UN Climate Change News, 31 July 2018 – On August 1, the world will reach Earth Overshoot Day, the day when humanity will have used up nature’s renewable “budget” of resources for 2018. This according to the Global Footprint Network, an international research organization.
The carbon footprint, which represents the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to support human activities, plays a major role in this depletion as the fastest growing part of the humanity’s overall global ecological footprint.
Since a critical 60% of humanity’s ecological footprint comprises its carbon footprint, a significant increase in climate action is essential to end resource overuse and keep the average global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and to as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius below pre-industrial levels, which is the goal of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
Achieving this goal is crucial to stave off the worst impacts of the climate change, which include more and more intense heatwaves, flooding, droughts and storms.
“We are using the Earth’s future resources to operate in the present and digging ourselves deeper into ecological debt,” said Global Footprint Network CEO Mathis Wackernagel.
The Global Footprint Network calculates that people are consuming nature’s resources 1.7 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate them.
The graphic below shows how Earth Overshoot Day arrives earlier than ever in 2018. August 1 is the earliest Earth Overshoot Day since the world went into ecological overshoot in the 1970s.
In addition to immediate climate impacts, the costs of ecological “overspending” include collapsing fisheries, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, forest die-out and biodiversity loss. These threats could lead to famine and force many people to migrate to cities or other countries.
Global Footprint Network calculates Earth Overshoot Day every year using Ecological Footprint accounting, which adds up society’s demand on nature. This includes the demand for food, timber, fibers (cotton), fossil fuels, buildings, roads and other infrastructure.
Key Events around the World to Mark Earth Overshoot Day
Global Footprint Network and its partners will mark Earth Overshoot Day 2018 with several events around the world including interviews from leaders such as former UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres and Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme.
This event will be broadcasted live on Facebook and YouTube, using the hashtag #MoveTheDate.
“As we mark Earth Overshoot Day, today may seem no different from yesterday—you still have the same food in your refrigerator,” said Global Footprint Network CEO Mathis Wackernagel.
“But fires are raging in the Western United States. On the other side of the world, residents in Cape Town have had to slash water consumption in half since 2015. These are consequences of busting the ecological budget of our one and only planet,” he added.
Global Footprint Network has outlined four key areas with the most potential to correct ecological overshoot:
- Cities: A worldwide reduction of driving by 50% combined with a replacement of one-third of car driven miles with public transportation, walking and biking could send Overshoot Day back 12 days.
- Energy: Reducing the carbon component of humanity’s Ecological Footprint by 50% would push Overshoot Day back 93 days.
- Food: By halving food waste, reducing footprint intensity in individual diets and consuming world-average calories, humanity can move Overshoot Day back 38 days.
- Population: If every other family in the world had one less child, Overshoot Day would move back 30 days by 2050.
Although 86 percent of the world’s population lives in a country with an ecological deficit, the latest national Ecological Footprint data reveals some encouraging signs for moving back Earth Overshoot Day.
For example, the individual ecological footprints in high-income countries have declined 12.9 percent since 2000. Some of the countries with the largest declines since 2000 include Singapore (-32.1 percent), the Bahamas (-26.2 percent), Denmark (-19.0 percent); United States (-18.4 percent), United Kingdom (-16.6 percent), and France (-15.5 percent).
Global Footprint Network is inviting individuals to participate in Earth Overshoot Day by determining their own Personal Overshoot Day and Ecological Footprint at www.footprintcalculator.org and taking a “Step to #MoveTheDate” at www.overshootday.org/steps-to-movethedate .
See the relevant Earth Overshoot Day Press release here.