Creating a climate positive world

Earth Overshoot Day

Earthly Admin

Earthly Admin

Oct 6, 2020

Earth’s Overshoot Day marks the day in the year that humans’ demand for ecological resources  exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. All resources used past this day are hence stripping the earth’s ecological resources in an unsustainable way. To put it another way, if we used all of earth’s resources in a sustainable way, not exceeding what it could regenerate, then the overshoot day would be on the 31st December. This year it is on the 22nd August. 

In fact, this year the overshoot day is three weeks later than it was in 2019 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The resulting lockdowns have led to a much lower usage of resources and reduced carbon emissions. The date shows a 9.3% reduction of humanity’s ecological footprint from the 1st of January to Earth Overshoot Day as compared to the same period last year, which represents the largest single-shift in the date of Earth Overshoot Day since the beginning of the initiative [1]. 

Even with this improvement, we still need about 1.6 times the amount of resources than the Earth can provide to sustain current levels of consumption [2]. This may come as a shock to you, but really it shows the true scale of the challenge when it comes to climate change. The real shock is how little the emissions did go down even with the world at a stand still. In a time when there has been no travel and very little consumption, we are still well over the sustainable mark for our earth’s resources. 

For many 2020 has been the strangest, and most unprecedented period of their lives, and more than this it has led to a tragic loss of life around the world. Indeed, in such times it is hard to think of anything beyond the current crisis. However, it can also be seen as a moment of hopefulness. The disaster of COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to capitalise on the positives to come out of it. We should look at our 9.3% ecological footprint reduction this year and try to improve upon it for next year. Throughout the pandemic, we have seen so many incredible challenges overcome through hard work, perseverance and teamwork. The human race is capable of incredible things and stopping climate change and living in a sustainable way should be our top priority going forward. 

But we must start now! We wouldn’t have given COVID-19 a head start if we knew it was coming so we mustn’t let climate change get away from us. The WHO currently estimates that climate change is expected to cause 250,000 additional deaths a year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress between 2030 and 2050 [3]. This doesn’t include the deaths from natural disasters and rising sea levels, which are likely to increase as a result of climate change. For comparison, at the time of writing, COVID-19 has led to a total of 809,000 deaths globally [4] which is a death rate of about 14 per 100,000 [5]. Over the next 40 years, rising temperatures mean the climate change will be responsible for an equivalent death rate to COVID-19 every year, moving to a rate of 73 per 100,000 by 2100 [5]. Without action now, we are on the precipice of an ongoing global emergency the likes of which we have never seen before. But we’ve seen it coming. Our planet is in our hands. Our future is in our hands. 

Sources

[1] Earth Overshoot Day. (2020). How the Date of Earth Overshoot Day 2020 Was Calculated. https://www.overshootday.org/2020-calculation/.

[2] Earth Overshoot Day. (2020). Past Earth Overshoot Days. https://www.overshootday.org/newsroom/past-earth-overshoot-days/ 

[3] WHO. (2018). Climate change and health. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/climate-change-and-health

[4] Worldometer. (2020). https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

[5] Gates. (2020). COVID-19 is awful. Climate change could be a lot worse. https://www.gatesnotes.com/Energy/Climate-and-COVID-19

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