The world has hit “Earth overshoot day” when we have used up all the resources the planet can provide for the year, experts have warned.
Earth overshoot day marks when people have used up the food, timber and other natural products the Earth can sustainably provide, and has absorbed as much carbon emissions as a result of human activity as it can, for the year.
This year the day has fallen on August 1, the earliest date since humans began overusing the planet’s natural resources in the 1970s, the Global Footprint Network, which calculates the date, said.
It means humanity is now using nature 1.7 times faster than the planet’s natural systems can cope with – the equivalent of using 1.7 Earths.
In the UK, people are using so much resources and putting out so much pollution that it would take 2.9 Earths to sustain the world if everyone lived like Britons.
As a result of this overuse, fisheries are collapsing, freshwater is scarce, soils are being eroded and wildlife is vanishing, while the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is leading to climate change, more severe droughts, wildfires and hurricanes, the researchers said.
Global Footprint Network chief executive Mathis Wackernagel said: “As we mark Earth overshoot day, today may seem no different from yesterday – you still have the same food in your refrigerator.
“But fires are raging in the Western United States. On the other side of the world, residents in Cape Town have had to slash water consumption in half since 2015.
“These are the consequences of busting the ecological budget of our one and only planet.
“Our economies are running a Ponzi scheme with our planet,” he warned, adding people were using the Earth’s future resources in the present day, and digging deeper into “ecological debt”.
The Global Footprint Network called for action to tackle the overshoot, and has outlined areas with the most potential for pushing back the day the world goes into ecological debt.
They include reducing driving in cities, replacing car trips with public transport, walking and biking, cutting carbon from energy production, reducing food waste by half, making diets more sustainable, and reducing the number of children families have.