If you forget to change your clocks this weekend, you can probably blame Jean-Claude Juncker.
The outgoing European Commission president last year promised that spring 2019 would be the last time the whole of Europe would have to alter their watches for the bi-annual time change. But now the soonest countries will get around to deciding whether to scrap the change will be 2021, after some capitals complained Juncker’s bid was too much, too soon, without a proper impact assessment.
“It’s really annoying that things are going on for so long,” said Peter Liese, a German MEP from the centre-right European People’s Party. “I am really frustrated that the member states are not doing their job.”
Farmers are an oft-cited reason in favour of the clock change given it’s designed to maximise the use of daylight hours. In fact, farmers for years remained largely opposed to daylight saving time amid concerns about the impacts on farming schedules and animals’ biorhythms.
They argue it could reduce milking yields as cows stick to their natural rhythm. “They are like most humans, they are not receptive to change,” dairy farmer Katie Dotterer-Pyle told the Associated Press last year. “They are very habitual animals, they like to do the same thing every day.”
Early dusk means less visibility on the road and more risk of road accidents. U.K.-based road safety charity Brake estimates there are 10 percent more accidents in the few weeks after the October time switch as drivers get used to darker evenings.
“The conclusion was that the lighter afternoons, evenings you get from sticking to year-round summer time would lead to less road deaths overall in the U.K.,” said Dudley Curtis from the European Transport Safety Council. However, he cautioned that might not hold in sunnier southern countries.
Changing clocks doesn’t do anything to save the planet these days, even though it was first introduced as part of efforts to limit coal use for lighting.
Studies have pointed to an increase in crime during darker evenings, too.
Bad for your health?
Juncker’s effort to end daylight saving came after a record 4.6 million people responded to an EU survey — some 3 million of them German. Almost one in three Germans say they experience physical and mental discomfort due to the time change, according to the survey from health insurer DAK.
Problems falling asleep and insomnia are among the most common complaints. Some 40 percent of the respondents found themselves less able to focus and a third felt irritable due to the switch.
Franziska Kath, a psychologist at DAK, compared the switch to a “small jetlag.”
“The internal clock gets a little confused,” Kath said, although it’s quickly fixed. “The best medicine is also the simplest: rest and a few days patience.”
No energy savings
Changing clocks doesn’t do anything to save the planet these days, even though it was first introduced as part of efforts to limit coal use for lighting — and proposed before that, in the lore of the American founding father Benjamin Franklin, to save candles.
One popular argument used in favour of the clock change is that it’s supposed to help save energy by providing more light in the early morning during winter. But Germany’s energy industry has long pushed against that claim, arguing that switching times in the year really doesn’t do much to reduce overall energy use.
A study by the Bundestag’s Office of Technology Assessment in 2016 found a decrease of less than 0.8 percent in annual power consumption from lighting. But there were no significant changes from heating. Increasing use of energy-efficient lightbulbs mean they use less energy anyway, further undermining energy saving claims.