Known as ‘Earth Overshoot Day’, Thursday marked the point where the earth can longer regenerate the natural resources being used that year, and the point we go into ecological ‘debt’.

Earth Overshoot Day has moved from early October in 2000 to August 13th this year.

The concept of Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by the international think-tank Global Footprint Network. It is based on the demands on the planet against what it is naturally able to produce.

Resiyrces that are measured, and are getting ever more depleted, include plant-based food and fiber products, livestock and fish products, timber and other forest products, space for urban infrastructure, and forests to absorb its carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.

Carbon reduction

The Global Footprint Newtork says the largest proportion of the ecological budget is being used up by the vast amount of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere.

Mathis Wackernagel, president of Global Footprint Network, said: “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.”

“The carbon footprint is inextricably linked to the other components of the Ecological Footprint — cropland, grazing land, forests and productive land built over with buildings and roads. All these demands compete for space.

“As more is being demanded for food and timber products, fewer productive areas are available to absorb carbon from fossil fuel. This means carbon emissions accumulate in the atmosphere rather than being fully absorbed.”

Looming deadline

Assuming global carbon emissions are reduced by at least 30% below today’s levels by 2030, in keeping with the IPCC’s suggested scenario, Earth Overshoot Day could be moved back on the calendar to September 16, 2030.

A business-as-usual scenario would mean using the resources equivalent to two planets by 2030, with Earth Overshoot Day moving up on the calendar to the end of June.

However, Wackernagel said he was encouraged by the development of renewable energy, and the “increasing awareness of the finance industry that a low-carbon economy is the way of the future.”

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

Brad Allen

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