Earth Overshoot Day 2017: Earliest date since ecological overshoot began


Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. On August 2nd humanity has reached this point, according to Global Footprint Network. This is the earliest date since the world first went into overshoot in the early 1970s.

On August 2nd, humanity has used nature’s budget for the entire year, according to Global Footprint Network, an international research organization that has pioneered the Ecological Footprint resource accounting metric. Carbon sequestration makes up 60 percent of human demand on nature.

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. Earth Overshoot Day has moved from late September in 1997 to August 2nd this year, the earliest date since the world first went into overshoot in the early 1970s. In other words, humanity is currently using nature 1.7 times faster than ecosystems can regenerate. This is akin to using 1.7 Earths.

The costs of this global ecological overspending are becoming increasingly evident around the world, in the form of deforestation, drought, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss, and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

But it is not too late. The trend can be moved back 4.5 days every year. For instance, cutting food waste by 50% worldwide could move the date by 11 days; reducing the carbon component of the global Ecological Footprint by 50% would move the date of Overshoot Day by 89 days. “Humanity’s carbon Footprint alone more than doubled since the early 1970s and remains the fastest growing component of the widening gap between the Ecological Footprint and the planet’s biocapacity,” said Mathis Wackernagel, CEO of Global Footprint Network and co-creator of the Ecological Footprint.. “To achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Accord, humanity would need to exit the fossil fuel economy before 2050. This would go a long way toward addressing humanity’s overshoot problem.”

To support this transformation, Global Footprint Network and its partners worldwide are encouraging individuals to help #movethedate by making pledges. The Network also will launch a new online Ecological Footprint Calculator to allow users to calculate their personal Earth Overshoot Day. The current calculator is used by more than 2 million people a year.

Global Footprint Network’s latest data offer encouraging signs that we are starting to move in the right direction. For instance, the US per capita Ecological Footprint fell nearly 20% from its peak in 2005 to 2013 (the latest year data is available). This significant shift, which includes a post-recession pickup, is associated mostly with decreasing carbon emissions. US per capita GDP grew about 20% over the same period, making the US a compelling case of decoupling (with economic growth and natural resource consumption following opposite trends).

Despite the US national government’s backtracking on climate protection, many US cities, states and large businesses are redoubling their commitments. In addition, China, the country with the largest total Ecological Footprint, is firmly committed to building an Ecological Civilization in its latest five-year plan, with many initiatives to accelerate its carbon peak. Scotland, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua are other examples of countries that are rapidly decarbonizing their energy system.

Global Footprint Network / Philipp Kronsbein

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