Politics

Miami Sunrises at 8 a.m.? Scientists Slam Rubio Bill Making Daylight Savings Time Permanent

Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Scientists say U.S Sen. Marco Rubio's bill to make Daylight Savings Time permanent is a bad idea.
Americans across the political spectrum appear to have finally found something they agree on: changing the clocks twice a year for Daylight Savings Time (DST) is a real pain in the circadian rhythm. It's probably why you're yawning now, can't fall asleep at night, and your microwave clock is still an hour behind.

No one person has been more vocal about this than U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who has spent the past several years on a quest to abolish what he considers a "dumb" and "stupid" time change. But the Miami-born politician finally experienced victory earlier this week when his bill, called the Sunshine Protection Act, which would make Daylight Saving Time permanent across the nation, passed unanimously in the Senate on Tuesday.

"Switching in and out of Daylight Saving Time is outdated, and it's only a source of annoyance and confusion," Rubio said last week. "Frankly, it's just dumb, and there's just no other way to say it."

If the legislation passes in the House and is signed into law by President Biden, Americans would spring their clocks forward for the last time on March 12, 2023, and this great nation would remain on DST throughout the fall and winter, and begin experiencing darker mornings and brighter evenings forevermore.

While the bill's passage was met with praise from both sides of the political aisle, some health and meteorological experts warn that it's a bad idea. While they're not necessarily fans of the biannual switching of the clocks either, they're not on Rubio's Daylight Savings Time train: They're Team Standard Time β€” meaning they'd like the country to switch clocks back for the last time in November, resulting in brighter mornings and darker evenings.

Take Brian McNoldy, senior research associate at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, who's a diehard proponent of #SaveStandardTime. To show just how gloomy winters would become if Rubio's bill went into effect, McNoldy charted the sunrise and sunset times in Miami on Twitter this week.

"Abandoning #StandardTime would result in an 8:09 sunrise in mid-January in #Miami," he tweeted. "Long dark mornings are the worst for mental health."
The Standard Time stans' argument: Standard time is the "more natural time," given that the extra morning sun signals to the brain that it’s time to wake up and that the lack of light in the evening promotes sleep, as Beth Malow, director of the sleep division at Vanderbilt Medical Center, explained to Rolling Stone.

After the bill passed the Senate, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) issued a statement warning that the permanent move to DST overlooks potential health risks. The organization adds that this week's "quick action" by lawmakers did not allow for a detailed discussion or debate on the topic of time changes.

"We call on the House to take more time to assess the potential ramifications of establishing permanent daylight saving time before making such an important decision that will affect all Americans," the AASM statement reads.

Nearly 20 U.S. states, including Florida, have passed legislation for permanent daylight savings time, but Congress needs to pass a law for those to take effect.

Rubio and other senators have argued that brighter evenings would benefit Americans' health by reducing car crashes and risk for cardiac issues, stroke, and seasonal depression. But these claims haven't been studied very well because it’s extremely difficult to conduct nationwide studies on the topic, as a New York Times story pointed out last week.

It's also worth noting that America already tried β€” and failed β€” to make DST permanent back in the 1970s. People were fed up after children had to walk to school in the dark and eight kids died in traffic crashes in Florida. So, in October 1975, then-President Gerald Ford signed legislation reversing permanent DST, and the U.S. of A. has been switching its clocks twice a year ever since.