Today, July 29, is Earth Overshoot Day, the annual reminder that marks the date our demand for ecological resources largely outweighs what our planet can regenerate in a single year. For many decades humanity has been in debt with nature, a debt that we will eventually have to pay.
This year's calculation shows a 6.6 percent increase in Global Ecological Footprint compared to 2020, a year in which Earth Overshoot Day moved forward a month to August 22 due to reduced emissions from the pandemic lockdowns. Unfortunately, the brief reprieve made little difference long term as earlier this year humanity smashed another record for highest levels of carbon dioxide detected in the atmosphere.
Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by the Global Footprint Network. It’s a balance of supply and demand. On one hand, there’s the biocapacity of a country (or a state or a city) e.g. how much forests, grazing, lands, cropland, fishing, etc it has. On the other, there are population demands for food, materials, housing, and carbon emissions.
From today until the end of the year we are operating in an "ecological deficit". We're basically using 74 percent more resources than Earth's ecosystems can regenerate.
Today also marks the 100 days until the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow. COP26 has been seen by many as a make-or-break threshold for serious climate action. The worse consequences of the climate crisis can be avoided as long as politicians take bold steps at the conference. But as many climate activists and scientists are saying, the best day to make those changes is today.
“There is no benefit in waiting to take action, regardless of what transpires at the COP,” Global Footprint Network CEO Laurel Hanscom said in a statement. “The pandemic has demonstrated that societies can shift rapidly in the face of disaster. But being caught unprepared brought great economic and human cost. When it comes to our predictable future of climate change and resource constraints, individuals, institutions, and governments who prepare themselves will fare better. Global consensus is not a prerequisite to recognizing one’s own risk exposure, so let’s take decisive action now, wherever we are.”
It is important to stress that while today marks the global Earth Overshoot Day, not every nation is equally voracious in using Earth's resources. The United States and Canada had their tipping point day on March 14 of this year. The United Kingdom's was on May 19. In contrast, Chad's is not due until December 16, Indonesia, December 18, and the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipes' Overshoot Day is on December 27.