Earlier this week the European Parliament voted 384 to 153 to review whether Daylight Saving Time is actually worth it. Although the resolution it voted on was non-binding, the majority reflected a growing dissatisfaction with a system that’s been used by the US, Canada, most of Europe, and regions in Asia, Africa, and South America for decades.
The resolution asked the European Commission to review the costs and benefits of Daylight Saving Time. If the EU were to abolish Daylight Saving Time, it would need approval of the majority of EU member states and EU Parliament members.
Last week’s vote to reconsider seasonal time change was proposed after 70,000 Finnish citizens signed a petition to end Daylight Saving Time, according to German-based international broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Ireland Member of European Parliament (MEP) Sean Kelly has been working to stop time changes as well.
“We think that there’s no need to change the clocks,” Kelly said to Deutsche Welle. “It came in during World War One, it was supposed to be for energy savings—the indications are that there are very few energy savings, if any—and there are an awful lot of disadvantages to both human beings and animals that make it outdated at this point.”
The claim that setting clocks an hour ahead in spring doesn’t save energy or make societies safer is often used by Daylight Saving opponents. In the past, when lighting a home was the primary driver of electricity consumption, adjusting clocks to take advantage of late-evening sunlight might have made a dent in that consumption. But in today’s world, air conditioning and electronics are also significant portions of electricity demand, and optimizing business hours to coincide with daylight hours doesn’t significantly impact that draw of electricity.
In fact, the US added three more weeks to Daylight Saving Time in 2005, in part in the hopes of capitalizing on potential energy savings. But by 2007 that dream hadn’t panned out: people just consumed more electricity in the dark morning hours instead of in the dark evening hours.
Other research has shown that adjusting to Daylight Saving Time can take a real toll on the sleep habits of some people, and losing an hour of sleep leads to more than eight minutes of “cyberloafing”—that is, wasting time on the Internet. Deutsche Welle says farmers have complained that cows get restless waiting for an extra hour to get milked, and according to the BBC, French MEP Karima Delli said the time change made people tired and led to more accidents.
On the other hand, an extra hour of daylight in the evening is often good for tourism-dependent industries. Deutsche Welle wrote that EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said regardless of how the EU proceeds, it’s important that the whole European Economic Area stay on the same page.
Still, it seems that choosing whether to stick with winter time or summer time is key in a transition away from Daylight Saving Time. Years ago, Russia tried to go on permanent summer time, but changed to permanent winter time in 2014 after the summer-time-in-winter change gave people stress and health problems when it stayed darker for longer during winter mornings, according to the BBC.