CHICAGO - The lights are going down from the Great Pyramids to the
Acropolis to the Eiffel Tower, as more than 2,800 municipalities in 84
countries plan Saturday to mark the second worldwide Earth Hour.

 

 

McDonald's will even soften the yellow glow from
some Golden Arches as part of the time zone-by-time zone plan to dim
nonessential lights between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to highlight global
climate change.

 

 

"Earth Hour makes a powerful statement that the
world is going to solve this problem," said Carter Roberts, chief
executive of the World Wildlife Fund, which sponsors Earth Hour.
"Everyone is realizing the enormous effect that climate change will
have on them."

 

Seven times more municipalities have signed on since
last year's Earth Hour, which drew participation from 400 cities after
Sydney, Australia held a solo event in 2007. Interest has spiked ahead
of planned negotiations on a new global warming treaty in Copenhagen,
Denmark this December. The last global accord, the Kyoto Protocol, is
set to expire in 2012.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged the
convention to reach a fair and effective climate change agreement and
promoted Earth Hour participation in a video posted this month on the
event's YouTube channel.


"Earth Hour is a way for the citizens of the world to send a clear message," Ban said. "They want action on climate change."

Other videos have been posted by celebrities such as
rocker Pete Wentz and actor Kevin Bacon and WWF has offered Earth Hour
iPhone applications. Search engine Yahoo! says there's been a 344 per
cent increase in "Earth Hour" searches this February and March compared
with last year.

New studies increasingly highlight the ongoing
effects of climate change, said Richard Moss, a member of the Nobel
Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and WWF's
climate change vice president.

"We have satellites and we have ships out at sea and
we have monitoring stations set up on buoys in the ocean," Moss said.
"We monitor all kinds of things people wouldn't even think about. The
scientific research is showing in all kinds of ways that the climate
crisis is worsening."


But not everyone agrees and at least one counter-protest is planned for Saturday.

Suburban Philadelphia ice cream shop owner Bob
Gerenser, 56, believes global warming is based on faulty science and
calls Earth Hour "nonsense."

The resident of New Hope, Pa., and owner of
Gerenser's Exotic Ice Cream planned to illuminate his store with extra
theatrical lighting.

"I'm going to get everyone I know in my
neighbourhood to turn on every light they possibly can to waste as much
electricity as possible to underline the absurdity of this action ...
by being absurd," he said.

Earth Hour 2009 has garnered support from global
corporations, nonprofit groups, schools, scientists and celebrities -
including Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett and the Archbishop
Desmond Tutu.

McDonald's Corp. plans to dim its arches at 500
locations around the U.S. Midwest. The Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and
Fairmont hotel chains and Coca-Cola Co. also plan to participate.

Among the efforts in Chicago, 50,000 light bulbs at
tourist hotspot Navy Pier will dim and 24 spotlights that shine on
Sears Tower's twin spires will go dark.

"We're the most visible building in the city," said
Angela Burnett, a Sears Tower property manager. "Turning off the lights
for one hour on a Saturday night shows our commitment to
sustainability."

"It goes way beyond turning off the lights," said
Roberts of the WWF. "The message we want people to take away is that it
is within our power to solve this problem. People can take positive
constructive actions."