Earth produces, we consume has been the way of life since humans first appeared on the planet, but it seems that our annual consumption has increased beyond what Earth can produce in any given year and in 2015 we have used up nature’s budget nearly four months in advance.
The Earth Overshoot Day – the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year – for 2015 arrived on August 13 – nearly 4 months before the official end of the year. Earth Overshoot Day has moved from early October in 2000 to mid-August in 2015. If we go back 45 years, in 1970, the Earth Overshoot day was on December 23.
The data has been collected, analysed and presented by the Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability think tank with offices in North America, Europe and Asia.
According to Mathis Wackernagel, president of Global Footprint Network and the co-creator of the Ecological Footprint resource accounting metric, humanity’s carbon footprint alone more than doubled since the early 1970s, when the world went into ecological overshoot. It remains the fastest growing component of the widening gap between the Ecological Footprint and the planet’s biocapacity.
Ecological footprint is humanity’s demand on the planet, while biocapacity is nature’s ability to provide for this demand.
Experts at the Global Footprint Network suggest that we are already facing the repercussions of the overspending with increased deforestation, drought, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Scientists across the globe have from time to time warned about the dangers of carbon increase and according to GFN, build up of CO2 in atmosphere will significantly amplify biodiversity loss if current climate models are correct.
Consequently, government decision-makers who factor these growing constraints in their policy making will stand a significantly better chance to set their nation’s long-term economic performance on a favorable track, GFN notes.
The carbon footprint is inextricably linked to the other components of the Ecological Footprint — cropland, grazing land, forests and productive land built over with buildings and roads. All these demands compete for space. As more is being demanded for food and timber products, fewer productive areas are available to absorb carbon from fossil fuel. This means carbon emissions accumulate in the atmosphere rather than being fully absorbed.
Assuming global carbon emissions are reduced by at least 30 percent below today’s levels by 2030, in keeping with the IPCC’s suggested scenario, Earth Overshoot Day could be moved back on the calendar to September 16, 2030 (assuming the rest of the Footprint would continue to expand at the current rate), according to Global Footprint Network).
This is not impossible. In fact, Denmark has cut its emissions over the last two decades at this rate: Since the 1990s, it reduced its carbon emissions by 33 percent. Had the world done the same (while not changing the rest of the Footprint), Earth Overshoot Day would be on October 3 this year.