Recently the UK saw its first Energy Saving Day, or E-Day - an attempt to involve people in reducing the nation's energy use and carbon emissions. In the end, no savings resulted; and in the Green Room this week, its architect Matt Prescott looks back and asks "was it worth the effort?"
The E-Day launch featured the premiere of a bicycle-powered cinema
E-Day was designed to raise awareness that saving energy offers a quick, simple way of tackling the massive and urgent threat posed by climate change, and makes sense as a way of saving money and improving peoples' comfort in summer and winter.
I hoped to focus attention on how almost everyone can painlessly take greater personal responsibility for reducing their own demand for energy, and so cutting carbon emissions.
I had calculated that if every one of the 22 million households in the UK turned off just one 100 watt light bulb, on the same day, four 500 megawatt coal-fired power stations could be turned off.
I therefore wanted to see whether this information could be brought to life in a way that involved and interested everyone, and whether asking everyone to switch off at least one electrical item for a day could produce a noticeable impact on the country's energy use and carbon emissions.
No-one likes being repeatedly beaten over the head with messages asking them to "make sacrifices for the planet".
So I decided E-Day should be fun - and was able to set it up initially as a comedy-led BBC television programme likely to feature the talents of people like Graham Norton.
As Kevin Costner might have said in Field of Dreams: 'We built it; but they did not come'
After 18 months of work, BBC TV cancelled Planet Relief just as we were getting ready to go into production.
This was apparently because a couple of other environmental projects had delivered poor ratings and there had been a public debate about whether it was the BBC's job to "save the planet".
The cancellation had immediate implications for E-Day - the first being that it was likely to slide into oblivion - but also raised wider questions about the public's appetite for the climate issue.
Opinion polls show widespread concern about climate change, and a significant majority in favour of taking action - so why weren't people watching? Or were broadcasters being too timid?
Anyway - I decided to see whether I could make E-Day work as an independent venture. The environment charities, religious groups, energy companies and scientists I had been working with decided to remain involved, and the National Grid agreed it would still monitor national electricity use - so it seemed viable.
However, I had very little money to make things happen. A couple of charities came through with no strings attached funding, and the damage to my bank account - while still the equivalent of a deposit on a house - looked manageable.
Come the big day, thanks largely to some fantastically talented people giving their time for free, we had a superb website, a fresh and fun launch event at St Paul's Cathedral featuring the premiere of a bicycle-powered cinema, some lovely short films on YouTube and the agreement of some of the large energy companies to use E-Day to promote home insulation.
But the big disadvantage of working outside one of the big media or campaign groups is that you are dependent on others for publicity.
Without publicity, no-one would know that E-Day was happening, and so almost by definition it was bound to fail on both objectives - lowering energy use and spreading awareness.
In the end, this proved the project's Achilles heel.
The Sun covered our "Bjorn The Bear" video, the BBC News website carried a live data feed of electricity use, BBC News 24 filmed the launch, and 15 local radio stations interviewed me.
A Russian TV news channel, with an audience of 100 million, decided that E-Day was important enough to merit 10 minutes of prime time coverage, even during the Russian elections.
MTV phoned up and asked if they could be part of E-Day in the last few hours!
But it was not enough. As Kevin Costner might have said in Field of Dreams: "We built it; but they did not come".
I was deluged with emails saying, in a nutshell: "Great idea - wish I'd known about it".
It didn't help that the National Grid's prediction for "business as usual" electricity demand immediately ran into trouble.
The day was colder than expected, and this meant that more heating and lighting were being used than the Grid's experts had predicted; for a while, the graphs allowed you to conclude that E-Day had raised energy use - and maybe this dissuaded people from taking part.
Towards the end of E-Day, the Grid used actual weather data to update its predictions, and its final figures revealed that electricity use over the 24 hours of E-Day was 0.1% higher than would have been expected.
At first, I was hugely disappointed by this result.
But as the next morning dawned, and hundreds of encouraging emails started to pour in from children, businesses, councils and people overseas, I started to realise just how much had been achieved.
Now, a month or so on, I am able to step back a bit and ask: was it worth it?
I hope that backing sensible measures to save energy and urgently tackle climate change will not frighten anyone in the British media for much longer
First, the positives. Many energy companies, charities, academics and retailers set aside their day-to-day differences and found common cause; that has to bode well for the future.
Through E-Day, five major energy companies simplified the hoops that people have to jump through when they apply for help with home insulation; perhaps this is a model they can take forward now.
They are required to offer these services by law, so they might as well make it as easy as possible.
The together.com coalition of big companies pledged to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of their customers by 1 million tonnes in time for the next E-Day.
Divide and fall
Will there be another E-Day, though?
Right now, I don't know. If there is, I hope that the next one will be bigger and better, and able to build on the ideas, lessons, support and interest generated this time around.
The novelty and ambition of E-Day appeared to create a rare set of conditions under which competitors felt they were missing out if they refused to join efforts to save energy and to come up with solutions to climate change.
