EDITORIAL — Earth Hour

On March 21 last year, the Australian city of Sydney saw its energy consumption drop by 10.2 percent. This was achieved through a single act: more than 2,100 business establishments and over 2.2 million city residents switched off lights in offices and households to emphasize that coal-fired electricity was the biggest cause of global warming.

A year later, 24 cities around the world are participating in Earth Hour, which Filipinos are marking at 8 tonight by switching off lights for an hour. The message is that every little step counts in dealing with global warming. Breaking habits that are taken for granted can go a long way. Lights can be switched off when not in use in offices and households, for example, while appliances can be turned off when not in use instead of being kept on standby mode.

Apart from saving electricity, people can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by keeping their vehicles properly maintained. Among the worst polluters these days in the Philippines, apart from commuter buses and cargo trucks, are vans converted into taxicabs as well as motorcycles. Many of these vehicles go for years without proper maintenance, largely because those tasked to go after polluting vehicles aren’t doing their job.

Alongside today’s observance of Earth Hour, there should be no letup in efforts to promote cleaner energy and conserve the country’s remaining forest cover. The country has been slow in taking advantage of a clean energy source that it has in abundance: wind power. As the technology improves and costs go down, energy officials should also take a closer look at solar power for industrial and household use.

Soaring global oil prices should give more urgency to the nation’s efforts to produce clean energy from alternative sources. The country is blessed with natural gas, geothermal and hydro power that can be harnessed as coal-fired power plants are phased out. Countries that rely heavily on coal, such as China, are seeing the adverse consequences not just in terms of public health but also in the country’s standing in an international community where concern about global warming has increased exponentially in recent years.

Tonight, Filipinos can do their part to fight global warming by simply switching off lights for an hour. Together, such minor gestures can make a big difference.

The Philippine Star

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