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Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag

28.08.2020 | Publication

Light pollution – extent, effects and approaches

Artificial light is not only one of humanity's greatest achievements and of considerable importance to the way we work and live. Artificial light also influences the biological rhythm of day and night and thus the overall structure of the natural balance. In addition to the intended effects, the increasing use of artificial outdoor lighting also entails a number of undesirable side effects referred to as light pollution.

TAB's policy brief in English TAB-Fokus no. 25 PDF [3,35 MB] summarizes the scientific state of knowledge with regard to the extent and trends of this light pollution and explores further potential needs for action.

Within the framework of the TA project, the biological, ecological, health-related, sociocultural and economic impacts of artificial lighting at night have been examined. The working report provides an overview of the state of knowledge with regard to the extent, current development trends and impacts of light pollution. On this basis, options for action are presented that will contribute to a reduction of light pollution taking also into consideration the beneficial objectives of lighting. Thus, the debate on the pros and cons of artificial lighting at night shall be intensified and an evidence-based political support of ongoing developments with regard to lighting design and technology shall be enabled.

Summary
  • In addition to the intended effects, the increasing use of artificial outdoor lighting also entails a number of undesirable side effects referred to as light pollution.
  • Artificial lighting can disturb the circadian rhythms of humans and animals, which are controlled by the change of day and night, and is suspected of being involved in the development of various diseases.
  • Moreover, the increasing illumination of the night influences the natural behaviour of animals. Besides habitat changes, the consequences are ranging from changes in hunting or reproductive behaviour to the deadly attraction effect of light sources, e. g. for insects. However, the longterm consequences of these changes for entire populations, communities or landscapes are still poorly understood.
  • Options for reducing light pollution exist both technologically and in terms of regulation and approval of lighting installations.

For the full report TAB-Arbeitsbericht Nr. 186, published in July 2020 after acceptance by the German Bundestag, please visit the German project page.

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