However, the fact that E-Day couldn't guarantee high-profile coverage meant that many big and wealthy organisations decided they could say "yes" to contributing a low-cost idea and their logo, but "no" to spending any money on publicity.
There are of course other initiatives with similar aims, such as the recent Earth Hour.
All of them are worthwhile; what we must not do in the environmental community is create any sense of competition between them.
The Bishop of London put the moral case for cutting emissions
If different groups concentrate on promoting just their "own" ventures, none will achieve what they want. We must keep our common goal of reducing carbon emissions in mind.
Hopefully, next time around it will be possible for all the E-Day partners to promote it more whole-heartedly so that all of their customers and members know exactly when it is, what they are being asked to do and what solutions are on offer.
I also hope that a major media organisation or two will turn out to have a serious enough interest in saving energy that we can do something exciting and unique together in time for the next E-Day.
The Daily Mail's campaign to banish plastic bags appears to have borne fruit; the recent Budget gives supermarkets a year to put their houses in order, otherwise legislation will force them to.
To me, this shows that simple, focused campaigns with significant media coverage, designed to help the environment, can be effective and popular.
Comic Relief and Children in Need successfully campaign against poverty and child abuse; so I hope that backing sensible measures to save energy and urgently tackle climate change, to the level the science indicates to be necessary, will not frighten anyone in the British media for much longer.
Meanwhile, our leaders need to lead and our governments to govern, while customers and voters need to demand and support efforts to save energy and tackle climate change without delay.
In the end, bringing carbon emissions down as far as we need to will require not an E-Day but an E-lifetime; and we should grasp every chance we have to spread the word and start on the small steps that will make the big challenges we all face less daunting.
Dr Matt Prescott is an environmental consultant and director of banthebulb.org, an online campaign encouraging greater energy efficiency, and founding co-ordinator of E-Day
The Green Room is a series of opinion pieces on environmental topics running weekly on the BBC News website
Do you agree with Matt Prescott? Did E-Day suffer from a lack of publicity? Do people need events like this in order to be encouraged to save the planet? Or should governments be taking the lead, not individuals?
It's a real pity that nobody was really paying attention, or they simply had not heard about E-day - not enougth publicity, probably not in the interests of money making energy producers.
I still can't understand why buildings aren't glazed with solar panels embedded into the glass. ASBO's should be imposed on companies who's office lights are constantly on all night long, Billboards and street lamps could also be coated in the technology and their effectiveness enhanced by passing street vehicles.
So many people mindlessly leave things on. Its truly sad. I think the next E-day needs a longer run up and to be planted into the minds of children at schools as a science project. Hopefully that will get it the kind of attention it needs. I recently switched to a low power laptop to do all my work and donated my power hungry pc to a school as a server. They've got it networked for 4 users using the same machine.
Nicomo, Warsaw, Poland
Sorry, but it was a complete and utter waste of time and effort. You need to promote BIG changes, like National Leave Your Car At Home Day, then hope a few people join in.
Here are a few more suggestions:
Hang your washing out rather than use the drier.
Skip that cup of tea/coffee
Have a slice of bread not toast.
And turn your car engine off while you wait at the lights.
These are all big consumers of energy and will make a measurable difference if adopted by the few people you manage to reach with your campaign. The Tesco approach, a little on a lot, may work in the long-term but you need to get the ball rolling first.
Stan Thomas, Wrexham, UK
People do not believe the global warming frightner - rather they do believe that the UK has run out of a home-grown energy source probably through bad planning and the expectation that by shunting the manufacturing parts of the economy to such as Germany and places east there would not be a need for more energy in the UK. It is also a dependence on the EU to do the thinking for us... Like road planning that is out of the hands of local communities, terrorism that is used to create a police state, energy is now a politically motivated social engineering tool, can we trust our politicians ?
Otherwise, yes a grand idea lets all cut our lilving costs and use as little energy as possible. No one should wast money on fuel.... Good luck C
Christopher H C, Hampshire.
Science is about concencus. I urge you to find me one scientific paper that shows that human emmsions have not had an effect on global warming. I can show you plenty that show that human emmsions have. Also, 1998 was the hottest year in record (according to one data set) as it was an El Nino year. The over all warming trend has consistantly been increasing since. 11 out of the 12 hottest years on record have been in the past 12 years. This kind of 'pub' science of 'no evidence' and 'still debatable' that I have read on this wall demonstrates the kind of ignorance that still exists. If climate change was not an issue, why would the UNFCCC exist, Why would hundreds of thousands of scientists be researching the topic. Why is perenial sea ice and glaciers retreating? Why are the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice shelves showing signs of collapse? Even if human CO2 emmisions were not causing warming, they are still causing acidificaiton of the oceans bleachin corals and effecting!
plankton algal blooms. Overall, we should be taking a precautionary attitude. Seeing as there is a risk of dangerous climate change, would it not be best to tread carefully until we know for sure?
