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Earlier Than Ever Before: Yesterday was Earth Overshoot Day

Do we still need another special day in times with pancake day, flute day, and even sweatpants day? Yes, we do! The 'Earth Overshoot Day' is of global importance. And it changes its position on the calendar from year to year.

Image: Earth Overshoot Day is a little bit earlier each yearImage: Earth Overshoot Day is a little bit earlier each year

This year Earth Overshoot Day was as early as never before. Already on August 2, mankind had spent all the resources that are made available to us from the earth every year. Since yesterday we are living on borrowed time.

What exactly does that mean?

This year, mankind has consumed so much of nature between January 1st and August 2nd as the earth can renew throughout the year. Forests are being cut down which can no longer regrow, oceans are fished empty, without enough fish to replace them and, above all, too much CO2 is released into the atmosphere. CO2 emissions are the fastest growing part of the 'ecological footprint'. The so-called 'carbon footprint' already accounts for 60% of the total footprint of mankind. In order to reach the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement of a maximum global warming of 2 degrees Celsius, CO2 emissions from fossil energy sources worldwide should drop to zero before 2050.

"Our resources are limited, but our possibilities are not. Living within the resources budget of our planet is not only technologically feasible, but also financially beneficial. It is our only chance for a flourishing future," explains Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, CEO of Global Footprint Network and developer of the Ecological Footprint. "Ultimately, sustainability is about pushing back the Earth Overshoot date."

Coming early – every year

However, this goal seems far away at the moment. Compared to the previous year, Earth Overshoot Day 2017 has arrived six days early. In the year 2000, the day was even on October 1, as Stefan Moidl of the Austrian Wind Energy Association IG Windkraft emphasizes. This is mainly due to the industrialized countries that have so far hardly reduced their CO2 emissions. Without the developing and emerging countries the day would even be much earlier. "Climate negotiations in Paris were a step in the right direction. Now deeds have to follow words to achieve these goals," says Moidl.

"Especially in the areas of transport, energy supply and agriculture, Germany is anything but an environmentally conscious pioneer. This must change urgently so that we can reach the United Nations' sustainability goals," says Lena Michelsen, of the development policy INKOTA network about Germany that likes to stress the fact that they started early on the 'Energiewende' (energy transition).

CO2 emissions must drop

Wind energy plays a decisive role in reducing CO2 emissions. For Austria, IG Windkraft expects that this year alone, by using wind power, more than 3.7 million tonnes of CO2 will be avoided, the equivalent to 1.6 million cars. That is 35 percent of all Austrian cars.

Energy transition must therefore pick up speed and finally reach other sectors like transport. In addition, the conversion of  energy supply to renewable energies as well as a more careful handling of existing ressources is needed.

However, this only works if policy sets the right course. Apart from that, the vicious circle of climate change is spinning faster: natural catastrophes such as flooding or drought lead to famine. Such situations end in warlike disputes and refugee movements. The fact that the West is not excluded from this development could be experienced in Europe in recent years.

In this respect, the topic of fighting climate change should be placed on the agenda of all political parties, especially in the German election campaign running at the moment. Johanna Kusch of Germanwatch (environmental and development organization) demands: "The future federal government should set binding and measurable targets to reduce absolute resource consumption and then ensure their consistent implementation - above all by large concers. After years of stagnation, CO2 emissions in Germany must finally drop again."

Otherwise, the bill will even come sooner.


For further information on how each human being can change their personal ecological footprint, visit the homepage of Earth Overshoot Day.

Katrin Radtke
Paris Climate Agreement, energy transition, climate change, earth overshoot day

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