AS Malaysians, we are no strangers to the hustle and bustle of daily life. Yet, amid our routines, we find ourselves grappling with an escalating climate crisis, manifested in the form of intensifying heatwaves.

Prolonged periods of scorching heat and dry weather are not merely discomforting, they create conditions conducive to wildfires and pose serious health risks, especially for vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and those with respiratory issues.

As global temperatures rise, the risks of heat stroke and exhaustion heighten for everyone, from outdoor workers to crowded commuters.

Our infrastructure is also feeling the strain, with roads buckling under the heat and overheated vehicles causing disruptions in travel, including air transport.

The spectre of power outages looms large, adding to the concern. High demand for electricity to combat the heat can overload the grid, leading to blackouts. Imagine being stuck in sweltering heat with no relief in sight, a nightmare scenario that we can no longer ignore.

In the face of these challenges, where does Earth Hour fit in? Earth Hour, usually celebrated on the last Saturday of March, which this year fell on March 23, is an initiative by the World Wide Fund for Nature and is more than just a symbolic gesture.

It serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for collective action on climate change. While turning off our lights for an hour will not solve everything, it sparks conversations, raises awareness and inspires change.

Earth Hour encourages individuals, communities and businesses to turn off non-essential lights from 8.30pm to 9.30pm. It is an opportunity for unity in environmental stewardship and raising awareness about climate change and energy conservation. However, the spirit of Earth Hour should not be confined to one hour, it should serve as a springboard for sustained action.

According to a study, Earth Hour events worldwide have resulted in an average reduction of electricity consumption of 4%, with some regions achieving reductions as high as 28%.

While the goal of Earth Hour is not to achieve measurable electricity savings, these collective events illustrate how purposeful behaviour can quantitatively affect regional electricity demand.

Here are five constructive steps that we can adopt.

Take the time to educate yourself about climate change and its impact on Malaysia. Understanding the science behind climate change is crucial in advocating for meaningful action.

Conduct an energy audit at home. Beyond just turning off lights, unplug electronic devices and appliances not in use. Opt for energy-efficient lighting and appliances to reduce your carbon footprint.

Use your voice to advocate policies and initiatives that promote renewable energy, sustainable transportation and environmental conservation at local, national and global levels.

Incorporate sustainable practices into your daily life, such as reducing single-use plastics, recycling diligently, conserving water and supporting local eco-friendly businesses.

Be a catalyst for change in your community by inspiring others to join the movement for a greener and more sustainable future.

Climate change is a global crisis that requires a global response. As Malaysians, we are already experiencing the effects of climate change, with rising temperatures, increasing frequency of heatwaves and changes in precipitation patterns leading to more frequent droughts and floods.

The latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Meteorological Organisation confirm that the global average near-surface temperature is 1.45°C above the pre-industrial baseline, making 2023 the warmest year on record.

Therefore, Earth Hour is not just about switching off lights, it is about igniting our determination to build a sustainable future.

It is about understanding the science, acknowledging the urgency and taking collective action to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Let us use Earth Hour as a catalyst for change, inspiring us to make sustainable choices not just for an hour but every day, every month and every year. It is time to shift our perspective from “So what?” to “So much”.

The writer is a youth climate champions consultant at Unicef Malaysia, national consultative panel member to the Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Ministry, member of the Official Youth Constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, co-founder of Project Ocean Hope and a PhD candidate at Universiti Putra Malaysia.