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Paris takes part in Earth Hour 2016 turning off lights at the Eiffel Tower. (Photo: Yann Caradec/flickr/cc)

As Climate Records Shatter, Lights Dim Worldwide in 'Call to Switch on Our Collective Power'

Earth Hour 2016 'reminds us that we are also witnessing mounting momentum to change climate change'

Andrea Germanos

Cities worldwide turned off their lights for an hour Saturday night to mark this year's Earth Hour and highlight the pressing need for global climate action.

According to the Earth Hour movement's website, 2016's celebration—the tenth time the annual event has taken place—was the biggest ever, with an "unprecedented 178 countries and territories" taking part," and including "1.23 million individual climate actions, from petitions to on-the-ground activities.

"Every light switch turned off represents a call to switch on our collective power and be the first line of defense for our planet as we form the frontlines of climate change," said Siddarth Das, Executive Director of Earth Hour Global.

First started by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2007 with a single event Sydney, Australia, this year's Earth Hour comes on the heels of "an ominous milestone in our march toward an ever-warmer planet"—data from NASA showing that February 2016 was the warmest February in recorded history and "deviated more from normal than any month on record."

It also comes roughly three months after the UN climate talks in Paris ended with a historic deal.

"As new climate records are broken month after month, the record-breaking participation of Earth Hour reminds us that we are also witnessing mounting momentum to change climate change. The grassroots are meeting the governments in their ambition for strong climate action, sparking hope for the future we can shape for generations to come," Das said.

While the lights dimming at historic monuments is often what grabs headlines, and the fact that event does nothing about policy around energy infrastructure highlights its flaws, organizers stress that its importance stretches beyond the one hour.

Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International, wrote ahead of the event, "We could be cynical and say that 'switching off the lights makes no difference,' but it is symbolic and part of something much bigger—a catalyst, giving people the power to be a part of the solution for the issues that affect them most, whether it is the haze in Southeast Asia, coral bleaching on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, thinning ice in the Arctic or rising water levels that are threatening their homes in Island states in the Pacific.

"We are in a phase of unprecedented transition and what we need now is to put in place the changes we need to accelerate the shift towards decarbonization and a better environment for us all," he continued.

"This is our time to change climate change—let's seize the moment."

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