address the fact that the reason those without DST get along fine is that those nations without DST are those that receive consistent daylight throughout the year and have no need to implement DST. However, as has been mentioned many times before, DST is an essential part of our lives. DST is a system that saves energy, prevents motor accidents, and plays an essential part in the places we live in today. The question is not “why haven’t we [gotten rid of DST]”, it’s “why are we even thinking of eliminating DST?

Who do you think won this debate? What are your thoughts on daylight savings time? Want to see more debates like this one? Leave your comments below!

– Jack D. & Chris S.


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