Resource Use

Earth Overshoot Day falls a month earlier than that of 2020

Earth Overshoot Day has fallen today, July 29, almost a month sooner than last year’s date of August 22, according to findings from the Global Footprint Network (GFN).

The report found that humanity’s total global ecological footprint increased by 4.6 per cent compared to the previous year, while total biocapacity – the capacity of an ecosystem to generate renewable resources – increased by 0.3 per cent over the same time span.

Earth Overshoot DayEarth Overshoot Day signifies the date upon which humanity has exhausted the sustainable limit of the Earth’s resources for the year.

Humanity first fell into an ecological deficit in the early 1970s and this has been steadily growing ever since – currently, according to the GFN, we are using 60 per cent more than what can be renewed.

The further we fall into deficit, says the GFN, the more difficult it becomes to climb back into ecological surplus.

The research was based on carbon dioxide emissions data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and ocean carbon sequestration data from the Global Carbon Project (GCP).

Calculations were carried out through national footprint and biocapacity accounts – a series of comprehensive biophysical balance sheets that contrast demand on nature with what ecosystems can renew.

The report found that in 2021, emissions are estimated to have increased by 4.8 per cent compared to 2020, leaving us just below the pre-pandemic emissions levels of 2019.

Combined with the most recent data from the GCP, the carbon footprint appears to have increased by 6.6 per cent in 2021 compared to the year prior.

In 2020, the report states, deforestation in the Amazon saw the destruction of 1.1 million hectares of woodland. This figure is said to have risen by 43 per cent since last year.

Additionally, carbon loss in the Amazon forest due to degraded lands was estimated to be three times the amount lost due to deforestation.

The resulting loss of global forest biocapacity was estimated to be 0.5 per cent.

According to this year’s report, the total biocapacity for the world is currently estimated at 1.5 global hectares per person. Humanity’s ecological footprint is set at 2.7 global hectares per person, 61 per cent of which is carbon footprint.

These findings, and the consequential acceleration of Earth Overshoot Day, come in spite of efforts to #MoveTheDate through online campaigning.

Moving forward, the GFN will continue to push for a shift towards a circular economy, wherein resources are kept within a cyclical structure ready for reuse and repurpose, with the waste and resources sector playing a vital role.