Article

Earth Overshoot Day 2023: A Global Ecological Debt

Humanity has burned through Earth’s annual budget for resources in under eight months. Known as Earth Overshoot Day, 2 August marks the day on which we consume more ecological resources, or natural capital, than the earth produces. It is essentially the day that our budget runs out.
Planet Earth naturally generates a certain amount of natural capital or ecological resources each year. Think of the forestry, agricultural (both crop and livestock) and built-up land, fishing grounds or any other type of environmental resource needed to support economic activity, including biological assets needed to absorb our waste such as our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
WeDontHaveTime AB (publ)
WeDontHaveTime AB (publ)

“Persistent overshoot leads to ever more prominent symptoms including unusual heatwaves, forest fires, droughts, and floods with the risk of compromising food production,” says Steven Tebbe, CEO of the Global Footprint Network - the organisation which produces the estimate.

When in the year does Earth Overshoot Day usually fall?

In the early 1970s, Earth Overshoot Day fell in late December. This was a time of equilibrium, when our demand for resources matched the planet's ability to regenerate them. However, as populations and living standards have risen, our demand for resources has exploded. This has resulted in Earth Overshoot Day falling further and further towards the start of the year.
In just 50 years, we have gone from consuming one Earth's worth of resources per year to nearly two today. This is a staggering increase, and it has created a massive deficit. The only way we can maintain this deficit is by permanently depleting Earth's stock of natural capital, i.e. going into debt in financial terms.
This depletion of natural capital has a number of negative consequences, including deforestation, overfishing, and erosion of arable land. It also leads to increased greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. All of these consequences are unsustainable in the long run.
In order to avoid these consequences, we need to reduce our demand for resources. This will require a fundamental change in our way of life, but it is essential if we want to protect our planet for future generations.

Image of post in post detailed view


How is Earth Overshoot Day calculated?

Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by the Global Footprint Network (GFN), an international research organization that tracks humanity's impact on the planet. The GFN calculates Overshoot Day by dividing the planet's biocapacity by humanity's ecological footprint.
Biocapacity is the amount of land and sea area that is available to produce the resources that humans consume and absorb the waste that they produce. It is measured in global hectares, which is a unit of area that is equal to 1 hectare (2.47 acres). The ecological footprint is the amount of land and sea area that is required to produce the resources that a population consumes and to absorb the waste that they produce. It is also measured in global hectares.
To calculate Overshoot Day, the GFN first estimates the biocapacity of the planet. This is done by taking into account the amount of land and sea area that is available for agriculture, forestry, and fishing; the amount of land that is available for urban development; and the amount of land that is available for absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The GFN then estimates the ecological footprint of humanity. This is done by taking into account the amount of food that humans consume, the amount of energy that they use, the number of goods that they consume, and the amount of waste that they produce.
Once the biocapacity of the planet and the ecological footprint of humanity have been estimated, the GFN can calculate Overshoot Day. Overshoot Day is the date on which humanity's ecological footprint exceeds the planet's biocapacity. In 2023, Overshoot Day fell on August 2. This means that humanity used up all the resources that the planet could regenerate in one year by August 2. After August 2, humanity began to live off of the planet's capital, rather than its income.
The GFN projects that Overshoot Day will continue to move earlier in the year in the coming decades unless there are significant changes in the way that humans consume resources and produce waste. If global emissions continue to rise at their current rate, Overshoot Day could fall on January 1 by 2030.
Image of post in post detailed view


Which countries are consuming the most resources?

The countries that are consuming the most resources are those with the highest per capita ecological footprints. These countries are typically wealthy and industrialized, with high levels of consumption of energy, food, and other resources. One of the most well-known examples of a country with a high per capita ecological footprint is the United States. The average American consumes more resources than any other person on the planet. If everyone on Earth lived like the average American, we would need the resources of more than two Earths to meet our needs.
Other countries with high per capita ecological footprints include Qatar, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, Spain, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and Denmark. These countries all have high levels of consumption of energy, food, and other resources.
In contrast, some countries with low per capita ecological footprints are able to meet their needs with a much smaller impact on the environment. These countries are typically less wealthy and industrialized, with lower levels of consumption of energy, food, and other resources.
One of the most well-known examples of a country with a low per capita ecological footprint is India. The average Indian consumes far fewer resources than the average American. If everyone on Earth lived like the average Indian, we would only need the resources of one Earth to meet our needs.
Other countries with low per capita ecological footprints include Jamaica, Ecuador, Cuba, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Rwanda. These countries are able to meet their needs with a much smaller impact on the environment because they have lower levels of consumption. They also tend to have more sustainable practices, such as using less energy and water and producing less waste.

