News ID: 205482
Published: 1111 GMT December 03, 2017

Light pollution affects environment

Light pollution affects environment

When Thomas Edison patented the first commercially successfully light bulb in 1879, it’s certain that humanity took a huge step forward. No longer would people be restrained from activity or endeavor by the rising and falling of the sun; the era of artificial light had begun.

According, it’s probably just as certain that when pioneering the bulb, Edison never considered the environmental implications that his invention might have. More than 135 years on, artificial light is becoming more widespread and brighter than ever — but how does this affect our planet?

A new study from a German research Center has analyzed images from a new NASA instrument known as VIRUS DNB and found that the Earth is now more brightly lit than ever before.

In the four years between 2012 and 2016, the amount of the planet’s surface illuminated by artificial light grew by two percent per year. If that growth continues at the same pace, we will be emitting more than double the amount of light in 2050 as we were in 2012.

The news comes as something of a shock as much of the western world has now transitioned to LEDs and other energy-efficient bulbs. Despite this measure, the use of light in urban areas in the USA stayed the same, while in places like the UK and Germany, it actually grew. Much of the developing world (including many parts of Africa, Asia and South America) also showed dramatic growths in light emittance; indeed, the only places which demonstrated decline were war-torn countries such as Syria and Yemen.

The only explanation for the boom in artificial light is that humans are now using more than before. While this is beneficial for improving visibility at night time, it may not always be necessary and could have a surprisingly large impact on the environment.

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