LONDON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - People switched off lights around the world on Saturday, dimming buildings, hotels, restaurants and bars to show concern with global warming.
Up to 30 million people were expected to have switched off their lights for 60 minutes by the time “Earth Hour” — which started in Suva in Fiji and Christchurch in New Zealand — has completed its cycle westward.
More than 380 towns and cities and 3,500 businesses in 35 countries signed up for the campaign that is in its second year after it began in 2007 in Sydney alone.
“Earth Hour shows that everyday people are prepared to pull together to find a solution to climate change. It can be done,” said James Leape of WWF International which was running the campaign.
Lights at Sydney’s Opera House and Harbour Bridge were switched off and Australians held candle-lit beach parties, played poker by candlelight and floated candles down rivers.
In Bangkok some of the city’s business districts, shopping malls and billboards went dark, although street lights stayed on. One major hotel invited guests to dine by candle light and reported brisk business.
In Copenhagen, the Tivoli and the Royal Palace and the opera darkened for an hour, along with many street lights.
“In the central square a lot of people were standing looking at the stars,” said Ida Thuesen, spokeswoman for WWF Denmark. “It’s not often you can see the stars in a city.”
In a tip of its virtual hat to the event, the background of Google’s home page turned to black from white on more than a dozen country sites including Google.com. A message on the site read: “We’ve turned the lights out. Now it’s your turn.”
Floodlights went out at landmarks in Budapest, including its castle, cathedral and parliament.
In Britain, 26 town and city councils signed up to switch off nonessential lights as did several historic buildings including Prince Charles’ private residence Highgrove House, London City Hall, Winchester Cathedral and the Government Communication Headquarters radio monitoring station. The town of Brighton turned off the lights on its pier.
The movement crossed the Atlantic to the United States and Canada, where the 553-metre (1,815 ft) CN Tower in Toronto and the surrounding skyline were plunged into temporary darkness.
In Toronto’s trendy Queen West neighbourhood, many restaurants offered candlelight dining. The golden arches at a corner McDonalds were dark, though the fast-food restaurant itself was brightly lit.
Closer to downtown, news helicopters swooped low over city streets, where banks had switched off the neon signs atop their skyscrapers. “I would have expected fewer helicopters during earth hour,” said one disgruntled spectator.
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and Chicago’s Sears Tower and Soldier Field football stadium were slated to take part in the closing hours of Saturday’s global event.
Buildings account for about one-third of the carbon emissions that scientists say will boost global average temperatures by between 1.4 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century bringing floods and famines and putting millions of lives at risk.
Organizers of Earth Hour said that while switching off a light for one hour would have little impact on carbon emissions, the fact that so many people were taking part showed how much interest and concern at the climate crisis had taken hold.
Additional reporting by James Thornhill in Sydney, Chisa Fujioka in Tokyo, Ploy Chitsomboon in Bangkok and Alister Doyle in Oslo, and Janet Guttsman and Renato Andrade in Toronto; editing by Giles Elgood and Philip Barbara