Abe Cambridge, Norwich
Mike Owens, York - you people just keep recycling the same argument. Perhaps you should practice what you preach and read what is regularly reported by the BBC, including the report of 3 days ago explaining the influence of La Nina on global temperatures and what is likely to happen when El Nino returns- that is the breaking of the 1998 global temperature record.
Ian Stuart, Goring
I've read a little more around the subject, and on reflection, my previous comment was grossly unfair to the organiser. Whilst I believe that the change in "prediction" was incorrectly implemented, I now believe this to be naivety rather than deliberate misinformation. I take back what I said previously and apologise.
For all you who posted and seem to say this isn't done and that isn't done, what are YOU doing to contribute something to adverse/stop the effects of global warming? Are you making sure you don't use unnecessary amounts of electricity(do you unplug your electronics from the outlet if you are not charging/using the equipment?! this is very important), taking public transportation and using environmentally-friendly cars, recycling anything that can be recycled? Probably not. If you citizens who care enough to post on the website don't seem to do enough, who are you to complain about how this issue is being handled? And more sadly, if you aren't doing it, who is? People need to realize that this environmental issue is detrimental to all of us if we do not all change and care for the environment immediately!!
Georgia Smith, London, UK
To be honest I wasn't even aware that it had happened. Even if I had been aware then I'm pretty sure I'd have ignored it anyway, my hobbies (nearly all computer related) are pretty much reliant on electricity and I'm not going to turn it all off for an evening on the say so of some guy on tv.
Stephen Mortimer, Reading, UK
I missed it too. Not sure what I could have switched off for the day - lights I suppose, but I'm already using low-energy bulbs so I'd have to switch off four or five. I could eat cold food instead of using the microwave and kettle, but it'd probably be refrigerated food - but that's true anyway. I cycle... The catch is that if I am economical with energy every day, then there isn't anything extra to give up for E-Day except as a stunt - not something to go on with.
As for lack of interest - I think all of us have heard the climate change message, some profess not to believe it possibly just to annoy, but we don't need to watch another BBC event to tell us about the subject. We already know. Give us news - innovative use of solar power; how do new energy meters work, do they show a cash estimate; how are the new carbon-neutral homes coming along.
Robert Carnegie, Hamilton, Scotland
I'm sick and tired of being lectured at by largely ignorant eco-fanatics who think that gesture politics have some purpose. Play somewhere else, chidren.
Jon Anderson, Guildford
What blatantly silly greenwash.
Thomas Goodey, Cuxton-upon-Medway, Kent, UK
I tried to motivate the people I know, by steering them towards the website. But sadly, the complete lack of media information meant that in the end, without some form of viral publicity from the conventional media (TV, newspapers, radio) as well as from the likes of, Facebook, MySpace etc this project was doomed from the start. Maybe next time, you should look at getting some bigger, more relevant sponsors on-board BEFORE you announce the event. Likewise, get the sponsors to generate interest in schools via competitions and maybe some publicity "mini-events" to help focus people on the main event. Finally, you need to ask the question: Do we really need a "one-day event", when we should all be focussing on saving energy 365/7/24....??
Tim O, Cambridge, UK
More publicity next time would help.
Can television be used for environmental pleas, just like Party Political Broadcasts? Little snippets of useful information that plant seeds in the minds of its audience, giving them at least some understanding of an issue a few days each month.
Philip, Winchmore Hill, England
Having seen the workings of a factory in China they put us to shame on energy conservation. Admittedly they do have power shortages but make every effort to reduce energy consumption where possible. At lunch time for instance, all the factory lighting is switched off as well as all equipment.
E-Day? Never heard of it. I work in central London and can't remember seeing any advertising or any news articles about it. They should pull their finger out next year.
Nicholas Cameron, London
How come I can check stuff like global weather, global stocks and traffic and travel information in real time via the internet, but my electricity usage is still quarterly and primarily based on estimates? A smart meter securely accessed via a web browser could provide real time energy data (use, cost etc) and would be a much better way of engaging me instead of "feel good" PR stunts and pointless rock concerts.
Phil, Watford, UK
As a direct result of your e-day campaign which I found on the BBC website, I emailed around my offices (of around 300 people) and asked them to think about their energy consumption and found some info on how much money and energy is wasted by leaving office equipment on standby and put it on our noticeboard, the next week an e-mail message from a director was delivered requesting that the whole company turn off PC's when not in use! So you see E-day was a good idea and even though the benefits may not have been seen on the day the repercussions of it, just changing even a few peoples habits will last forever! And to respond to others below, yes CO2 has varied enourmously over geological time, but if you look at the pattern and plot the Industrial revolution on the time scale, you cannot deny the immense change that global industrialisation has had on the planet! And yes there is some debate as to wether the planet will become hotter or colder but just look at the last few t!
errible summers, flooding, mild winters, plants and animals migrating / growing at the wrong time of year, climate change is happening, it is our fault, and its time to stop thinking "what will turning one light bulb off do?" and actually DO IT!!!! If nothing else it brings your electric bill down, so please please please turn stuff off when you dont use it!
