Issue of the day: Earth has overshot its budget


TODAY is a day that shouldn’t happen – because all the world’s resources have been officially used up for 2019.

Earth Overshoot Day arrived more quickly than ever this year and campaigners are calling for action.


Earth Overshoot Day?

It is a simple, but frightening concept – ecological overshoot is how scientists term the way we turn resources into waste faster than the planet can resupply.


So we have gone over budget?

Yes, just as a bank statement tracks income against expenditure – the world has gone well over budget with its resources.

According to the California-based environmental group, the Global Footprint Network (GFN), mankind has already used up its allowance of natural resources such as water, soil and clean air for all of 2019. And the equivalent of nearly two planets would be required to produce enough to meet humanity’s needs at current consumption rates; “akin to using 1.75 Earths”, the GFN said.


It arrived more quickly this year?

Calculated since 1986, the grim milestone has been arriving earlier year after year. Back in 1993, it fell on October 21; in 2003 on September 22 and in 2017 on August 2.

Experts believe a significant cause of the date arriving faster each year is due to the rising amount of CO2 emissions.


Can you cite a specific example of overshoot?

One example is the rate the world is burning through fossil fuels that took millions of years to form – it’s so fast, the Earth simply can’t replace them.


So what of the future?

Individuals are being asked to consider their own ecological footprints at to try and make a difference. It asks you various questions to consider, such as how often you eat animal-based products, how much of the food you eat is unprocessed, unpacked or locally grown and if you use renewable energy.


Other questions include whether or not you travel a lot by car or motorbike or if you carpool, use public transportation or cycle.

It then calculates when your own personal Earth Overshoot Day is and how many earths it would take to provide you with the supplies you are using up.


So how can change take place?

Campaigners ask that people contact their city or community leaders to ask them to support sustainability policies and also to consider reducing their own carbon footprints by changing habits – if you travel by car, can you instead use public transport or cycle even once or twice a month?

They also ask people to think about reducing waste.

In the United States, an estimated 40% of the food goes to waste. That’s the equivalent of the total Ecological Footprint of Peru and Sweden combined.


What about the UK?

In 2015, WRAP – which works with governments, businesses and communities to deliver practical solutions to improve resource efficiency – estimated annual food waste overall at around 10 million tonnes, associated with more than 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.


It feels unsurmountable?

Sir David Attenborough made headlines earlier this year when he issued his strongest statement yet on the threat posed to the world by climate change, saying we face “irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies”.

“In the 20 years since I first started talking about the impact of climate change on our world, conditions have changed far faster than I ever imagined,” Sir David said in the BBC programme Climate Change – The Facts in April.

But he also said that there is still hope – if urgent and dramatic action is taken to limit the effects of climate change over the next 10 years.


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