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German lignite-fired power plant: Greenhouse gas emissions are the largest item in the consumption of earth's resources

Photo: Patrick Pleul / dpa

Humans have used up the earth's ecological resources, which are actually available for the entire year, this Wednesday. According to calculations by the American environmental organization Global Footprint Network, August 2 is Earth Overshoot Day this year. If everyone lived as elaborately as the people in Germany, the day would have been on May 4th.

  • You can read the original report from Global Footprint Network here: Earth Overshoot Day

At first glance, it looks like progress, because last year's Earth Overshoot Day was already July 28th. It looks like people used fewer resources in 2023 than in 2022. But appearances are deceptive, according to Amanda Diep, spokeswoman for the Global Footprint Network. Rather, all data would be updated every year with the latest data collections and methods in order to be able to draw comparisons. According to this, Earth Overshoot Day 2022 was not on July 28, but rather on August 1.

"The trend is flat," Diep said, and has been for about ten years. In 2023, only one day was won. "It's hard to say how much of this is due to a decline in economic activity (because of Corona) or decarbonization efforts." Decarbonization means switching from fossil fuels to carbon-free and renewable energy sources.

On the one hand, the organization calculates what nature can produce and absorb without losses in the year. Among other things, this involves raw materials, drinking water and food and man-made waste and CO2 emissions. It contrasts this with what people consume with their way of life and economy. Thus, it determines the day on which all resources of the year are consumed. A large part is attributable to greenhouse gas emissions.

Humanity would have to push back the deadline by 19 days every year

In order to live in balance with nature and reduce greenhouse gases as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Earth Overshoot Day would have to be postponed by 19 days every year for the next seven years, Diep said. According to Diep, if it were possible to halve food waste worldwide, 13 days would already be gained.

A study by Ohio State University shows that only six percent of 178 countries operate in an environmentally sustainable way by providing their citizens with adequate food, energy and water without exceeding natural capacities. The researchers looked at water consumption and CO2 absorption, for example in forests. The study found that many countries emit much more carbon than their ecosystems can handle. Nevertheless, the researchers see potential to combat environmental risks through renewable energies, plant-based diets and a sustainable circular economy.