Martin Fahey looks at how we can reverse Earth Overshoot Day

In case you weren’t aware, this Thursday 28th July will be Earth Overshoot Day 2022.

The date changes each year, and this has been measured and recorded since 1971.

Earth Overshoot Day shows the day in the year, where humanity uses up its allowance of natural resources such as water, soil and clean air for the entire year.

This means that humanity is currently consuming resources and using nature around 1.75 times faster than the Earth’s ecosystems can regenerate those resources.

The date was recorded as December 25th in 1971, and by 1980, this had jumped to November 8th.

By turn of the millennium, Earth Overshoot Day was September 25th.

Since 2010, the rate of decline has slowed, from August 8th to July 28th, but we are still heading in the wrong direction.

I’ve said many times before “We need to stop burning stuff”

Martin Fahey2 Martin Fahey Head of Sustainability

What we can achieve when we do nothing

What is also interesting looking at the data for the past few years, is the difference that the pandemic had on the date.

2019 was recorded as July 29th, but this jumped forward to August 22nd in 2020. Whilst this reflects the initial drop in resource use in the first half of 2020, due to the lockdowns, it does show that it is possible for us to change the date and reverse the damage.

So what can we all do to help?

The Earth Overshoot website is a good place to start as it contains lots of useful information and ideas on the things you can do to make a difference.

The page the ‘Power of Possibility’ for example highlights many ways we can all improve our resource security in five key areas covering: a healthy planet, our cities, the energy we use, the food we eat, and population.

Move the date

The site also talks about how decarbonising our economy offers our best chance to address climate change and reverse Earth Overshoot Day.

And there are things we can all do now, individually, or collectively as society.

Installing and using existing, off-the-shelf, energy efficient technologies could help to move Earth Overshoot Day by at least 21 days, without any loss in productivity or comfort.  

Even more dramatically, we could move the date by 93 days by reducing the carbon component of humanity’s ecological footprint by 50%. That’s more than 3 months!

Overall though, decarbonising the economy offers our best chance of addressing climate change, and vastly improving the balance between our Ecological Footprint and the planet’s renewable resources.

Stop burning stuff!

Around 150 years ago, humanity's carbon footprint was close to zero. Now, our carbon footprint makes up around 60% of our ecological footprint.

If we want to limit the global temperature increase to below 2°C, the carbon footprint would have to be zero again before 2050.

Phasing out fossil fuels is one of the things we urgently need to address and, as I’ve said many times before “We need to stop burning stuff”.

The uncertainty and geopolitical turmoil in Ukraine has also raised awareness of the need for energy self-sufficiency as a necessary strategy.

So please do take a moment to check out the ‘Power of Possibility’ pages and see by how many days the suggested energy solutions can #MoveTheDate of Earth Overshoot Day.

According to the site these solutions are “creative, economically viable, and ready to deploy at scale”.

With them, we can make ourselves more resilient. If we move the date 6 days each year, humanity can be out of overshoot before 2050.

Martin Fahey is Head of Sustainability