Annual Resources Are Used Up

Earth Overshoot Day shows once again that the world is living far beyond its ecological means and biological resources

  • News 29.07.2021

This year, Earth Overshoot Day – also known as Ecological Debt Day – falls on 29 July, 2021. It marks the day in a given year when the world’s population lives ecologically beyond its means in terms of its consumption of natural resources. As of today, people have consumed as many biological raw materials as the Earth can regenerate within one year – equivalent to 1.74 Earths. Last year, Earth Overshoot Day had been pushed back by almost three weeks to 22 August, 2020. However, this was not due to sustainable action, but to the Covid-19 lockdown.

The carbon footprint increased by 6.6 per cent compared to the previous year, while at the same time the global biocapacity of forests shrank by about 0.5 per cent. Deforestation in the Amazon region is largely responsible for this. In Brazil alone, 1.1 million hectares of forest were lost in 2020. According to estimates, deforestation could increase by up to 43 per cent in 2021 compared to last year.
On the positive side, CO2 emissions from the transport sector are still lower than before the pandemic. For example, CO2 emissions from domestic aviation and road transport are 5 per cent lower than in 2019, and international air transport is expected to produce 33 per cent fewer emissions in 2021 compared to 2019. Overall, however, it is to be feared that without further active climate protection measures, energy-related CO2 emissions globally might increase by nearly 5 per cent as the economic recovery increases demand for fossil fuels. In particular, global coal consumption is likely to jump this year, accounting for an estimated 40 per cent of the total CO2 footprint in 2021. At the same time, a permanent decrease would be extremely important due to climate change, which is becoming more and more evident, not least due to the increase in weather extremes. "Today's CO2 reduction efforts alone are not enough to stop climate change worldwide," warns Prof. Dr. Manfred Fischedick, Scientific Managing Director of the Wuppertal Institute. "At this year's 26th World Climate Conference in Glasgow in November at the latest, the course must be set in the right direction – much is at stake. Because this decade will decide whether we can still limit the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius," he adds.

The Ecological Footprint measures the ecological assets that a given population requires to produce the natural resources it consumes (including plant-based food and fiber products, livestock and fish products, timber and other forest products, space for urban infrastructure) and to absorb its waste, especially carbon emissions. Currently, carbon emissions from burning fossil fuel comprise 60 per cent of humanity's Ecological Footprint.

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