Anyone trying to make an international call this weekend would be forgiven for getting a little mixed up.
Daylight saving time ends in the United States on Sunday, bumping the clocks back an hour. The change happened in Europe a week earlier, meaning the time difference between the continents was momentarily smaller.
It’s another confusing wrinkle in a confusing temporal process that confounds the world.
Today, 70 countries change their clocks midyear for daylight saving time, including most of North America, Europe and parts of South America and New Zealand. China, Japan, India and most countries near the equator don’t fall back or jump ahead. In much of Asia and South America, the daylight saving time shift was adopted, but then abandoned. It has never been observed in most of Africa.
While the United States extended its daylight saving time in 2005 and Florida wants to make it its standard time, other countries are moving to ditch the practice. The European Union is weighing a plan to abandon shifting from daylight saving time midyear. “Millions . . . believe that summertime should be all the time,” the European Union’s chief executive, Jean-Claude Juncker, told German reporters in August. Juncker was referring, in part, to an online poll conducted by the EU, which found that changing clocks is tremendously unpopular. (As The Washington Post’s Rick Noack pointed out, however, there are methodological problems: “The largest share of participants came from one country – Germany – where the time switch has been a somewhat odd front-page topic for years. But any EU decision would also impact the 27 other member states.”)
Even if the EU approved the change‚ it would have to be approved by the European Parliament and each of the 28 member states. But it seems as if that’s possible. Abolishing the daylight saving time move is the rare bipartisan issue in Poland. Russia and Belarus ditched the process years ago. (Russian scientists claim the risk of heart attack jumped 50 percent and the suicide rate climbed when the clocks changed.)
A few days ago, Morocco scrapped the daylight saving time fallback, just before the clocks would have turned. It will save “an hour of natural light,” Administrative Reform Minister Mohammed Ben Abdelkader told Maghreb Arabe Press.
The concept of daylight saving time was proposed by several people around the world largely independently of one another. In 1895, George Hudson, a New Zealand entomologist, proposed shifting the clock two hours so bug hunters would have more sunlight in summer evenings. Seven years later, William Willett, a British builder, suggested shifting the clock to “prevent the nation from wasting daylight.” Willett made the proposal to the British Parliament and continued to advocate for it until he died in 1915.
In 1916, the German government adapted Willett’s idea as a way to save money during World War I. Other European countries and the United States soon followed. In 1919, daylight saving time was repealed in the United States. It returned, via federal law, in 1966. It was implemented by the European Union in the 1980s.