UK

Earth Overshoot Day: We've Already Used Up More Resources Than The Earth Can Produce For This Year

14/08/2015 13:20 BST | Updated 14/08/2015 14:59 BST

Today is Earth Overshoot Day. It's the day that marks the moment humanity consumes more resources than our planet can produce for the entire year.

And, it's getting earlier every year.

In less than eight months, we have used up nature's budget for the entire year, according to Global Footprint Network (GFN), international sustainability think tank which tracks our ecological footprint on the planet against nature's ability to supply resources to meet this demand.

"Humanity’s carbon footprint alone more than doubled since the early 1970s, which is 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,” said Dr Mathis Wackernagel, president of GFN.

"The global agreement to phase out fossil fuels that is being discussed around the world ahead of the Climate Summit in Paris would significantly help curb the Ecological Footprint’s consistent growth and eventually shrink the Footprint."

However, there is hope. If global carbon emissions can be reduced by at least 30% below today's levels by 3030, Earth Overshoot Day could be moved back as far as September 16. As the GFN points out - this is not impossible. Denmark has cut its emissions by 33% since the 1990s. Had the world followed in Denmark's green footsteps, Overshoot Day would have fallen on October 3 this year.

But, if business continues as usual, by 2013 the day will land on June 28.

earth

We've already used up our budget of nature's resources for the year

So how is it all measured?

"We look at all the resource demands of humanity that compete for space, like food, fibre, timber, etc, then we look at how much area is needed to provide those services and how much productive surface is available," Dr Wackernagel.

One of Dr Wackernagel's metaphors is saying Earth Overshoot Day is like the day you spend all your salary for the year, and don't leave any money left to live off for the rest of the year.

As National Geographic points out, "[it] doesn’t mean we’ve exhausted our resources for the year. To extend Wackernagel’s metaphor, we’re essentially dipping into savings by using capacity that hasn’t been tapped."

Earth From Above