Light pollution falling amid soaring energy prices, star survey finds

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Light pollution has decreased as a result of fears over soaring energy costs, a survey by the countryside charity CPRE has suggested.

Stargazers have been enjoying the best view of the night sky since 2011, as light pollution sharply dropped during the pandemic lockdowns and the levels continue to fall despite restrictions having been lifted.

Reasons light pollution has fallen, according to the charity, include households being more conscious about wasting energy due to high prices, and councils reducing street lighting. A continued trend of home working has also caused a reduction in light pollution from offices.

In February and March this year, 2,500 people took part in the star count survey, in which they were asked to report the number of stars they could see in the Orion constellation. Light pollution, which the charity tracks by recording where people are able to see 10 or fewer stars with the naked eye, has continued to fall.

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After peaking in 2020, when 61% of participants reported seeing 10 or fewer stars, severe light pollution fell to 51% of respondents in 2021 and continued its slide this year, to 49%. The charity hopes that even if energy prices fall, people, councils and businesses will continue to limit the lighting they use at night. This would reduce carbon emissions and help wildlife.

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Emma Marrington, CPRE’s dark skies campaigner, said: “Half of the people who took part in [the] star count experienced severe light pollution that obscures their view of the night sky. This is bad for wildlife and human health – and the energy being needlessly wasted is bad financially and bad for our planet.

“But the good news is that these results show small adaptations can make a big difference. If there is a silver lining from the legacy of lockdown and, now, the soaring cost of energy, it is that it has never been clearer how simple it is to cut carbon emissions and energy bills while improving our natural environment.”

The charity has been campaigning for legal protection for the night sky, and also has called for local authorities to better plan where they put street light, so it is used effectively and does not cause needless pollution.

Crispin Truman, the chief executive of CPRE, said: “Our view of the night sky – and all the benefits it undoubtedly brings – is being blotted out by light pollution. Like all forms of pollution, it is damaging our mental and physical health, and also having a severe impact on wildlife. Yet, it is a form of pollution that is allowed to increase year on year without any effort being made to control the damage it is causing.”

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