Humanity overspent on 2015 natural resource budget

Turn off the TV, put down those Cheetos, and don’t even think about getting into the car to go to the mall – you’ve already consumed your allotment of energy and natural resources for the entire year, according to the folks at the Earth Overshoot Day initiative.

It’s not just you, though. The whole planet has exhausted its natural biocapacity budget for 2015, consuming more than the Earth can generate for the entire year, project representatives explained to Wired UK on Friday. We officially surged past the limit on Thursday, August 13, or about two months earlier than we did just 15 years ago (2000’s Earth Overshoot Day was in October).

Global overshoot, the organization explained on its website, occurs when the annual demand for fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, wood, cotton, and carbon dioxide absorption – anything that we use that is produced by the planet – exceeds the supply that Earth’s ecosystems can renew in a single year. Instead of living off interest, they said, we’re drawing on the planet’s principal.

Humanity’s carbon footprint most to blame

Mathis Wackernagel, co-creator of the system that calculates Earth’s annual budget and president of the Global Footprint Network, told Wired that humanity’s carbon footprint had doubled since the early 1970s, when the planet first went into “ecological overshoot.” Currently, the group said, we consume so much that it would take 1.6 Earths to produce an adequate supply of resources.

If things continue to progress as they have been, Wackernagel’s group said that Earth Overshoot Day would occur on June 28 in the year 2030, essentially meaning that we would have used up a whole year’s worth of resources in just over six months. However, reducing carbon emissions by 30 percent would cause overshoot day to be pushed back until September 16, 2030.

Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by looking at the renewable, naturally-provided resources we consume and the amount of those resources that the planet can produce, not unlike balancing the credits and debits in a checkbook. Overshoot day itself is “the day when humanity falls into the red,” Wired said. This year’s is the earliest one yet, beating 2014’s old record by four days.

In a statement, Wackernagel said that “humanity’s carbon footprint” was “the fastest growing component of the widening gap between the Ecological Footprint and the planet’s biocapacity. The global agreement to phase out fossil fuels that is being discussed around the world ahead of the Climate Summit in Paris would significantly help curb the Ecological Footprint’s consistent growth and eventually shrink the Footprint.”

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Image credit: Thinkstock

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