SYDNEY/LONDON (Reuters) - People switched off lights around the world on Saturday, dimming buildings, hotels, restaurants and bars to show concern at 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 westwards against the sun.
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 candle light 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 Norway, at the Kvitfjell ski resort that was host of the 1994 Winter Olympic downhill, some late-season parties were held by candle light as heavy snow fell outside.
In Britain, 26 town and city councils signed up to switch off non-essential 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 south coast town of Brighton turned off the lights on its pier and pavilion to mark the event.
The British arm of Internet search engine Google turned its home page black and added the message: “We’ve turned the lights out. Now it’s your turn.”
Floodlights went out at landmarks in Budapest, including its castle, cathedral and parliament.
The movement will now cross the Atlantic to the United States and Canada,
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, Chicago’s Sears Tower and Soldier Field Stadium football ground, as well as the 553-metre (1,815 ft) CN Tower in Toronto were due to be plunged into darkness. The lights at Niagara Falls were also to go out.
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; Editing by Giles Elgood