March 10, 2016 6:16 pm
Updated: March 11, 2016 11:43 pm

UBC economist looks into whether Daylight Saving Time is really necessary

WATCH: With daylight saving time set to take effect again, meaning people will have to set their clocks ahead one hour this weekend, it begs the question: is this actually useful? Or is it useless? Linda Aylesworth has the latest research.

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This weekend, most people in North America will be losing an hour of sleep when the clocks will be set forward by one hour.

Daylight Saving Time (DST) takes effect on March 13 at 2 a.m.

Every year, however, there is a debate about just how relevant DST is anymore.

University of British Columbia economist Werner Antweiler has looked at the pros and cons of Daylight Saving Time and says there are plenty of good reasons to get rid of it.

There is a historic reason why DST wad adopted.

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U.S. inventor and politician Benjamin Franklin first proposed the concept in 1784 to conserve energy.

But Antweiler says 10 years ago, the state of Indiana provided a natural experiment to gauge whether daylight saving time really does reduce energy use when it converted to DST statewide – and one study actually found a slight increase in energy demand after the switch. While there were savings on lighting, there was a larger increase in air conditioning use in long summer evenings and heating use in fall mornings.

READ MORE: Daylight Saving Time 2016: When does the spring time change happen?

Daylight Saving Time is in use in over 70 countries worldwide and affects over a billion people every year.

In 1966, clocks across most of North America began changing in unison on the last Sunday of April and October.

Since 2007, clocks following the new North American standard for DST turn forward by one hour on the second Sunday in March and turn back on the first Sunday of November.

But there have always been questions around the usefulness and repercussions of DST.

Researchers at Penn State, Virginia Tech and Singapore University found there are massive productivity losses due to the hourly shift. Sleep experts also worry about what DST does to people’s health and sleep schedules.

READ MORE: Daylight Saving Time 2015: How the time change affects your internal clock

Antweiler says there has been plenty of evidence documenting a real and measurable cost of having a sleepy populace. Researchers have found a spike in motor vehicle accidents the Monday after clocks go back, and some evidence suggests there is an increase in fatalities which wouldn’t have occurred if clocks didn’t change.

He says psychologists have also found that springing forward can be bad for worker productivity.

A study by UBC Sauder finance professor Maurice Levi found that DST shifts impact stock markets.

While Mondays normally see a dip in stock returns, switching over to DST magnifies that dip by 200 to 500 per cent. Levi found that DST switch leads to a one-day loss of as much as $31 billion across all American stock exchanges.

Not all Canadian communities follow Daylight Saving Time

Areas of Quebec east of 63° west longitude remain on Atlantic Standard Time all-year round. Some northwestern Ontario towns stick to Eastern Standard Time all-year round and most of Saskatchewan uses Central Standard Time throughout the year.

Nunavut’s Southampton Island remains on Eastern Standard Time all year round and areas of northeastern B.C. maintain Mountain Standard Time year-round as well.

Getting rid of DST?

Last year, a Kamloops man launched a petition to stop the practice of changing the clocks in British Columbia.

Bob Dieno launched the petition asking the government that the entire province remains on one time, preferably DST, all year long.

Dieno says he has worked with groups in both Alberta and Ontario to help start petitions there. He has also heard from people in California, Oregon, Washington and even Alaska who think the whole Pacific time zone should stop changing the time.

More than 24,000 people signed the petition so far, but Dieno says they have made little progress.

But he is not about to give up on his mission. Going forward, Dieno plans to work with communities in other areas of B.C. to get their message out and start a campaign where people can send a letter to their local MLA, encouraging the government to stop the practice.

Meanwhile, Antweiler says if the world goes the way of abolishing DST, there are two options available: either remain on Standard Time year-round or implement Daylight Saving Time year-round.

He argues it might be better to switch to year-round DST, as new research suggests that would have optimal energy savings.

With files from Sarah Kelsey and Tania Kohut

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