Fact Check

Does Daylight Saving Time Exacerbate Global Warming?

A letter to the editor suggested the early start to Daylight Saving Time worsened the effects of global warming.

Published Apr 23, 2007

A letter to the editor suggested that 2007's early start to Daylight Saving Time contributed to global warming.

Since the first implementation of Daylight Saving Time (DST) in the United State during World War I, jokes have abounded about people who mistakenly believed the springtime adjustment of clocks somehow created an "extra" hour of daylight (when all it did was shift the time of day that daylight hours occurred) or that it had a deleterious effect on crops and farm animals (who are oblivious to humans' methods of keeping time). Now that stock of humor has been increased with the additional claim that the lengthened Daylight Saving Time period which was implemented in 2007 (when DST began three weeks earlier than in previous years and stayed in effect for an additional week longer in the fall) contributed to record high temperatures recorded across the U.S. in the late winter and early spring by producing a daily extra hour of "warming" daylight.

One such item quoted above was indeed published as a letter to the editor by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on 16 April 2007:

You may have noticed that March of this year was particularly hot. As a matter of fact, I understand that it was the hottest March since the beginning of the last century. All of the trees were fully leafed out and legions of bugs and snakes were crawling around during a time in Arkansas when, on a normal year, we might see a snowflake or two.

This should come as no surprise to any reasonable person. As you know, Daylight Saving Time started almost a month early this year. You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they?

Perhaps this is another plot by a liberal Congress to make us believe that global warming is a real threat. Perhaps next time there should be serious studies performed before Congress passes laws with such far-reaching effects.

Hot Springs

However, this missive was not intended to be taken literally, as its author, Connie Meskimen, is a Little Rock lawyer known for penning sarcastic letters with tongue planted firmly in cheek, such as the following:

I enjoy Paul Greenberg's column and regard it as an oasis in a desert of pretty bad writing (and in the case of Philip Martin, very bad writing). I have to take issue with the substance of his Feb. 9 column, however.

In this missive, he lambastes the recent film "American Beauty" as being superficial, unduly politically incorrect and, most surprisingly, lacking in spirituality. He says, "There is not one sign of prayer, sacrament, church or any kind of simplicity, especially spiritual."

Perhaps he should review the plot again for spirituality. It goes like this: A middle-aged man abandons his quest for material goods and quits his job. He shows compassion for the social misfits around him, most notably the closet homosexual next door and his misfit son. He is tempted by his daughter's Lolita-like friend and finds redemption in the end by refusing her advances. He is then killed and speaks to us after his death about salvation (from on high, judging from the camera angle).

Hmmm, as Humphrey Bogart would say. Seems like I have read this story somewhere else.

Imagine my delight when I opened my paper Dec. 14 to find not one, not two, but — count 'em — three movie reviews by Philip Martin on the same page. Martin has made himself the Ginsu knife of the world of letters (but wait, there's more), albeit without the cutting edge.

In his review of "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings," we are treated to this insight in the form of a sentence fragment, which in fact is an entire paragraph: "Because a movie is not a book." He favors us with this incisive information after telling us that he saw the movie in Manhattan. It is difficult for one to discern the relevance of this bit of information other than to remind us that Martin was in Manhattan. I guess it wasn't playing in Paris.

In his review of "Not Another Teen Movie," he provides us with this: "Unfortunately a stupid movie that knows that it is stupid is not the same as a funny movie." It is an absolute tragedy that Groucho Marx didn't have Martin to write his straight lines.

In his review of "The Man Who Wasn't There," Martin finds it necessary to compare the Coen brothers to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Martin states that the Coens "are like that other fellow Minnesotan, F. Scott Fitzgerald, insofar as they have the knack of saying very little very beautifully." How appropriate. Martin, like some of his fellow Arkansans, has the knack of saying very little very often.

Oh, well. I suppose there are those enamored of Martin's style. As the existentialist philosopher Jean Boyd opined, one man's weed is another's flower.

Nonetheless, Connie Meskimen's controversial "Daylight Saving" missive prompted a number of responses from Democrat-Gazette readers, ranging from expressions of incredulity that such a letter could have been written (let alone published) to hopes that it was all meant as a joke:

Re Connie Meskimen's comments on Daylight Saving Time exacerbating warming: It is hard to believe in this day and time that there are still people who believe that night and day are controlled by human beings. That the world rotates on an axis and moves around the sun is apparently an unknown scientific fact to some people.

Whether we put a time frame around this occurrence is a human need. There is no more daylight than usual, regardless of the time. I can't believe the Democrat-Gazette would even print such drivel. Oh, wait. Maybe it is because it is another attempt to bash liberals. How sad.

I am baffled by your accepting, much less featuring, the letter about Daylight Saving Time. Did the editor accept the premise that our warmer March was due to the extra hour of daylight? Or was the intent to show how illogical those opposed to the concept of global warming can be?

