01.08.2017 |

Humanity has already exhausted Earth’s natural resources for 2017

Humanity has already used up nature’s budget for the entire year (Photo: CC0)

August 2 marks Earth Overshoot Day this year – the day humanity has used up the natural resources Earth can regenerate in a year, according to data from Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability think tank. The date is calculated each year by contrasting the world’s demand on nature (ecological footprint) with the biocapacity - forests, pastures, cropland and fisheries as well as the planet’s ability to replenish resources and absorb waste, including carbon dioxide emissions. The world enters ecological ‘overshoot’ this year six days earlier than in 2016. The day has moved up on the calendar from November 4 in 1980 and September 23 in 2000, showing that the world population is exhausting the world’s resources faster than ever. For the rest of the year, we will be living on resources borrowed from future generations.

According to the Global Footprint Network, the estimated level of resources and ecosystem services required to support human activities today is 1.7 Earths. If everyone lived the way Australians do, it would take 5.2 Earths to sustain global consumption. If the entire world followed US citizens’ example, it would take 5.0 Earths. South Korea and Russia are using 3.4 Earths, followed by Germany which is using nature 3.2 times faster than ecosystems can regenerate. The costs of this ecological overspending are becoming more evident in the form of deforestation, drought, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon emissions are a main contributor to ecological overshoot. “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.”

But the Global Footprint Network is also confident that the current trend can be reversed. The think tank projects that if we take decisive action to move Earth Overshoot Day back 4.5 days every year, we would return to using the resources of one planet by 2050. For instance, cutting food waste by 50% at global level could move the date by 11 days. In addition, reducing the carbon component of the global Ecological Footprint by half would move the date by 89 days. “Our planet is finite, but human possibilities are not. Living within the means of one planet is technologically possible, financially beneficial, and our only chance for a prosperous future,” said Wackernagel. “Ultimately, moving back the date of Earth Overshoot Day on the calendar is the name of the game.” (ab)

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