The danger of ecological overspending

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Following Earth Overshoot Day that moved up on the calendar from November 4 in 1980 and September 23 in 2016, to August 2 this year, Global Footprint Network (GFN), has concluded that humanity has used up the natural resources Earth can regenerate in a year.
This conclusion which is yearly calculated by contrasting the world’s demand on nature (ecological footprint) with the bio-capacity – forests, pastures, cropland and fisheries as well as the planet’s ability to replenish resources and absorb waste, including carbon-dioxide emissions; thereby, showing that the world population is exhausting the world’s resources faster than ever.
According to the CEO of Global Footprint Network and co-Creator of the Ecological Footprint, Mathis Wackernagel, “the estimated level of resources and ecosystem services required to support human activities today is 1.7 Earths; If everyone lived the way Australians do, it would take 5.2 Earths to sustain global consumption. If the entire world followed US citizens’ example, it would take 5.0 Earths. South Korea and Russia are using 3.4 Earths, followed by Germany which is using nature 3.2 times faster than ecosystems can regenerate.
“The costs of this ecological overspending are becoming more evident in the form of deforestation, drought, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon emissions are a main contributor to ecological overshoot” he emphasised.
Humanity’s annual demand on the natural world has exceeded what the Earth can renew in a year since the 1970s. This “ecological overshoot” has continued to grow over the years, reaching a 50 per cent deficit in 2008. This means that it takes 1.5 years for the Earth to regenerate the renewable resources that people use, and absorb the CO2 waste they produce, in that same year.
Wackernagel added that “Humanity’s carbon footprint alone more than doubled since the early 1970s and remains the fastest growing component of the widening gap between the Ecological Footprint and the planet’s bio-capacity.
“To achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Accord, humanity would need to exit the fossil fuel economy before 2050. This would go a long way toward addressing humanity’s overshoot problem.” he said.
Also, the Global Footprint Network is however confident that the current trend can be reversed, as they project that if humans take decisive action to move Earth Overshoot Day back 4.5 days every year, humans would return to using the resources of one planet by 2050. For instance, cutting food waste by 50% at global level could move the date by 11 days.
The consequences of excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are also already being seen, like climate change and ocean acidification. These place additional stresses on biodiversity and ecosystems.
In addition, reducing the carbon component of the global Ecological Footprint by half would move the date by 89 days. “Our planet is finite, but human possibilities are not. Living within the means of one planet is technologically possible, financially beneficial, and our only chance for a prosperous future,” said Wackernagel. “Ultimately, moving back the date of Earth Overshoot Day on the calendar is the name of the game.”
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