A new study finds that light pollution is getting worse, to the point that it may actually be causing problems for plants and animals.
In bad news for human society, and for animals as well, scientists have determined that nights around the world are getting progressively brighter. A research team from Germany say that light pollution is making darkness at increasingly great risk of becoming extinct, with satellite observations showing that artificially lit areas on the Earth grew by 2 percent between 2012 and 2016.
And the light pollution is probably a lot worse, because the satellites they used can’t pick up light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, which have become increasingly popular as a source of light. Polar-orbiting weather satellites can’t detect the blue generated by LED lights.
Light pollution is a bigger problem than simply preventing city people from getting a good look at the Big Dipper. It can interfere with people’s sleep patterns, and can disrupt the migration and reproduction of a large number of species from birds to insects to amphibians. Even plants can have growing periods that are longer than usual.
“A central aim of the “lighting revolution” (the transition to solid-state lighting technology) is decreased energy consumption. This could be undermined by a rebound effect of increased use in response to lowered cost of light,” the abstract of the paper states. “We use the first-ever calibrated satellite radiometer designed for night lights to show that from 2012 to 2016, Earth’s artificially lit outdoor area grew by 2.2% per year, with a total radiance growth of 1.8% per year. Continuously lit areas brightened at a rate of 2.2% per year. Large differences in national growth rates were observed, with lighting remaining stable or decreasing in only a few countries. These data are not consistent with global scale energy reductions but rather indicate increased light pollution, with corresponding negative consequences for flora, fauna, and human well-being.”