PARIS – The Eiffel Tower's 20,000 sparkling bulbs went dark for five minutes Thursday night and the lights went out at the Colosseum in Rome and the Greek parliament in Athens in a demonstration of concern about climate change across the European continent.
Environmental activists timed the lights-out protest before the release Friday of a major climate change report that will warn of a worsening threat from global warming.
The City of Light dimmed between 7:55 p.m. and 8 p.m. when lights were switched off at the Eiffel Tower as well as the Paris Hilton, where many of the scientists and officials from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are staying as they work on the climate change report. The hotel even switched off its electric revolving front door.
The scientists' long-awaited report says global warming is "very likely" man-made, the most powerful language ever used on the issue by the world's leading climate scientists, delegates who have seen the report said Thursday.
And the document, the most authoritative science on the issue, says the disturbing signs are already visible in rising seas, killer heat waves, worsening droughts and stronger hurricanes.
The protest extended to the southeastern city of Grenoble, where a campaign rally organized by French Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal went ahead in the dark after organizers pulled the plug on lights in the meeting hall. The hall's microphones and speakers worked during the blackout.
Royal, a former environment minister, has pledged to make the fight against climate change her top ecological priority if elected in France's April-May elections.
Individuals also heeded the lights-out call by France's Alliance for the Planet which organized the demonstration.
"I think it's an important gesture," said Chantal Bericault, who said she turned off all electrical appliances in her apartment in the chic 8th arrondissement of the French capital.
Bericault, a jewelry store owner, said she had even braved her building's stairs in the dark.
Some experts frowned on the lights-out, saying it could consume more energy than it conserves because of a power spike when people turn the lights back on. They warned it could possibly cause brownouts or even blackouts, though no problems were immediately reported.
Several European cities staged symbolic blackouts along with Paris.
Authorities in Rome switched off the lights at two of the Italian capital's most popular monuments, the Colosseum and the Capitol.
In Spain, Madrid's city hall turned off one of the capital's most emblematic monuments, the Puerta de Alcala arch. In the southern city of Seville, local authorities did the same with the famous Giralda Tower, and the Mediterranean city of Valencia also turned out lights at some landmark buildings.
In the Greek capital, Athens, lights illuminating several public buildings — including the parliament, city hall, and Foreign Ministry — were temporarily turned off.