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Why is daylight saving a thing?

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It's that time of year: daylight saving time starts this Sunday. The clocks go forward an hour, and the day gets longer.
daylight saving why

Daylight saving time starts this Sunday, but why does it exist?

This week, the clocks go forward an hour, and the day gets longer.

At least, it does if you live in NSW, Victoria, the ACT, Tasmania, or SA. If you’re in Queensland, WA, or the NT, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about.

Why do some parts of Australia change its clocks twice a year, but not others?

Context

Germany was one of the first countries to adopt daylight saving, during WWI, as a way to cut energy costs.

Currently, it is still used in parts of North America, Europe, the Middle East, South America, and New Zealand.

In Australia, it’s up to individual states and territories to decide if they use it.

Tasmania permanently introduced it in 1970 and SA and the eastern states followed in 1971. In 1992, 55% of Queenslanders voted against it in a referendum and it was dropped.

Why do states differ on daylight saving?

For the states that use daylight saving in summer months, the main benefit today is a lifestyle one: more daylight in summer gives you more chance to enjoy evenings, rather than wasting an hour of daylight when most people are asleep.

For example, on the longest day of the year in Sydney (21 December), the sun rises at about 5:40am. Without daylight saving, that’d be 4:40am. Shifting that hour to the evening ‘saves’ it to be enjoyed.

That all makes sense if you work ‘typical’ hours, such as 9am to 5pm. However, people who start their work days earlier, such as farmers, often oppose daylight saving because it means they start their day in darkness during summer months. There have even been suggestions the change in routine can unsettle cows.

Daylight saving is especially unpopular in North Queensland, partly because of farming but also because of the higher temperatures (earlier sunsets mean cooler evenings).

The U.S.

In March last year, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to make daylight saving time permanent. The legislation stalled before it could be passed by the House of Representatives or signed by President Joe Biden to become law.

Supporters argue that making daylight saving time permanent will lead to more light in the afternoons in winter and greater economic activity.

It came after an Economist/YouGov poll in 2021 found almost two-thirds of U.S. residents wanted to stop changing their clocks.

What would that look like in Australia?

Evenings would stay light almost all year round, but mornings would be darker.

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The top map shows light at 7am (purple areas are dark all year round at 7am) and the bottom map shows light at 6:30pm (yellow areas are light all year round at 6:30pm).

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