I've noticed there are several people on this thread still pushing the idea that there is no scientific consensus on Climate Change. While an absolute consensus in science is extremely rare (you can probably find someone with a PhD that believe the sun goes around the earth), the overwhelming majority of scientists affirm that climate change is happening and that we are responsible. If you were to check the sources of the doubters on this thread you would find the same handful of scientists being promoted by corporate PR and being paid handsomely for it. Most deniers like to call themselves 'climate sceptic' but the reality is that they are actually 'PR gullible'.
Ben Wilson, Bristol
The problem is that we have far too many 'days', most of which are dreamed up by marketing people to drum up interest in whatever tat they happen to be promoting. The BBC and other media outlets could help enormously by refusing to publish news items that are obviously the product of PR and concentrating on issues that are genuinely important.
Ben Wilson, Bristol
The E-Day non-event shows that people generally use the energy they need - when it's cold, we switch on the heat, and when it's dark, we switch on the light. It perhaps also underlines a growing awareness in the general population of the failings of Anthropogenic Global Warming as a credible theory, and a healthy indifference to the chidings of the alarmists.
Alex Cull, London, UK
I would gladly have taken part in this exercise, and encouraged my co-workers to do the same by turning off the air conditioning which runs constantly in the building, despite us being on the breezy fifth floor of an office block. The only problem was that I had no idea E-Day was taking place until I read this article.
The way to get individuals to make a change to their energy-consuming habits is to boil it down to the lowest common denominator: remind them they'll save their own money by turning off lights!
Mark Thomas, Manchester, UK
Its an ironically obscene tragedy, that on the one hand BBC can decline from being seen to be supporting a cause that will contribute to making for a better planet whilst on the other, it promotes "green guzzling" programmes like Top Gear" that mindlessly waste energy .
Gregory Rasmussen, Oxford
I have a few concerns that I would like to point out.
So lets say you got the media frenzy that you were after and you got 100 photographers there, TV crews newspapers, great one thing though how would you off set their C02 emissions, the waste from the ink and paper, the cars and vans used to there, the energy used in the pre/post production, the mass of people turning on there TV to watch this event.
Also I think we need to address the wider picture, what is the point in us saving emissions and being careful when there are bigger polluters in the world which offset what save.
The money would be better spent in developing nations to help them produce less CO2 emissions. What all of the nations save who are in the Kyoto agreement are off set by the burning of the rain forest and other countries, wouldn't it be better is we took the billions of pounds each year and gave some to these countries to help them reduce the emissions or are we just to caught up in our little world to worry about the bigger picture?
"No-one likes being repeatedly beaten over the head with messages asking them to "make sacrifices for the planet"."
By people who by and large make no such sacrifices.
"I decided to see whether I could make E-Day work as an independent venture."
"But the big disadvantage of working outside one of the big media or campaign groups is that you are dependent on others for publicity."
Independent? Outside? Although Planet Relief was abandoned you received plenty of taxpayer funded publicity on the BBC, an entity you previously were employed by and have strong connections with.
If you are so serious about this, why didn't you turn the BBC off for an hour? Radio one used to claim 'a million watts of music power' (ie a megawatt) just for their transmitters alone. How much energy is used for ALL the BBCs transmitters, studions etc? Personally I'm always pleased to hear SERIOUS solutions to reducing dependence on fossil fuels, but not this sort of tokenism.
Bob Smith of Bracknell has oversimplified the 'hypothesis'. His statement is essentially meaningless, as well as misleading. So, to correct him; what the BBC should do is stop giving airtime and web-copy space to vacuous statements like that of Mr Smith.
No climate scientist worth his/her salt suggests that "human CO2 emissions are causing climate change". Strip out the natural forcings of global temperature, such as volcanic emissions, weather systems such as El Nino and La Nina, farting cows and sun spots and the like, and you find that human emissions of greenhouse gasses (not just CO2) are greatly adding to any natural trends of warming or cooling. There is no 'debate' - humans are exacerbating the situation and the net effect is that there is a trend of warming far above what the natural systems would produce.
And the science is, in fact, about 'consensus' - that of more than 2,000 independent scientific experts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They are near unanimous in their 2007 report that humans are greatly forcing climate change, and that we need to cut emissions of greenhouse gasses dramatically if we're to avoid the worst effects. They only work by consensus, and some fear that this waters down what would otherwise be even more dire predictions.
Owen Gibbons, Dunstable, Bedfordshire
Bob Smith , Bracknell has it right. Whilst I have great sympathy with any initiative to reduce energy consumption as we will eventually run out of fossil fuels, this constant "climate change" "save the plant" hype is beginning to put people off. Yes the BBC should return to balanced reporting and perhaps begin with a two sided discussion of why "global warming" stopped in 1998 and what exactly is the evidence that we need to "save the planet". Pretty weak evidence I think. C. S. Lewis once remarked that man's control of nature was frequently nothing more than man's control over other men - with nature as the instrument. I believe that this is the reason for all the hype, not a real threat. The mathematical models which forecast the threat and on which we are asked to change the way we live have failed dismally to correctly forecast the lack of global warming since 1998, so why should we belive them?
