The costs of ecological “overspending” include deforestation, collapsing fisheries, water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss and CO2 buildup in the atmosphere.
The carbon footprint is the most rapidly growing component of the global ecological footprint, of which it comprises approximately 60%.
The Global Footprint Network has identified four areas with the most potential to address ecological overshoot and move back Earth Overshoot Day, namely cities, energy, food and population.
1 August 2018: The world overshot its annual resources budget for 2018 in just seven months, according to the Global Footprint Network, which means that people are consuming nature’s resources 1.7 times faster than the planet’s ecosystems can regenerate them.
Earth Overshoot Day, which takes place when the annual demand on nature exceeds what the Earth’s ecosystems can renew in that year, occurred on 1 August, the earliest ever since the world began to overshoot in the 1970s.
Each year, the Global Footprint Network calculates Earth Overshoot Day using Ecological Footprint accounting, which adds up society’s demand on nature, including for food, timber, fibers, fossil fuels, buildings, roads and other infrastructure. The carbon footprint is the most rapidly growing component of the global ecological footprint, of which it comprises approximately 60%.
Global Footprint Network CEO Mathis Wackernagel cited wildfires in the western US, and water shortages in Cape Town, South Africa, as consequences of overshooting the planet’s ecological budget. He referred to the fact that the Earth’s future resources are being increasingly used in the present as an “ecological Ponzi scheme.”
Ecological footprints in high-income countries have decreased by 12.9% since 2000.
According to the Global Footprint Network, the costs of ecological “overspending” include deforestation, collapsing fisheries, water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss, and carbon dioxide (CO2) buildup in the atmosphere, which leads to climate change, famine, and more severe droughts, wildfires and hurricanes, and forces many people to migrate.
The Global Footprint Network has identified four areas with the most potential to address ecological overshoot and move back Earth Overshoot Day, namely:
- a 50% reduction of driving in cities and replacing one third of car-driven miles with public transportation, walking and biking could delay Overshoot Day by 12 days;
- reducing the ecological footprint’s carbon component by 50% would push Overshoot Day back 93 days, and existing off-the-shelf, commercial technologies for buildings, industrial processes and electricity production could move Overshoot Day “at least” 21 days;
- halving food waste could move back Overshoot Day by 38 days, while reducing global meat consumption by 50% and replacing these calories through a vegetarian diet would delay Overshoot Day by 5 days; and
- if every other family in the world had one less child, Overshoot Day would move back 30 days by 2050.
Although 86% of the global population lives in a country with an ecological deficit, ecological footprints in high-income countries have decreased by 12.9% since 2000.
Earth Overshoot Day 2018 was marked in various cities around the world and through a series of interviews broadcast on the Global Footprint Network’s Facebook page. For example, in the 10 US cities with the largest carbon footprints, the Center for Biological Diversity gave away more than 10,000 Endangered Species Condoms. [Center for Biological Diversity Press Release]
The Global Footprint Network aims to help end ecological overshoot by ensuring ecological limits are central to decision making by providing: simple, meaningful and scalable metrics; actionable insights about natural resource consumption and capacity; and tools and analysis to guide informed decisions. [UNFCCC News Story] [Earth Overshoot Day Press Release] [Background Information on Earth Overshoot Day] [Global Footprint Network Website] [Ecological Footprint Calculator] [Steps to Move Back Earth Overshoot Day] [Country Footprints] [Overshoot Day Videos]