Bad news, folks: We’re all officially garbage people.
That’s according to the Global Footprint Network (GFN), an international think tank focused on sustainability that keeps track of how much of Earth’s resources humanity uses and how much the planet can reuse.
Every year, on the day our consumption exceeds the environment’s renewal capacity, they declare “Earth Overshoot Day.” In 2016, that day is Monday, August 8th.
Humanity will have used 1.6 times Earth’s total climate capacity by the end of the year.
Here’s the broad formula the GFN uses to declare Earth Overshoot Day:
(Planet’s Biocapacity / Humanity’s Ecological Footprint) x 365 = Earth Overshoot Day
It sounds simple enough, but in practice there’s a lot involved in the calculation. The GFN says it uses 15,000 data points from the United Nations per country per year. For example, each country’s carbon dioxide emissions are compared to each country’s available greenery for sequestering carbon.
This level of data allows the GFN to figure out exactly how much each nation exceeds its own local climate budget:
By the same token, the GFN determines how many Earths we’d need if everyone lived like the people of each nation:
August 8 is the earliest Earth Overshoot Day ever.
The GFN reports that we began overshooting Earth’s capacity in the 1970s, and have more than doubled our consumption since consistent records began in 1961. About 60% of the overshoot is a product of carbon emissions, though other forms of consumption, waste, and destruction of the natural resources that help replenish our consumption play significant roles as well.
The one glimmer of good news in this report? While Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier every year, the rate at which it moves up through the calendar is slowing a bit. But it will take a while for that derivative to reverse the trend — and things will get a lot worse in the meantime.
The GFN predicts that by around 2030, Earth Overshoot Day will come halfway through the year — meaning it would take two entire Earths to sustain our species’ consumption by then. Good news for spacefarers, perhaps — but not so much for the rest of us.
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