Overshoot day: what does it imply?

The overshoot day is advanding a little more each year. Find out more about this term and what it implies.

Global Warming 🔥



July 27, 2022


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In 2022, the overshoot day will occur on July 28, five months before the end of the year.

It's impossible to miss: every year, the media announces this fateful date with great pomp and circumstance - and it comes a little earlier each time. But what exactly does it symbolize? 

In concrete terms, this indicator is a testimony of the pressure exerted by man on the planet. Certainly, global warming is massively illustrated by the surplus of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions released into the atmosphere, but also by the depletion of natural resources. 🌱

But what are the causes of this ecological deficit? How can we manage to finally push back this date? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the overshoot day. 👋

🔎 What is the Overshoot Day?

The Overshoot Day symbolizes the date on which humanity has consumed all the resources that the planet can regenerate in one year. 

Some examples? In one year, humanity catches so many fish that they don't have time to reproduce or we cut down more trees than grow. 🐠🌳

So this day perfectly symbolizes the pressure humans are putting on the planet. Conclusion: our way of life is far too greedy to be sustained by the natural resources we have available. 😅

👋 As of this date, humanity is simply living on credit. 

By the way: since when do we notice a net decrease of ecosystems? 👀

In truth, the depletion of resources has been visible since the industrial revolution that took place in the 19th century, but has dramatically worsened in the last 50 years or so. It's quite simple: if we didn't overconsume the planet's resources, the overshoot date would not exist.

In 2022, however, the tipping point is scheduled as early as July 28. In 2021, it took place on July 21.

👉 And the forecasts are far from good. At this rate, in 2050, humanity will "require" twice as many natural resources to meet its needs (compared to 2020). But will these natural resources be available? It's not looking certain. 

🧐 How is the overshoot day calculated?

Every year, the American NGO Global Footprint Network uses more than 3 million statistical data - concerning no less than 200 countries - to calculate the day of the overrun.

Its objective? To raise awareness about the limited regeneration of our natural resources, and to allow humanity to measure the impact of its consumption on our ecosystems.

How do they calculate this? 👀

Well, it's quite simple. You actually need to divide humanity's ecological footprint - the annual consumption of ecological resources - by the planet's biocapacity - the amount of resources that can be regenerated, as well as the amount of waste that can be absorbed in a year. 

🤗 Please note: both criteria are expressed in global hectares and are calculated based on the National Footprint Accounts.

Using all this data, the American NGO also estimated the number of planets that would a priori be needed to meet our overconsumption of resources. 🌎

Thus, in 2022, we would need 1.75 Earths to meet our current level of consumption. This is equivalent to 74% more resources than what our ecosystems provide.

🔥 What's causing the overshoot day to be so early?

Intensive agriculture and overfishing 🎣🌾

Half of the Earth's biocapacity is used to feed us. Moreover, the expansion of the human population will worsen the already tight situation, since according to the United Nations by 2100, there could be 11.2 billion people living on Earth. 😱

At issue: intensive agriculture and overfishing that :

  • take too many resources - animal, but also natural, since agriculture consumes 70% of drinking water worldwide ;
  • use fossil fuels;
  • contribute to deforestation, soil destruction, biodiversity depletion, marine ecosystem imbalance and atmospheric pollution.

Finally, these two modes of production lead to the depletion of biological resources. Therefore, overexploitation must give way to sustainable agriculture and fishing that is more respectful of the environment.

👀 Some suggestions from WWF? Dividing global meat consumption by two would push back the overfishing by 17 days. And decreasing food waste by 50% worldwide would push back this same date by 13 days.

Deforestation 🌳

The loss of global forest biocapacity has a direct impact on global warming. By cutting down trees, humanity is robbing the planet of its natural carbon sinks. 

As a reminder, trees absorb a portion of CO2 throughout their lifetime. Once cut down, however, they release all of this accumulated CO2 directly into the atmosphere - which already has plenty.

Furthermore, deforestation impacts biodiversity, reduces the supply of food and raw materials, prevents the regulation of the water cycle, impacts the quality of life, etc. 

👋  Consider this figure: Every year, 100,000 km² of forest are destroyed, threatening millions of animal and plant species. 

Forest conservation must be a priority. That's why WWF wants to reforest 350 million hectares of forest, in order to postpone the date of overshoot by eight days.

Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 💨

We generate more emissions than the earth's natural carbon sinks are able to absorb in a year. These natural carbon sinks mostly consist of forests and oceans. 

As proof, according to "Earth Overshoot Day," the carbon footprint represents 61% of humanity's ecological footprint. 💥

Indeed, since the industrial revolution, our GHG emissions have been steadily piling up in the atmosphere. Unsurprisingly, human activities - including the extraction, burning and use of fossil fuels - emit a large portion of these greenhouse gases. 

In 2021, CO2 emissions reached 36.4 billion tons. Unprecedented. 👀

But beyond accelerating global warming, the industry also participates in the depletion of natural resources. As an illustration, fossil fuel reserves are melting away. There are only :

  • 139 years of coal reserves ;
  • 48.8 years of natural gas;
  • 53.5 years of oil.

👋 WWF's solution? Reduce humanity's carbon footprint by 50% to push back the overrun by 93 days, or more than three months.

🤔 How can we turn back the overshoot day?

States, large companies and citizens can act to try to reverse the trend. Four major actions can thus be implemented.

Review our production and consumption patterns 👋

The best way to reduce the consumption of natural resources involves slowing down our current economic model. We need to move from an unsustainable model of overconsumption to a sustainable model: the circular economy.

👉 The key? Do better with less.

Protecting the environment while ensuring the well-being of individuals relies on sustainable production, reasoned consumption and efficient waste management. A vast program isn't it?

There’s several ways to approach this:

  • eco-designing products by taking into account the life cycle of the product or service with environmental and social impacts ;
  • limiting food and resource waste. For example, every year, one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption - that is to say 1.3 billion tons per year - is lost or wasted;
  • extending the life of objects (reuse, repair, belly up, rent and buy second-hand), in order to reduce the extraction of natural resources and, by extension, the extraction of resources - a polluting process;
  • recycling waste.

Protecting natural carbon sinks 🌊🌳

The ocean absorbs 30% of our carbon emissions. 💦 It is the most important carbon sink in the world, but it is obviously not the only one. Several actions to safeguard our natural carbon sinks:

  • preserve existing carbon sinks and create artificial sinks through new technologies;
  • Restore forests that have been overexploited (those converted to cattle ranching, for example);
  • Reforesting tropical forests (which capture more CO2 and act as a barrier to floods and hurricanes in coastal urban areas in the tropics and sub-tropics);
  • Fighting ocean acidification through sustainable fishing.

Decarbonizing the economy 💰

With a view to limiting the global temperature rise to +2°C by the end of the century - and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 - decarbonizing the economy seems inevitable. But how do we go about it?

By switching to renewable energies, among other things! This is one of the objectives set by the United Nations. Thus, the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix should be increased by 2030. 📈 Conversely, we must do without fossil fuels, especially in production processes.

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