Mike Owens, York
The problem is that most people like the idea of being green but it's not convenient.
I think in the next five to ten years the message will grow and our culture will change to reflect it.
Remember many people have been shouting about being green for well over 10/20 years so the current awareness is a step forward, however the governments involvement is easily seen and perhaps mis-interpreted as a tax lead initiative which is completely missing the point.
Also the science behind out carbon emissions is far from clear and has a negative impact on all aspects of green living.
Our society needs to change it's direction regarding our consumption of all things.
We are not able to make the kind of changes necessary at this point in time.
Accept this and carry on as your are!
I rather think that most people who would otherwise be enervated by e-day have moved on to making real lifestyle and business changes. Anybody who will switch off their office lights for e-day, does it anyway! People who have made the change cannot do anything for e-day!
Perhaps have a negative e-day. Ask people to revert for one hour to what they used to do last year, or two years ago. That way we can measure what real progress has occurred. There is also a subliminal message to all those who still leave their lights on that they are old fashioned and being left behind!
Simon Mallett, Lenham Kent
One problem that e-day suffered was that there was a lot of competing news that day, with loads of strong stories (like the Jersey child abuse scandal)that pushed e-day out of the news channels. For e-day to work, it needs the backing of a major broadcaster who can devote, in advance, non-news programme time so that it cannot get pushed off our screens. I do hope the BBC will take on this role for e-day next year and maintain its commitment through to the finish!
Oliver Tickell, Oxford
I do hope that Dr Prescott has not lost money promoting E-Day. Even if you do not accept the case for Man Made Global Warming, saving energy can only be a good idea. We have become too careless. I see houses and business where lights burn night and day. This should become unacceptable.
If Dr Prescott has actually lost money, I suggest he should petition Al Gore. After all, Gore regularly makes a lot of money from this topic. When he left the White House, he was reportedly worth $2,000,000. In the last 7 years he has made investments of $35,000,000 in hedge funds alone. Not surprising really. His fee for a speech is $175,000.
Why should the disciples go short, when the Messiah is raking it in?
E-Day sounded like a great idea, I just wish, as a company, we had known about it, we could of leant our support. Irerspective of the debate on if we are changing the climate more rapidly than normal, it is cost effective and certainly does no harm to reduce emmissions by reducing energy consumption, we are a very power hungry nation.
Phil Thomson, Northampton
Bob Smith - apart from flatly contradicting yourself (science is "never about consensus", except in the case of MMCC which you will only accept when there is consensus), you are also deluding yourself if you think policy-making never involves uncertainty. Governments, businesses and individuals make decisions based on a degree of uncertainly all the time. If we only made decisions based on absolute certainly we would never be able to act on anything.
There will probably never be consensus on MMCC, but the but that does not mean that we should ignore the prevailing scientific opinion on the issue. The risks are simply too great.
Kate Ward, Sheffield, UK
In 40 years I've never lived in a house where there were 100W lightbulbs and I've been using low energy bulbs since I bought my first house in 1992. I've reduced my household energy consumption about as much as I can, even after having central heating installed 3 years ago. Climate change is only a secondary matter to me - I just can't afford to run the heating at tropical temperatures and leave the telly on all day. Surely a televised event to tell us to turn things off is a bit of a contradiction in terms. These are a nice ideas, but there needs to be more centralised action from the government. The use of lightbulbs is such a tiny proportion of fuel useage compared to cars that it won't make a difference until there is a good reliable integrated transport system that everyone is able to access to reduce car use. Encouraging kids to walk to school is the first most fuel efficient saving we could make.
Fenny, Leamington Spa
I would say that the biggest energy saving made by the BBC was to cancel the TV show - I wonder how much energy the studio facilities would have used ?
well, i live and work in central london, i read the bbc news website every day, and use search engines every day.. i knew nothing about e-day, earth day.. possibly the awareness of the actual event was to blame? and perhaps it should not have been left to the individual to participate (though this is important) but emphasis on businesses, unnecessarily lit buildings and signs etc?
I didn't hear about the e-day. If I had of done I would have done something about it. I think it would be good if TV's and Radios were stopped for the day and only on for two half hours of the day - for the news). Advertising could be done sooner. If I knew it was happening I would have sent an email to all my friends asking them to send an email to all their friends asking them to support the e-day. Could you not advertise on Facebook? It would be free if you could set up a page and get loads of people to join that page and all their friends would join. You could have facts on their about how much one light bulb could help. This would really reach out to young people. Sarah
Sarah Waters, Caterham, Surrey
Well done to Matt Prescott for his efforts, although most of us missed the fact that there was an E-Day which is a shame. BUT the idea is now out there, so with a bit more publicity on air, TV and newspapers, next year those of us interested could all join in the awareness on The Day by doing something, and hopefully something we find we can continue doing - or not doing! The together.com coalition and the 5 major energy companies' simplification of insulation provision are already good effects, and the end in sight of my pet hate, the plastic bag, is just great!
