Today marks Earth Overshoot Day – the day by which the human race will have used more of Earth’s natural resources than the planet can renew in the whole year.
Put simply, we use more ecological resources and services than nature can regenerate and this puts the Earth on an unsustainable trajectory.
Through overfishing, overharvesting forests, and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than forests can sequester, humans are demanding more from the earth than it can produce.
Every natural resource that we use from this day – 2 August – onwards is in effect unsustainable in the long term. Over the course of a year we use 170 per cent of the world’s natural output.
Earth Overshoot Day comes far earlier in the year than it did a decade ago when we used just 144 per cent of the Earth’s biocapacity. However, this is still double the 78 per cent that was used in 1963.
Currently, carbon emissions make up 60 per cent of humanity’s Ecological Footprint. If carbon emissions were cut in half, the date of Earth Overshoot Day would be pushed back by 89 days, or about three months.
In November 2016, 190 countries’ commitment to maintaining global warming below the two degree Celsius threshold was ratified.
Imperfect as it may be, the Paris Climate Accord generated global goodwill and hope that humanity was ready at last to tackle its biggest challenge yet. However, the deal suffered a huge blow in June when Trump announced his plans to withdraw from the agreement.
Of the World’s larger nations the USA makes the second largest demand on the Earth’s resources, operating at five times the biocapacity of the US. This is second only to Australia.
The Global Footprint Network has also produced a calculator that allows you to track what impact your own actions have on the world’s natural resources at www.footprintcalculator.org.
The new Footprint Calculator allows users to measure their own demand on nature (Ecological Footprint) and assess their personal Earth Overshoot Day. A user’s personal Earth Overshoot day is the date Earth Overshoot Day would be if all people had their Footprint.