Climate Action

Earth Overshoot Day 2013

Today—August 20—is Earth Overshoot Day 2013, the day when humanity officially exhausts nature’s budget for the year. From this day forward, the planet will be operating under an ecological deficit, using more resources than the planet can produce and emitting more carbon dioxide than the planet can filter out. Originally developed by the New Economics Foundation, Earth Overshoot Day has been falling a few days earlier each year, an indication of ever-increasing consumption patterns. In 1993, Earth Overshoot Day fell on October 21. In 2003, it fell on September 22. According to the Global Footprint Network, our current rate of global consumption requires the resources of 1.5 Earths. “We are on track to require the resources of two Earths well before mid-century.” What are the results of this ecological deficit? A rapidly changing climate, shrinking forests, species loss, higher commodity prices, and many more.

The US, China, and Qatar are among the worst offenders. China’s total ecological footprint is the largest on Earth, but on a per capita basis, its ecological footprint is smaller than Europe or North America. If everyone lived the lifestyle of a typical Chinese resident, it would require 1.2 Earths. If everyone lived like an American, it would require four Earths to support the global population. Meanwhile, if everyone lived like a typical resident of Qatar, 6.5 Earths would be required. To calculate your ecological footprint and learn ways to minimize it, check out Earth Day Network’s Footprint Calculator.