Rome, W. Kensington, London, UK
I don't agree with the above comment that human emissions causing climate change is still debatable and the BBC should call it a 'hypothesis'. We have moved on from this and need to take positive steps to protect the environment. Why do some people need to endlessly debate whether humans are causing climate change? It is painfully obvious that as a race we are causing serious harm in terms of our energy use, lifestyles and corporate environmental negligence on the planet. The whole point of E-day I think was to highlight that we can all make simple steps to change our lifestyles without turning into eco hermits. The more people that get to grips with this simple concept the better it will be for all of us. Regardless of the climate change deniers views' we can't avoid the fact that we are running out of oil and gas and need to find genuine alternatives (i.e.not nuclear of course) and use energy in a more efficient and responsible manner.
Tom Winckley, Shrew!
When was it?
Martin Helliwell, Telford, UK
Bob Smith should understand that taking "green" measures benefits everyone, regardless of global warming. Efficiency is something we should strive for in everything we do and use. What good does it do to anyone to waste energy or pollute?
Bram, Antwerp, Belgium
I am all in favor of a cut in energy emissions but one thing I don't understand is why the whole planet does not get involved. I went to Canada last year for 3 months and was horrified to discover that its against the law to hang washing out in Calgary. Lovely Summer days and every household is using a tumble dryer! Also they seem to pride themselves with their big gas guzzling cars and trucks because fuel is so "cheap" there.
Maybe if all of us played a part in the saving of energy we could have some impact.
Karen, danszentmiklos, Hungary
So when was it? If you don't tell us when you plan to have these days how do we know? I;m delighted you plan these things weeks and weeks and weeks ahead; if I had been given similar notice I could have made arrangements to help.
As an ordinary member of the public I waste 10 whole days a year, sitting in traffic queues as our Political masters spend £4m of taxpayers money to build new electronic tolling booths at the South end of the Forth Road Bridge only to spend another £2m ripping them down again before they were even put into use. If we didn't waste our public money in this and similar schemes we would need green days. Travel generally takes longer and burns more fuel too.
Alex McFarlane, Glenfarg
nature will run as nature but if human interfere with arrogant action to break-down of it will cause more affect by human-being, if we never control the tecnology such recover new tecnolgy everthing use by matter anorganic it causing more polute, at this time our enviroment ontime very fresh now produce more emission arise new disease day to day and climat change as big problem that the world faced today. so i argue let every body at world wide please reduce used emission at daily activity and goverment create a serious regualation to combat it, let our world keep fresh and friendly natural enviroment.
ano, Dili/ East Timor
The problem of climate change seems so overwhelming that it can be difficult for individuals to understand how turning off one light can make any difference...climate change is the result of 200 years of human activity. It seems more intuitive that big problems need big solutions like those that only governments can arrange (such as subsidizing renewable energy)...in comparison, turning off a light can seem like a futile gesture.
David Smith, Singapore
IN INDIA, OUR STATE KERALA ENVISAGES THE SAME PROBLEM.AN EARNEST ATTEMPT WAS TAKEN BY THE ELECTRICITY BOARD TO PROVIDE AWARENESS TO COMMON PEOPLE.THEY INTRODUCED ADVERTISEMENTS WITH FAVOURITE FILM STARS REQUESTING PEOPLE TO DECLINE THE USE OF POWER.FORTUNATELY, IT HAS MADE A GREAT IMPACT IN THE STATE.
There are too many similar campaigns.Although we all know the bad effects that brought by the climate change,it is also difficult for all the people to follow Matt Prescott'opinion. As a student I firmly stand by Matt Prescott's side. However ,I think the governments ought to lead such campaign ,to broadcast more puff and less commercial advertisement.It will work better!
FM.YIN, BeiJing CHINA
There is no "massive and urgent threat posed by climate change" and people have seen the alarmist clamour for what it is - bogus. The massive and urgent threat is from Ecofascists who want to drive us back into a pre-industrial age.
John Bowman, Sarlat, France
In response to Bob Smith's comment - that's absolute rubbish. Having studied climate change and it's causes for a number of years I can tell you that there is absolutely no uncertainty within any part of the scientific community that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are causing climate change. The media are to blame for insinuating that there is doubt around this and inventing warring factions of the scientific world who believe different arguments. This is simply not the case and I would strongly advise readers to watch Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' if they have any doubt or uncertainty around this issue. We are to blame and we need to make radical lifestyle changes - simple as.
Chris Vinson, United Kingdom
I work for the Government in a building with no effective thermostats on its central heating system. The only way to keep cool in the winter is to leave the windows and doors open. Meanwhile, my pensioner mother shivvers at home frightened to switch on her living room fire due to the price of gas! To answer your question: yes, the Government should be taking the lead and not leaving the planet-saving to individuals!
