For those who haven’t heard of Earth Overshoot Day before, it isn’t to do with the Earth’s orbit through space! It is actually the date, calculated by the international research organisation Global Footprint Network, at which the global population’s demand for resources in a given year exceeds the Earth’s natural capacity to regenerate them.
The aim of calculating ‘overshoot’ is to help the human economy operate within Earth’s ecological limits. To determine the date of Earth Overshoot Day for each year, Global Footprint Network combines the most reliable data and uses a series of reasonable assumptions to assess the current resource situation or ‘biocapacity’. It then calculates the number of days of that year in which the Earth has sufficient biocapacity to provide for humanity’s ecological footprint. The remainder of the year is then a global resource deficit or overshoot.
Earth Overshoot Day has been calculated since 1970 but the data available over the intervening years have changed and improved, so it is overly simplistic to compare previous years on a like-for-like basis. Nevertheless, the trend has been for the date to creep backwards through the year, from an inaugural Earth Overshoot Day of December 30 in 1970 to September 30 by 1996 and July 29 in 2021. Humanity is now using up a whole year’s worth of resources (including emitting more carbon and other greenhouse gases that can be naturally absorbed by the atmosphere) by the end of July! This is clearly unsustainable.
If the idea of Earth Overshoot Day feels depressing, then it is worth noting that Global Footprint Network has also used its data to calculate the key actions we can take to reduce our ecological footprint and claw back some of the overshoot days. These include:
- If the world reduced its driving by 50% and one-third of car miles were replaced by public transport and the rest by walking and cycling, Earth Overshoot Day would move back by 13 days.
- Reforesting 350 million hectares of forest would move the day by 8 days.
- A 50% reduction in carbon emissions would move Earth Overshoot Day back by 93 days, or more than three months. Existing technologies for buildings, industrial processes and the generation of electricity could move Overshoot Day by at least 21 days according to analysis by Global Footprint Network and Schneider Electric.
- A 50% reduction in global meat consumption would move Overshoot Day back by 17 days (including 10 days from the reduction of methane emissions).
- Cutting food waste in half worldwide would move the day back by 13 days.
As COP26 approaches, RSK is turning its focus to all things sustainability and all employees are encouraged to sign up to the company’s monthly sustainability pledges as part of meeting corporate responsibility and sustainability goals. Please visit our sustainability pages for more information on how we are working to fulfil our long-standing commitment to sustainability targets in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
By signing the Pledge to Net Zero and joining the Science Based Targets initiative earlier this year, RSK has committed to ensuring it maintains a sustainable carbon footprint, preserving and restoring the environment for generations to come.
For more information about Earth Overshoot Day please visit the website.
You can also sign up for our upcoming ‘Green Dialogues’ events here.