Earth Overshoot Day: consuming like there's no tomorrow

The world appears to have unwound all the environmental progress made during the pandemic as our consumption of natural resources is back to unsustainable pre-Covid levels.

July 28 marks Earth Overshoot Day, the point in the calendar when humans will have used up a year’s worth of the planet’s natural resources.

For the rest of 2022, humanity will be running up an environmental debt, consuming more than the Earth can naturally replenish in a 12-month period, and drawing down on resources available for future generations. At the same time, we will be producing waste such as carbon dioxide emissions.

Earth Overshoot Day has been calculated every year since the 1970s by the Global Footprint Network (GFN), a non-profit research group. Over that time, the overshoot has been found to occur earlier each year, except in 2020 when Covid lockdowns put the brakes on economic activity. This drastically shrank humanity's ecological footprint and managed to delay Overshoot Day by a few weeks.

Worryingly, as the global economy emerged from the pandemic, Overshoot Day has gone back to where it was in 2018.

The bleak headline is likely to add pressure on policymakers gathering in Egypt at COP27 climate summit in November. The UN conference is likely to focus on adapting to global warming and building up resilience as increasingly frequent extreme weather events -- from heatwave to droughts -- threaten human lives.

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