Is changing the clocks a waste of time?

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1. What is daylight saving time?

Every year billions of us around the world observe the familiar ritual of winding our clocks forward in the spring and turning them back again in the autumn.

To the joy of some and the annoyance of others, this biannual time-tampering first steals 60 minutes of our sleep, then gives us all an ‘extra’ hour in bed. Of course, in reality we are neither losing nor gaining time. By shifting an hour of sunlight during the summer months we’re merely making better use of the daylight temporarily available to us in the evenings.

There are many countries worldwide that do not observe daylight saving time (DST) – and in those that do it has had a somewhat chequered and quirky history. Are those of us who meddle with our clocks making time or killing time?

2. An animated history

DST has a colourful history spanning more than 200 years. From its conception in Paris in the 18th Century to its first use during World War One, captivating characters such as Benjamin Franklin and Winston Churchill have played their part.

Animation by Sun & Moon Studios.

3. A permanent change

In the UK we observe Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in the winter months, and advance an hour during British Summer Time (BST). From time to time Parliament has debated the idea of adopting BST throughout the year, but a permanent change is yet to happen.

The case in favour

Those in favour of year-long BST say it would benefit our health and well-being. A 2014 study of 23,000 children in nine countries suggested their activity levels were 15-20% higher on summer days. The Automobile Association estimates that around 100 lives each year would be saved by avoiding traffic accidents on dark evenings.

Year-round BST would also bring the UK into line with Central European Time, helping us to do business with the continent. In the view of the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions this would increase domestic tourism earnings by £2.5-3.5bn.

Meanwhile, an extra hour of evening sunlight in winter could save £485m a year in electricity bills, as households would require less energy to heat and light their homes.

The argument against

Those against a permanent change to BST say it would delay sunrise in northern Scotland until 10am in the winter months. This would leave children at increased risk of accident walking to school in the dark.

Farmers, postal workers and the construction industry have also traditionally supported lighter mornings.

Some say that even if we did move onto BST all year round, we may still end up changing the clocks twice a year. Proposals have been made to adopt GMT+1 during the winter and introduce GMT+2 in summer.

4. We're not all in it together

Infographic showing the use of Daylight Saving Time around the world

Many countries avoid daylight saving time altogether, and in the countries that have adopted it clocks are changed at different times of the year. In the southern hemisphere DST is observed from October to March.

5. Should we still use it?

David Rooney, Curator of Time, Navigation and Transport at the Science Museum, London, discusses whether daylight saving time actually works.

6. What do you think?

Now that you know more about daylight saving time, do you think changing the clocks is a waste of time?

Yes

Stop meddling with time!

You selected

Yes

You're not the only one who disapproves.

Most of the world avoids daylight saving time. It is mainly used in Britain, Europe, the USA and Canada.

No

I like the idea of summer all year round!

You selected

No

If you like shifting the clocks an hour...

You may also want Britain to adopt BST all year round, bringing it in line with Central European Time.

I just don't know

I can take it or leave it!

You selected

I just don't know

The UK was also unsure at first.

During WW1 the German newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung claimed: 'It is characteristic of England that she could not rouse herself to a decision.'