Science isn’t black and white. There are many ways to go about tackling an issue. The best solution isn’t always the most ethical one but it might be the most efficient. Part of being a scientist is understanding how to best address the world’s problems. To explore this, Anna Yuan and I are beginning a series of pro/con articles to illustrate the complexities of scientific problems. Our first set of articles will be on daylight savings.
Every year Americans turn their clocks twice. Once to switch into daylight saving time, and one to switch back into the normal time of their time zones. When we turn our clocks forward, we lose an hour of sleep, but we get to enjoy the additional sunlight. However, that extra sunlight and activities as a result of the extended sunlight contribute to a wide range of issues.
First, daylight savings time results in more power being used. In Indiana for example, researchers saw a decrease in the amount of electricity used for lights but saw an increase in electricity when it came to air conditioning. The amount of power saved by turning off lights is canceled out and sometimes even exceeded by the additional electricity used for the AC. This is because homes are exposed to more amount of sunlight when people are awake. People feel more inclined to keep their home cool. Gasoline consumption also increases. During daylight savings time, individuals who are afraid to drive in the dark have more time to drive than in the winter. (1)
Second, daylight savings time wreaks havoc on the airline industry. Not everyone in the world uses daylight savings time. Only 70 countries out of the 195 countries of the world observe daylight savings time. Japan and China are the only two industrialized nations that do not observe daylight savings time. Because of this difference, air traffic controllers have confusion with timetables, delaying flights in the process. As a result, airlines lose revenue. For instance, airlines lost an estimated 147 million dollars in 2007. (1)
Third, daylight savings time has an impact on productivity. After moving clocks ahead, workers’ sleep cycles (circadian rhythms), metabolism, mood, and stress levels are all affected. These factors also contribute to a 10% increase in heart attacks in the following days after clocks are switched. Workers come to work tired, groggy, and unfocused and will remain in that state for around 3 weeks. The act of switching clocks to the new time also causes financial losses. Every year, 1.7 billion dollars in average hourly wages are lost because workers are busy adjusting clocks instead of doing something productive. Daylight savings wreaks havoc in the economy, costing companies 434 million dollars. (1)
Although daylight savings does promote less electricity usage and more activities spent outdoors, it also has many hidden problems. Next time you’re prepared to turn the clock, keep in mind as to what is about to come.