List of each Country's Overshoot Day👇





The difference in ecological footprints between these countries is a stark reminder of the inequality in resource consumption around the world. Wealthy countries are consuming far more than their fair share of resources, while poor countries are struggling to meet their basic needs. This inequality is unsustainable and must be addressed if we are to protect the planet for future generations.
In addition to the countries listed above, there are a number of other factors that contribute to resource consumption, such as population size, economic development, and lifestyle choices. It is important to consider all of these factors when trying to understand which countries are consuming the most resources.
Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA)
Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA)


How can we push Earth Overshoot Day back?

There are a number of things that we can do to push Earth Overshoot Day back. One is to increase the share of low-carbon energy sources worldwide. This can be done by investing in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, and by improving energy efficiency. Renewable energy sources do not produce greenhouse gases, which are a major contributor to climate change. They are also becoming more affordable and efficient all the time. In fact, the cost of solar and wind power has fallen by more than 80% in the past decade. Estimates show that increasing the share of low-carbon energy sources from 39% to 75% would move Earth Overshoot Day back by 26 days.
Another way to push Earth Overshoot Day back is to halve food waste. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, one-third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted. This is a huge amount of food that could be going to feed people who are hungry. Halving food waste would move Earth Overshoot Day back by 13 days.
Reforestation is another important way to push Earth Overshoot Day back. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which helps mitigate climate change. A mature tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Forests cover about 30% of the Earth's land surface and store about 280 billion tons of carbon. Reforestation could potentially offset up to 25% of global carbon emissions. Reforesting 350 million hectares of land would move Earth Overshoot Day back by 8 days.
Creating 15-minute cities is a new urban planning concept that aims to make it possible for people to meet most of their daily needs within a 15-minute walk or bike ride. This would reduce the need for cars, which would help to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It would also make cities more livable and accessible for people of all ages and abilities. 15-minute cities are designed around the idea of "15-minute neighbourhoods." These neighbourhoods would have a mix of housing, shops, schools, parks, and other amenities within a 15-minute walk or bike ride. This would allow people to live, work, shop, and play without having to rely on cars. 15-minute cities are also designed to be more sustainable. They would use less energy and resources, and they would produce less pollution. This would help to protect the environment and create a more livable planet for future generations. It is estimated that creating 15-minute cities would move Earth Overshoot Day back by 11 days.
Introducing a four-day workweek is a policy that has been gaining traction in recent years. It would give people an extra day off each week, which they could use to spend on activities that don't involve consuming resources, such as spending time with family and friends, volunteering, and pursuing hobbies. There are a number of benefits to a four-day workweek. It can improve employee productivity, reduce stress, and boost morale. It can also help to reduce carbon emissions, as people will be driving less and consuming less energy. Estimates show that introducing a four-day workweek would move Earth Overshoot Day back by 6 days.
Encouraging green transport use is one of the most important things that we can do to reduce our impact on the environment. This can be done by making public transportation more affordable and convenient, and by creating more bike lanes and pedestrian paths. Green transport refers to any form of transportation that has a low environmental impact. This includes public transportation, walking, biking, and electric vehicles. Public transportation is a great way to reduce our carbon emissions. It is more efficient than cars, as it can carry more people per trip. It is also less polluting, as it does not emit greenhouse gases. Bikes and walking are even better for the environment than public transportation. They produce zero emissions and they are very good for our health. Electric vehicles are also a good option for green transportation. They produce zero emissions when they are driving, and they can be powered by renewable energy sources. Studies show that increasing green transport would move Earth Overshoot Day back by 13 days.
In addition to these large-scale changes, there are also a number of things that we can do as individuals to push Earth Overshoot Day back. For example, we can: Drive less and walk, bike, or take public transportation more often; eat less meat and more plant-based foods; recycle and compost; buy local and sustainable products; conserve water and energy and get involved in environmental activism.
By making changes in our own lives, we can all help to push Earth Overshoot Day back and create a more sustainable future for our planet.

Find out your personal Earth Overshoot Day 👇



  • kareem iyanda

    44 w

    Infact with this detailed information, all those countries that have overshoot days should work to reduce this so by 2030 the report expected is be positive.

    3
    • Marine Stephan

      45 w

      This is very worrisome... And it is striking to see that the countries that have their overshoot days very early in the year are countries from the Global North...

      8
      Welcome, let's solve the climate crisis together
      Post youtube preview with preloading
      youtube overlay

      Write or agree to climate reviews to make businesses and world leaders act. It’s easy and it works.

      Write a climate review

      Voice your opinion on how businesses and organizations impact the climate.
      0 trees planted

      One tree is planted for every climate review written to an organization that is Open for Climate Dialogue™.

      Download the app

      We plant a tree for every new user.

      AppleAndroid