Harry, London, UK
No-one who really knows the green issues will be surprised by this outcome. The sad truth about the world is that most people are just too selfish and stupid to act even when its totally obvious that they should. This is the real root of most of this "climate cynicism" rubbish.
The truth is that democracy itself has so far not been up to the task of solving any of the really hard green problems, and the bitter pill is that we may need a more draconian form of government if we are to survive.
The window where we can do anything about climate change is already closing rapidly - and by the time things like Kyoto come in to effect it will already probably be to late.
The heart of the problem is that this is science and science just doesn't work as a democracy unless everyone can become an expert. (its about a lot more than 'knowledge', expertise requires logic and insight and experience.)
Robert Lucien Howe, Haltwhistle, Northumberland
Your focus is in the wrong place. Our world's governments, in my opinion, are awaiting the outcome of the American political process in November as to what their environmental policies will be. Think of the world as a giant set of gears, and Mr. Bush as the wrench. Action to stop climate change will come in the form of industry regulation and investment in clean technologies, not a voluntary couple of hours in which we turn off our inefficient light bulbs, which are STILL legal to buy and sell.
Dave Anderson, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
E-Day was a waste of time because it was not publicised! Only people who look at these kind of web pages knew about it.
I found the article, by accident on the BBC News website. The search facility is hopeless, so I could not find it again to send an email to make people aware. It certainly didn't make the news THE DAY BEFORE to actually let people know about it!
I'm sure there was more important stuff to report that day. Like how many times Manchester United kicked a ball - a new story worthy of our attention I'm sure (compared to efforts to curb climate change that is).
Ken Sharp, Hartlepool
Interesting that the BBC pulled out of this as they didn't think it was their job to save the planet. But apparently it is their job to promote West End musicals in TV shows dedicated to them.
What is needed is a pointless reality show where the person who saves the least amount of power is removed from the show each week. That seems to be the idea that the main V companies are begging for at the moment.
Dave Webb, Okinawa, Japan
Forgive me for being perhaps a little selfish, or even angry.
All this "climate change" mania - and I'm not saying there is an issue, I see it everyday and am not ignorant myself - is a little hypocritical of not just governments, but tv and media companies alike.
Perhaps this is a bit radical. But instead of telling people to turn their lights off - how about doing things like suspending tv for the day, businesses turning lights off and even more radical - force a blackout for say an hour an day worldwide or something.
I find it a bit wrong and frankly crazy that all this hype over the issue is aimed at blaming and guilt tripping the people when really the people that can change things don't - I'm talking about government, and big businesses.
They are the leaders of this world and even if people find it and bit democratic can do more to persuasively, or even forcibly change society through action.
In short, instead of asking people to turn off the lights, how about shutting down the National Grid for a day?
That might actually do something instead of some ridiculous, failed E-day that wants to make people feel guilty when they are doing nothing wrong. If the BBC wanted to actually help Climate change, they would go into hibernation and shut down for a day.
Take lead and stop blaming everybody else.
Lucas Weatherby, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffrdshire, UK
I do agree with Matt Prescott.More similar events are to be held Worldwide.It also means that governments, community leaders, schools, universities, as well as NGOs should lend in a hand to deal with the issue.The sad fact is that people are to be educated or trained to really appreciate all the comfort they are taking for granted.People can spend hours at their treadmills for the sake of their physical fitness.Devices can be designed to link a treadmill to a generator to create energy that can be accumulated and stored for later use.That may not sound much on a personal basis but if whole communities are into the idea,the results can be very encouraging.Sensors that can turn off lights as well as unneeded electrical appliances can be installed in every household and plant or manufacture at very low cost are readily available almost everywhere.
Vu Tuan Tu, HCMC,VietNam
Most of us are tired of all this saving stuff. There's no point in making small savings in the UK when the world's biggest polluters, the Chinese, are opening one new coal fired power station a week. Anything the UK does is just the equivalent of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic!
Paul B, London, UK
But surely the real problem is not how much energy the consumer uses but whether the energy supplied is clean and renewable. The consumer can only consume what ever energy the industry supplies and has little control over the type of energy supplied. If energy is going to be supplied in cleaner and renewable forms it will require investment, so surely it would make more sense if we left the lights on all the time and bought big gas guzzling 4x4s so the energy companies can make bigger profits to invest in cleaner energy sources.
Amanda Berry, Cardiff, UK
Maybe the best focus would be on the money saving aspect of reducing one's energy use, particularly as the cost of energy is rising. The constant focus on the "guilt trip" (for want of a better expression) obviously isn't working well and I'm sure will eventually bring about resentment. So come on BBC, show us how we can save money on our energy bills!
Matthew Davis, Exeter, UK
re Bob Smith, Bracknell, Berkshire.
