Global Light Pollution


Kyba et al. / Science Advances

Credi by Kyba et al. / Science Advances

Katie Soto, Contributing Editor

For five years, satellites have reported a rise in artificial light across the globe during night hours. A team of international scientists studied this phenomenon and found that there is a rise of light-emitting diode (LED) outdoor lighting technology. This means that both light pollution and energy consumption is steadily increasing over much of the planet.

Dr. Christopher Kyba of the GFZ German Research Center for Geo sciences in Potsdam, Germany, analyzed five years’ worth of images of Earth and found that the rate of LED outdoor technology increases by two percent every year and is still continuing to spread. Dr. Kyba was very concerned with the increase of artificial light around the world. According to Astronomy Now, they said, “Light is growing most rapidly in places that didn’t have a lot of light to start with…that means that the fastest rates of increase are occurring in places that so far hadn’t been very strongly affected by light pollution.”

Kyba’s studies have also found that the LED lighting requires significantly less electricity to produce the same quantity of light as older lighting technologies. LED lighting companies have argued that the high energy efficiency of LED’s would help to slow down overall global energy demand, even though that outdoor lighting accounts for a significant fraction of the nighttime energy budget of a global city.

For thirty years, the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) has tried to warn people of the suspected hazards associated with the use of artificial light at night. IDA Executive Director J. Scott Feierabend stated in Astronomy Now, “Today’s announcement validates the message IDA has communicated for years… “We hope that the results further sound the alarm about the many unintended consequences of the unchecked use of artificial light at night.” Some of the hazards of light pollution, according to the Department of Physics at Florida Atlantic University are, an increase in some illnesses, disturbances to animals, and the wasting of energy, resources, and money.

Kyba and the IDA hopes that in the future, that Earth-observing satellite missions will leave a better mark of how our world uses artificial light at night.