Abolish summer time: risks and benefits

Abolish summer time: risks and benefits

Abolish summer time

Summer time is about to say goodbye until the last weekend of March and the expensive bills are already starting to be felt, and unfortunately it is destined to accompany us for a long time. With potentially disastrous effects for the family and national economy. What to do? There is talk of turning off street lighting, which is mandatory on weekends, shorter hours for shops. Concrete solutions (apart from rationing), however, are not yet seen. What if there was a simple and painless alternative to save 500 million euros of electricity in one year? This is what a petition on Change.org proposes, which in a few weeks has already exceeded 250 thousand signatures: establish daylight saving time all year round, thus avoiding moving the hands back at the end of October, thus guaranteeing an hour of light. plus every day in the afternoon, when work activities are still in full swing. At the cost, of course, of waking up well before dawn for the next few months.

The proposal

The main supporters of the petition are the Italian Society of Environmental Medicine and the Consumerism organization No profit, who have also deepened their hypothesis in an open letter published in the latest issue of Lancet Regional Health. According to the petitioners, modern society, with its rhythms and habits, makes the lack of sunlight in the very early hours of the day much less problematic for the health and well-being of citizens, while the hour of sunshine gained in the afternoon it would transform into concrete energy savings, and extremely valuable given the historical moment.

Terna - they recall - quantified the electricity saved in 2022 thanks to summer time at 420 million kilowatt hours. In the last 15 years, savings amounted to 10 billion kilowatt hours, for a total of 1.8 billion euros. According to the estimates of Sima and Consumerismo No profit, with current prices, maintaining daylight saving time also in the coming months would save a further billion euros in energy (between heating and electricity consumption), and would avoid emitting 200,000 tons every year. of CO 2, from energy production.

That's not all: the double time change (with the introduction and cessation of summer time), creates inconvenience for many citizens, and eliminating it would therefore also have effects public health benefits. It would also allow for more hours of light to socialize and carry out outdoor activities, especially for the little ones. In America, the transition between standard time and summer time has been linked to a reduction in work productivity, an increase in the incidence of heart attacks and strokes, and a greater likelihood of road accidents. Not surprisingly, in March of this year the United States Senate voted the so-called "Sunshine Protection Act", which aims to make daylight saving time permanent in the Union, and which, if the House vote also passes, would enter in force since the winter of 2023.

The risks: diabetes and obesity

If the benefits on bills are indisputable, on the effects that summer time would have all year round for health there are fewer certainties. Among the skeptics we find, for example, the Italian Society of Endocrinology, which just in September, during their "Italian meetings of endocrinology and metabolism", had seized the opportunity to raise the alarm on the risks emerging from the most recent American studies. .

"Re-evaluating studies conducted by comparing people who live at the eastern and western ends of the same time zone, we realized that those who live close to the westernmost zone, and therefore are in a situation more similar to what you would have with the introduction of permanent summer time, on average he sleeps less ”, Annamaria Colao, President of Sie and Professor of Endocrinology at the Federico II University of Naples, explained to the press on the occasion. "Data from the American Time Use Survey, for example, report that in the West you rest about 20 minutes less every night, or you sleep 115 hours less a year; you are more likely to have insufficient sleep, less than 6 hours a night, and all this translates into a 3% decrease in productivity, an 11% higher chance of being overweight and a 21% higher chance of being overweight. suffer from obesity and diabetes. The risk of heart attacks also rises by 19%, while that of breast cancer rises by 5% ".

According to Colao, the data suggest that something similar could also happen in our country, if it were decided to opt for 12 months of daylight saving time. The brighter evenings would in fact be less related to the biological clock of our body, which in the evening needs darkness to produce melatonin and ensure adequate rest. "It is possible - added Colao - that it has even more health benefits to make solar time permanent, which at least on paper seems more in sync with our biological clock. Certainly, however, the time has come to question the advisability of choosing a fixed time for the whole year. Further studies will undoubtedly help to understand whether it is better for health to choose the solar time, or the daylight saving time ".

Standard time or daylight saving time?

On closer inspection, the topic it is not current only due to the increases in recent months. Some may have forgotten this, but in 2019 the European Parliament approved a directive that abolishes the annual transition between standard time and summer time, postponing the choice of one or the other time throughout the year to individual states. In theory, the new rules were supposed to come into effect from 2021. But perhaps thanks to the pandemic, at the moment they are stuck in a legislative limbo: in order to be valid, in fact, the green light of the European Council is needed, which has however reproached the responsibility to the European Commission by asking for a formal assessment of the impact that the measure could have. getting no for an answer that has effectively created a stalemate.

In the background, many see the specter of Brexit, and the tension it has created on the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. A survey commissioned by the Irish government has in fact concluded that 80% of citizens are against any measure that could lead to having different time zones on both sides of the border. And not knowing how the UK will choose to behave about it, there are probably many at the moment who want to ignore the problem for as long as possible. With all due respect - if so - the catastrophic bills of the coming months.

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