The bias of the writer is shown by "You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate." There is later reference to the "liberal Congress." The notion reminds me of earlier arguments that with Daylight Saving Time, the hens would get confused and not know when to lay their eggs.

Nature and weather are, of course, unrelated to our choice of how we divide the day. In fact, it is only in relatively recent times that we divided the day into 24 hours and had clocks.

Re the letter from Connie M. Meskimen about Daylight Saving Time: Oh, please, please, please tell me that the date of that submission was April 1.

A recent letter to the editor excoriated Congress for changing the start of Daylight Saving Time. The writer said that the abnormally high temperatures in March were due to the effects of the extra hour of daylight.

In fact, the letter even insinuated that the change to Daylight Saving Time was a plot by Congress to exacerbate the effects of global warming and make it a bigger political issue.

I have some bad news for the letter writer. In March, we had the exact same number of hours of daylight as we do every March. While Congress has the power to change many laws, it cannot change the laws of nature. All the members did was change the time on our clocks. They did not actually add any hours of daylight.

Having just read the letter from Connie M. Meskimen of Hot Springs, I'm at a loss to figure out how she thinks Daylight Saving Time, even if it is "another plot by a liberal Congress," could have any effect on how many hours of daylight or darkness there are in the world.

Congress may and does make a lot of dumb moves, but this is one thing it can't change. All those "legions of bugs and snakes" crawling around don't have clocks, just natural instinct, which tells them when it's warm enough and light enough to crawl around.

On the other hand, maybe it is I who don't understand Daylight Saving Time.

No doubt mine will not be the only response to letter writer Connie Meskimen. First of all, she is correct to acknowledge the changes we've all seen in seasonal patterns. Sadly, though, she apparently doesn't want to believe that this is indeed a result of global climate change, which will continue to have an impact on our environment until notable measures are taken to slow the damage being done to our atmosphere. To deny that the problem exists is just willful ignorance.

With regard to the extension of Daylight Saving Time, I would like to point out that this measure was enacted by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed by a Republican president as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. So much for her vast, left-wing, liberal conspiracy.

But perhaps her most bizarre thinking is that somehow Congress has created an extra hour of daylight out of thin air. Anyone with even a basic understanding of reality knows that the number of hours of daylight we have on any given day isn't altered by simply resetting a clock. We also know that this simple shift of time can help reduce the consumption of energy by delaying the increased need and use of electricity after sundown. Perhaps Meskimen can find an elementary school student to explain it to her.

Re the letter from Connie M. Meskimen: I am somewhat confused. She states that we've had the "hottest March since the beginning of the last century," and she goes on to blame Congress for that due to the earlier than normal time change.

Well, we did "spring forward" a few weeks earlier than we have in the past. What I am confused about is, no matter whether our clocks are set forward one hour or back one hour, don't we continue to have the same amount of daylight hours every day? I have decided, though, to be very careful about my voting in 2008. Whether conservative or liberal, I don't want to be guilty of voting in someone who has that much power over our weather!

Evidently Mr. Meskimen received a number of direct inquiries about his bit of satire, as afterwards the voicemail at his office phone presented callers with the following message: "If you are calling about the Daylight Savings Time letter and wish to explain global warming or daylight savings time to me, I would urge you to get a sense of humor and/or a life, in that order. Unless, of course, you want to pay me for an interview; if so, please leave your telephone number and I will expediently return your call."

A few sharp-eyed readers pointed out that another tongue-in-cheek letter similar to Mr. Meskimen's had appeared in the Aspen Times a month earlier:

Dear Editor:

I am sure that if you have been out on the trails of our wonderful mountains lately you have noticed the snow is disappearing rapidly, and there are rocks and trees poking through at levels seemingly unprecedented in the memory of those of us that pay attention to such things. It is heartbreaking to see their majestic finery slipping away so early.

Ah, the locals say, global warming is to blame! They have seen the movie by Albert Gore and are convinced, and even our own Aspen Skiing Co. is buying it. But the true culprit is right under their noses, on the faces of their watches, foisted upon us by another sainted Democrat — one Franklin Delano Roosevelt!

Yes, my friends, I am speaking of the insidious evil known as daylight-saving time! When we switched our clocks ahead on March 10, we not only lost an hour of sleep for one night, we added an hour of sunlight to every evening until next November. Any fool can tell you that afternoon sun is the hottest sun, as that is the hottest part of the day! Think of the damage an extra hour of solar radiation does to the snow on our mountains. And this year, with a Democrat congress, daylight-saving time was moved up four weeks, adding all that extra melting time. It will be a wonder if there is even a snow bank left to play in when April rolls around.

Now is the time for all right thinking Americans to call their congressman to tell them that this madness must stop, before Aspen and its economy melts away.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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