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Lights going out in 84 countries for Earth Hour 2009

CHICAGO - The lights are going down from the Great Pyramids to the Acropolis, the Eiffel Tower to Sears Tower, as more than 2,800 municipalities in 84 countries plan today to mark the second worldwide Earth Hour.

McDonald's will even soften the yellow glow from some Golden Arches as part of the time zone-by-time zone plan to dim nonessential lights between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. to highlight global climate change.

'Earth Hour makes a powerful statement that the world is going to solve this problem,' said Carter Roberts, chief executive of the World Wildlife Fund, which sponsors Earth Hour. 'Everyone is realizing the enormous effect that climate change will have on them.'

Seven times more municipalities have signed on since last year's Earth Hour, which drew participation from 400 cities after Sydney, Australia, held a solo event in 2007. Interest has spiked ahead of planned negotiations on a new global warming treaty in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December. The last global accord, the Kyoto Protocol, is set to expire in 2012.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged the convention to reach a fair and effective climate change agreement and promoted Earth Hour participation in a video posted this month on the event's YouTube channel.

'Earth Hour is a way for the citizens of the world to send a clear message,' Ban said. 'They want action on climate change.'

Other videos have been posted by celebrities such as rocker Pete Wentz and actor Kevin Bacon and WWF has offered Earth Hour iPhone applications. Search engine Yahoo! says there has been a 344 percent increase in 'Earth Hour' searches this February and March compared with last year.

New studies increasingly highlight the ongoing effects of climate change, said Richard Moss, a member of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and WWF's climate change vice president.