Bob, ,you mention that "the BBC should help the public understand that the hypothesis 'human co2 emmissions are causing climate change' is still a debatable one, and that science is never about 'consensus'". This is true, but climate change is only one of a number of reasons for reducing energy use and emissions. Just because there may not be consensus about the causes or existence of CC, this should not ne used as an excuse for inaction
Ben Newton, Melbourne, Australia
If you want tangible evidence of the difference people can make if they put their minds to it, it sounds like a great idea. Shame it didn't work this time. Make the date something memorable like April the 1st and perhaps it will be easier for people to get behind. St Georges day would be good for England, but that's the sort of date that gets remembered after the fact, so I wouldn't use it on that basis.
andy hall, Lytham, England
Switch a lightbulb off... your household thermostat kicks in and replaces the light bulb heat source with your boiler heat source... LOL he's not the only fool out there.... think about it!
Let... no, MAKE the government do it's job!
The whole climate change thing is more about people to become ethical about what they have and use. Does the lastest most up graded this or that make us happier? I supect not because a newer and better one follows shortly behind. What day like E-day are really about is people being conected to each other. Climate change is hotting up this issue, it is one planet and one human race becoming humane.
Jonathan Mills, Kidderminster
The idea was great, the results were disappointing, as someone who is keen on energy saving I was sad to find out about this event after it occurred. Publicity? What publicity?
Anyhow, Great idea - wish I'd known about it..
Tell people how little money they will save by switching off a lightbulb, and they will get a clearer picture. An unimaginable mass of CO2 saved is deliberate obfuscation. We can only be zero-emitting by closing down every fossil fuelled power station.
Trev C, Carlisle, Cumbria
Bottom line is that people are fed up of cheap publicity "green" stunts when there is a desire for affirmative action and leadership. When will someone actually stand up and actively lead the debate instead of waving a few pom-poms and giving us what we alredy know?
May I suggest the next E-day in the UK be held in mid-summer. Fewer heating costs, more daylight to celebrate or have get-togethers, tourists to inspire and participate, not much on TV...
David Calder, Thames Coast, New Zealand
If we are to reduce our energy consumption we need to know how much we are using. Ideally each house should have a visible meter, say in the kitchen, so you can see the effect of your use of equipment on electricity usage.
Also in the corner of the BBC TV screen we should have a little icon showing the level of the nations power use. This, with a warning level and a "please switch something off" message when it goes to high, would make us all more conscious of what we use.
Belinda Phipps, Watford
I have always tried to be very involved in anything that will help save the environment from when I learnt about the consequences of our actions in school. I really wish that E-Day had been more publicised because I didn't even know it existed until I read this article. Businesses need to really realise that if they don't help with promoting awareness about the environment that they may not have much of a business left in a few years, when we lose our energy resources, and the weather's too extreme for people to move out of their bunkers.
I don't think that the government should take a lead on this issue though, because they already control so much of our lives, it is like we are turning into a socialist state anyway. I hear that they are even telling us what kind of driveways were allowed to have now.
Hmmm..... not the government but definitely businesses I think I shall conclude.
Laura B, Cheshire, UK
I am committed to reducing my energy output on an ongoing basis, but does this sort of action actually reduce the amount of electricity which is produced? As I understand it the Grid prepares for downtimes and surges as part of their planning, does this not mean that the downtime and surge occurs at different times rather than reducing energy consumption overall?
Halfway through the day the power company "re-calculated" its predictions based on the cold weather, despite them boasting that they were always accurate to within a percent. The energy consumption was around 5% higher than normal; way out of line with predictions. So, the whole thing was a fiddle. Many people protested against being told what to do by someone who only recently had obtained their PhD (and is a bit of a bore on the subject) by increasing their consumption. The fact that he so blatantly cheated the numbers should lead to official sanctions against him.
Or are the power companies so incompetent on their predictions on this particular day, when normally being so accurate (a fact of which they are justifiably proud).
I think that a BBC report at the time, said it all.
"E-day was organized to raise awareness of global warming...
Actual consumption was 0.1% over normal levels. Organizers blamed COLD WEATHER."
Les Johnson, Canada
Dear Bob Smith: So you think we should rather spend time, effort and money debating whether or not climate change is man-made or not?
Great idea. You great-grandchildren would be proud.
Your suggestion involves 'IF' we should do anything at all, instead of focusing on 'HOW' to deal with the problem of climate change and the destruction of the environment.
The longer it takes before we act, the higher the chance of irreversible damage.
Line Kaarhus, Montreal, QC,
I think people are a little tired of the 'charity-athon' format of Red Nose day etc. Also, as we are all directly contributing to the problem of climate change, the guilt-factor is perhaps just a bit too strong and the issue a bit too complex to lend itself to that format. The onus has to be on government to take a very strong lead on the issue. Unfortunately, our own government makes the right noises, but is very short on action. Media can make a contribution through science and educational programming, but again I think they are failing us.
Paul A, London, UK
The BBC should help the public understand that the hypothesis 'human co2 emmissions are causing climate change' is still a debatable one, and that science is never about 'consensus'.
Bob Smith, Bracknell, Berkshire