We have a planet. With its forests, fields and rivers… but only one. The problem is that we are abusing it as if there are two, three or five Earths instead of just one. That is what Earth Overshoot Day tries to highlight. The not-for-profit organisation Global Footprint Network uses a date to warn the world that the current rate of consumption is unsustainable.
What will I find in this article?
- What is Earth Overshoot Day?
- Earth Overshoot Day 2023
- Earth Overshoot Day is different for each country
What is Earth Overshoot Day?
Earth Overshoot Day is the date that marks that we have consumed all the resources that our planet is capable of generating in one year. Each year it is calculated by dividing the planet's biocapacity by humanity's ecological footprint and multiplying by 365, for the number of days in a year.
When is it considered overshot? When more is consumed than there are resources available. In other words, from that day onwards, we are experiencing an environmental deficit. Not only are we consuming our annual natural capital too soon but we are also taking resources from the future to cover the present.
The bigger the deficit, the further Earth Overshoot Day will be from 31 December because we are exhausting all of the available resources by that date instead of the end of the year.
The main cause is the pressure that humanity puts on Earth. Deforestation, overfishing and overharvesting are behind this abuse of resources, as well as many other human activities. So it's down to us whether the overshoot day is pushed back or brought forwards in the year.
Earth Overshoot Day 2023
August 2, 2023 is Earth Overshoot Day. This means that on that day we have exhausted the resources that the planet is capable of generating in a year.
It was first recorded in 1970 and the overshoot day was 29 December. Five decades later, we find ourselves having already exceeded Earth's biological resource quota for 2023, with more than 5 months remaining in the year.
This year, Earth Overshoot Day is delayed by 5 days compared to 2022. However, this seemingly positive news is dampened by the fact that the actual progress made is less than one day. The remaining four days are attributed to the incorporation of improved data sets in the new edition of the accounts.
Although the trend has stabilized over the last 5 years, it is difficult to discern whether it is a consequence of the countries' economic slowdown or deliberate decarbonization efforts.
To meet the UN IPCC target of reducing global carbon emissions by 43% compared to 2010 by 2030, Earth Overshoot Day would need to be delayed by 19 days annually over the next seven years.
According to the Earth Overshoot Day website, implementing specific changes could significantly impact this date. For instance, increasing global clean energy sources from 39% to 75% would move the date by 26 days. Additionally, halving food waste would contribute to a delay of 13 days, and intercropping trees would add an extra 2.1 days.
However, these three examples are just a starting point. It is imperative to take comprehensive and widespread measures on a global scale to combat this systemic destruction. Embracing sustainable regeneration across all sectors is essential. This involves not only avoiding irresponsible resource exploitation but also actively restoring conditions that support life and seeking harmony with nature. Our goal should be to achieve a positive impact on the planet.
Preserving resources for future generations while meeting our current needs is a crucial challenge. Pursuing sustainable development is the way forward in caring for our only home, Earth.
Earth Overshoot Day is different for each country
Not all countries use the same resources or consume the same amount. That is why each country has a different overshoot day because not all countries have the same biocapacity or carbon footprint.
According to Global Footprint data, Qatar is the country that reached its overshoot day the earliest (9 February 2021). By contrast, Sao Tome and Principe have the latest overshoot day (27 December 2021). In Spain, for example, the overshoot day is 25 May 2021. If all of humanity were to adopt a similar lifestyle to that of the average Spaniard, it would need 2.5 planets to maintain itself.
There is not only inequality in the resources consumed but also in the effects of climate change. Ironically, countries that consume less resources are also the most vulnerable to the impact of extreme climate events, such as hurricanes, floods and fires — the most visible effects of global warming.
According to the organisation Germanwatch, which analyses and presents the direct human and economic costs of extreme events across 180 countries in the world, Myanmar is one of the three countries most affected by extreme climate events. However, it will not be until 8 December 2021 that it reaches its own Earth overshoot day.
We must find a way to meet our current needs without compromising future generations' resources. Sustainable development is the way forwards to protect Earth, the only home we have.