Earth Overshoot Day falls early this year, and that's not a good thing. According to the Global Footprint Network, August 8 marks the point this year that humankind's annual demand on natural resources exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year.
You might wonder why this day is being observed nearly five months before the actual end of the year? That's because we are not living sustainably. In fact, this is the earliest Earth Overshoot Day ever in the nearly 50-year history of record keeping. Last year it fell on August 13, and before the turn of the century it used to regularly fall in September.
Carbon dioxide emissions, the main driver of climate change, are the largest and fastest growing contributor to this ecological overshoot, making up around 60% of humanity's demand on nature. These emissions are factored in with other "demand side" entities, such as food, timber, and infrastructure, and weighed against the supply side, or "biocapacity," of a region, which includes forest land, grazing land, cropland and other useful resources, to determine the overshoot deadline.
But it's not all doom and gloom this year according to Mathis Wackernagel, co-founder and CEO of Global Footprint Network, who thinks that a "new way of living on our one planet" is what's needed to get our carbon footprint down to zero by 2050 and avoid catastrophic climate change.
“The good news is that it is possible with current technology, and financially advantageous with overall benefits exceeding costs," he said in a statement. "It will stimulate emerging sectors like renewable energy, while reducing risks and costs associated with the impact of climate change on inadequate infrastructure. The only resource we still need more of is political will.”
The passage of the Paris climate agreement late last year is the strongest indication that the level of global political needed to address climate change exists, said Wackernagel. Enforcing that agenda is now the next big challenge.
“We forcefully recommend nations, cities and individuals take swift, bold actions to make the Paris goals an attainable reality," he said.
In one other positive note, the rate at which Earth Overshoot Day is moving forward in the year has slowed to less than one day a year on average since 2010. This looks like progress when compared to the long-term average of three days a year.