Earth Overshoot Day arrives just one day earlier than that of 2021

Earth Overshoot Day has landed today, 28 July, just one day before its arrival in 2021. The date, calculated by the Global Footprint Network (GFN) using National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts data, marks the day upon which the sustainable usage limit of the Earth’s resources has been reached.

earth overshoot day historical data

At this rate, the body estimates, humanity will use the resource equivalent of 1.75 earths in 2022, a marginal deterioration compared to last year’s activity.

The purpose of marking Earth Overshoot Day is to warn public bodies, businesses, and citizens alike of the unsustainable rate at which humanity is using up the Earth’s natural resources.

This pattern, according to the body, has led to a decline in biodiversity, excess greenhouse gas emissions, heightened competition for food and energy, and an increase in unusual weather occurrences like heat waves, forest fires, drought and floods.

There are also wider economic complications at stake. Through its research, GFN claims that more than three billion people live in countries producing less food than they consume as well as generating a national income lower than the global average.

This means that, on top of an inadequate internal food capacity, these states do not have the financial resources to import foods from elsewhere. Additionally, eight billion people, accounting for 72 per cent of the world population, live in a country that runs a biocapacity deficit and generates less income than the world average.

As these dangers are highlighted, GFN emphasises the economic benefits a shift in practice would bring. Alongside the publication of this year’s date, the organisation shares possible actions to reduce resource consumption and move the date.

For example, GFN estimates that Earth Overshoot Day could be delayed by 13 days if global food waste was halved. In proposing this, it showcases initiatives like US company Leanpath, which has diverted 68 million pounds of food waste from disposal working with food service clients across the globe.

Likewise, the date could be moved by nine days if, like the Netherlands, urban bicycle infrastructure is upleveled worldwide. A slightly larger move could occur, however, if power is produced by cost-competitive on-shore wind, as is modelled in Denmark and Germany.

As it puts forward these recommendations, the body highlights that if humanity is able to push back Earth Overshoot Day by six days each year, then one earth will be reached before 2050, the year to which many organisations have set their net-zero targets for. Despite this, to meet the ‘preferable’ goal of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC by that year, set by the IPCC, it would take 10 days of delay each year.

Recognition of Earth Overshoot Day in Ecuador

This year, Ecuador’s Minister of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition, Gustavo Manrique, held a special event on 27 July in which representatives from the Ecuadorian Government, NGOs, businesses, science, academia, and other countries in the region gathered to honour GFN’s founder Mathis Wackernagel.

As a world leader in national sustainability, Ecuador’s policy centres on the preservation of natural resources. In 2008, it made history by becoming the first country to grant enforceable constitutional rights to nature by popular vote.

As a nation, Ecuador’s own Earth Overshoot Day falls months later than the global record, set to arrive on 6 December this year. The ecological footprint of the average Ecuadorian is only slightly higher than the worldwide average, thanks to wider environmental policy.

Minister Manrique explains: “Earth Overshoot Day demonstrates that the current system of production and consumption is not compatible with the intention to continue to inhabit this planet.

“To better protect our natural resources and manage our demand for them, it is necessary to take concrete joint actions aimed at a new development model based on sustainability and regeneration. From Ecuador we call on the world to commit to this cause,”

Over half a century of Earth Overshoot Day

GFN has recorded overshoots in resource use all the way back to the 1970s. For over half a century, humanity has been using more of the Earth’s resources than is produced, with the rate of this worsening year on year. Since this onset, humanity has accumulated an ecological debt of 19 years’ worth of planetary regeneration.

Last year, GFN saw the day fall almost a month sooner than was recorded in 2020, leaving a 4.6 per cent increase in the global ecological footprint.

However, the recorded date in 2020, falling on 22 August, is an anomaly among recent years, due to the drop in emissions caused by global lockdowns in the thick of the Covid pandemic. GFN warned this was not tangible progress resulting from intentional change, but rather a consequence of an abnormal global disaster.

The event fell on 29 July 2019, the same date to which overshoot was reached last year –  signifying that life had gone back to normal following the pandemic.

Mathis Wackernagel, founder of GFN, says: “Resource security is turning into an essential parameter of economic strength. There is no advantage in waiting for others to act first. Rather, it is in the interest of every city, company, or country to protect its own ability to operate in the inevitable future of more climate change and resource constraints.”

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