Earth already in red this year in natural resources budget

08 Aug 2016


Humans will have used up the Earth's budget of natural resources for the year in less than eight months, environmental campaigners warn.

People are putting more carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere than the forests and oceans can absorb, and catching fish and cutting down forests more quickly than nature can replenish them.

As a result, the world reached "Earth overshoot day" today, the point in the year when humans have exhausted annual supplies such as land, trees and fish, and outstripped Earth's capacity to absorb greenhouse gases.

The problem is worsening, with the planet sliding into "ecological debt" earlier and earlier.

The day on which the world has used up all the natural resources available for the year has shifted from late September in 2000 to 8 August this year.

But the rate earth overshoot day's creeping up the calendar has slowed in the past few years, according to the Global Footprint Network, the organisation behind the measurement.

Carbon emissions are the biggest contributors to the overshoot, with the greenhouse gas now making up 60 per cent of humanity's demand on nature, or the ecological footprint.

To meet goals to tackle climate change agreed at United Nations talks in Paris in December, the world's carbon footprint must fall to zero by the second half of the century.

Meeting the goals will require a new way of living on the planet, the Global Footprint Network said.

Mathis Wackernagel, co-founder and chief executive of the organisation, said, "Such a new way of living comes with many advantages, and making it happen takes effort.

"The good news is that it is possible with current technology, and financially advantageous with overall benefits exceeding costs.

"It will stimulate emerging sectors like renewable energy, while reducing risks and costs associated with the impact of climate change on inadequate infrastructure.

"The only thing we need more of is political will."

The organisation said some countries were already embracing the challenge, pointing to Costa Rica, which generated 97 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources in the first three months of this year.

The UK, Germany and Portugal are also setting new records for renewables, while China's government has outlined a plan to reduce its citizens' meat consumption by 50 per cent, which could cut the emissions from the livestock industry by a billion tonnes by 2030.

In the UK, solar outperformed coal over the course of a month for the second month on record in July, while overall renewables contributed a quarter of the country's electricity generation in 2015.

The Global Footprint Network is also urging individuals to take action to live more sustainable lives.

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