Earth Overshoot Day: Humanity consumes 100% of planet's resources in eight months

The day when consumption becomes unsustainable is getting earlier every year

Adam Withnall
Sunday 16 August 2015 11:56 BST
Growing carbon emissions mean the Earth's resources are being used up earlier each year
Growing carbon emissions mean the Earth's resources are being used up earlier each year

Humanity has already used up 100 per cent of the resources produced by the Earth this year, meaning that any consumption from now on represents an unsustainable burden on the planet.

Known as Earth Overshoot Day, the moment when humanity exceeds nature’s budget for the year was reached on 13 August – six days earlier than in 2014.

Calculated by the Global Footprint Network (GFN) sustainability think-tank, the landmark is a relatively recent concept. Humanity lived within the Earth’s means up until 1970 but, driven largely by carbon emissions, it has been in steadily increasing debt ever since.

It means humanity is on course to consume the equivalent of 1.6 Earths this year and, if the current course is maintained, we will be using the resources of two Earths per year by 2030.

The only way to reverse the trajectory of Earth Overshoot Day and push it back later in the year, GFN’s president Mathis Wackernagel said, is to drastically cut carbon emissions.

“Humanity’s carbon footprint alone more than doubled since the early 1970s, when the world went into ecological overshoot,” he said.

Looking forward to the COP 2015 UN climate summit in Paris later this year, Wackernagel said that meeting the global commitment to reduce emissions 30 per cent by 2030 would see Earth Overshoot Day pushed back to 16 September.

Wackernagel said: “We cannot stress enough the vital importance of reducing the carbon footprint, as nations are slated to commit to in Paris. It is not just good for the world, but increasingly becoming an economic necessity for each nation.

“We all know that the climate depends on it, but that is not the full story: Sustainability requires that everyone live well, within the means of one planet. This can only be achieved by keeping our Ecological Footprint within our planet’s resource budget.”

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