On August 1, humanity will use nature’s resource budget for the entire year, according to Global Footprint Network, a research organization that pioneered the Ecological Footprint resource accounting metric. Carbon emissions make up 60 percent of the Ecological Footprint, which measures humanity’s demand for natural resources.
Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth’s ecosystems can regenerate in that year. Earth Overshoot Day has moved from late September in 1997 to August 1 this year, the earliest date since the world first went into overshoot in the early 1970s. In other words, humanity is using nature 1.7 times faster than ecosystems can regenerate. This is akin to using 1.7 Earths.
The costs of global ecological overspending include deforestation; fresh-water scarcity; biodiversity loss; and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to climate change, and more severe droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes.
“Our economies are running a Ponzi scheme with our planet, borrowing future resources to operate now. Like any Ponzi scheme, this works for some time. But as nations, companies, or households dig deeper into debt, they eventually fall apart,” said Global Footprint Network CEO Mathis Wackernagel. “It’s time to end this Ponzi scheme by design, not by disaster. This is critical for humanity to thrive.”
If we moved back Earth Overshoot Day 5 days every year, we would return to using the resources of less than one planet by 2050. Ahead of Earth Overshoot Day, Global Footprint Network highlights opportunities for action that are available today and estimates their impact on the date of Earth Overshoot Day. For instance, replacing 50% of meat consumption with a vegetarian diet would move the date of Overshoot Day by 5 days; reducing the carbon component of the global Ecological Footprint by 50% would move the date of Overshoot Day 93 days.
Researchers from Global Footprint Network and Schneider Electric estimated how much current off-the-shelf, commercial technologies for buildings, industrial processes, and electricity production could move Earth Overshoot Day. They concluded that such technology could move the date at least 21 days, without any loss in productivity or comfort. This is a conservative estimate as it is based on Schneider Electric’s offerings – and additional technologies may exist to move the date even further.
The 2018 campaign include:
- The Ecological Footprint Calculator is now available in English, French, Italian and Spanish. It allows users to calculate their own Ecological Footprint and personal Earth Overshoot Day.
- New “Steps” for individuals to take that support the global movement to reverse ecological overshoot.