We are operating in overshoot

We have today used up all biological resources that the Earth regenerates in a year. The main drivers are carbon footprint: An increase of 6.6% from 2020 and global forest biocapacity: A reduction of 0.5% from 2020 due in large part to the spike in Amazon deforestation. By Charlotte Owen-Burge | July 29, 2021

Today is Earth Overshoot Day. The date that tells us that we’ve once again used up all biological resources that our planet regenerates during a year.

It means that we’ve used 74% more than what the planet’s ecosystems can regenerate — or 1.7 Earths.

And it means that, for the rest of the year, we are maintaining our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating CO2 in the atmosphere.

We are now operating in “overshoot”.

In 2020, Earth Overshoot Day fell on August 22, partly because of COVID. But this year’s date is the same that the world reached in 2019, meaning the brief moment of respite for the Earth, that came in the wake of global pandemic, is now negligable.

The Global Footprint Network (GFN), which calculates the date, said that humanity’s “ecological footprint” has increased by 6.6% over the last year as Covid restrictions ease.

This spending was currently some of the largest since the world entered into ecological overshoot in the early 1970s, according to the National Footprint & Biocapacity Accounts based on UN datasets.

The overshoot days for various countries. Graphic: Global Footprint Network

The GFN said that there has been a 0.5% decrease in global forest biocapacity since 2020 due to a rise in Amazon rainforest deforestation. Some 1.1 million hectares of rainforest were lost in Brazil alone during this period.

The carbon footprint of transportation will, however, be lower this year than pre-pandemic levels. CO2 emissions from road transport and domestic air travel will be 5% below 2019 levels. And CO2 emissions due to international aviation will be 33% below 2019 levels.

But global energy-related CO2 emissions will increase 4.8% from last year as economies try to recover from the impact of COVID. Global coal use is estimated to constitute 40% of the total carbon footprint.

Wealthy countries are leading the way in resource use. To give an indicator of the global disproportion of consumption, if the world’s population lived like the US, Overshoot Day would fall on March 14. And if everyone lived like the UK, the date would fall on May 19.

Meanwhile, if humanity lived like the people of Indonesia, Overshoot Day would land on December 18.

Ahead of COP26, Leader of Glasgow City Council Councillor Susan Aitken said: “Let Earth Overshoot Day be our call to arms.”

“In November the eyes of the world will be on Glasgow, host of COP26, the climate summit that needs to make the decisions that will deliver our planet on a safer and more sustainable future. We’ve got the opportunity here in Glasgow to show the world what we’re doing, coalescing together as a city to show real change, to respond to the climate and ecological emergency.”

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