Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier and earlier each year, and it’s not exactly something to get excited about.
Today, August 8 is this year’s Overshoot Day, or Ecological Debt Day, when humans have consumed more natural resources than can be replenished within the year. From then on, humans begin “deficit spending” on their resources, effectively borrowing from future generations. This year will boast the earliest Overshoot Day yet–at least until 2017, that is. Last year’s Overshoot Day was August 13, six days earlier 2014’s. The U.S. already celebrated its National Overshoot Day on June 15.
The day is determined by comparing the Earth’s biocapacity to the global Ecological Footprint. Part of that Footprint includes carbon dioxide that is being emitted at a rate faster than can be sequestered by forests and oceans. Nearly a fifth of the global carbon footprint comes from cars, according to the Global Footprint Network. That share may grow in the future, since transportation-related emissions are rising faster than any other sector. In the U.S., transportation-related emissions recently became the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, eclipsing the electric power sector for the first time since 1979.
Overall, things aren’t looking too great for Planet Earth. Last week, the United Nations released a report that revealed humans’ consumption of natural resource has tripled since 1970. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also released its annual State of the Climate Report, which showed that air and ocean temperatures, sea levels and carbon dioxide levels set new record highs just during 2015.
It’s imperative that national, state and local leaders realize that while transportation is only part of the problem at hand, there are tested (and comparatively low-cost) solutions available. Investing in transit, as well as biking and walking infrastructure, and transit-oriented development can go a long way to lower carbon emissions and minimize our ever-growing Ecological Footprint.