Nature's 2016 resource 'budget' already used up

FRENCH PRESS AGENCY - AFP
PARIS
Published 08.08.2016 00:34

In just over seven months, humanity has used up a full year's allotment of natural resources such as water, food and clean air - the quickest rate yet, according to a new report. The point of "overshoot" was officially reached today, said environmental group Global Footprint Network -- five days earlier than last year.

"We continue to grow our ecological debt," said Pascal Canfin of green group WWF, reacting to the annual update. "From Monday, Aug. 8, we will be living on credit because in eight months we would have consumed the natural capital that our planet can renew in a year."

The gloomy milestone is marked every year on what is known as Earth Overshoot Day. In 1993, the day fell on Oct. 21, in 2003 on Sept. 22 and last year on Aug. 13.

In 1961, according to the network, humankind used only about three-quarters of the earth's annual resource allotment. By the 1970s, economic and population growth sent the earth into annual overshoot.

"This is possible because we emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than our oceans and forests can absorb, and we deplete fisheries and harvest forests more quickly than they can reproduce and regrow," the network said in a statement. To calculate the date for the earth Overshoot Day, the group crunches U.N. data on thousands of economic sectors such as fisheries, forestry, transport and energy production.

Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions, it said, are now the fastest-growing contributor to ecological overshoot, making up 60 percent of humanity's demands on nature - what is called the ecological "footprint."

According to the U.N., the number of people on the earth is forecast to grow from 7.3 billion today to 11.2 billion by the end of the century - piling further pressure on our planet and its finite resources. But there was some good news, too.

"The rate at which Earth Overshoot Day has moved up on the calendar has slowed to less than one day a year on average over the past five years, compared to an average of three days a year since the overshoot began in the 1970s," said the network.

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