WATCH: Earth Overshoot Day 2023 and Ecological Balance Sheets explained

It’s 2nd August and humanity has reached its annual budget for natural resources in 2023 – exceeding the planet’s capacity for regeneration over a 12 month period. It’s a bleak anniversary that continues to get earlier. 

green and brown tree illustration

Calculations are conducted by the Global Footprint Network, and were first published in 1971. Back then, the date was Christmas Day. 40 years on, it’s almost five months earlier. The rate at which this is changing has slowed over the last decade or so, but most will tell you that’s no cause for celebration. 

There are details to take into account, though. As Earth Overshoot Day explains on the official website – a goldmine for information and material on circular economics, waste reduction and climate action – it’s impossible to make ‘apples-for-apples’ comparisons between two years. This is because environmental science is progressing at an astonishing rate, making it easier to determine more accurate results from research.

So, across a 10 year period, the known carbon storage capacity of a boreal forest may change, even though this has always been constant in reality. It’s not only a convincing advertisement for further investment in climate studies, but a reminder uncertainty reigns in terms of how global warming, emissions, and other symptoms of the climate crisis will play out. 

Looking at what Global Footprint Network has published that we can compare presents striking numbers. Since 1970, there has been a 121% increase in the global population of humans, but a 67% decrease in the global population of vertebrate species. In terms of our impact, 60% of our ecological footprint comes from carbon. The UK’s ecological footprint exceeds its biocapacity by 240%, and in total just 58 countries across the world have a higher biocapacity than footprint. 

So how is this calculated, and how relevant is it? Take a look at the explainer video below which shines a light on the Ecological Balance Sheets of more than 180 countries, and the maths behind the results. 


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