The world spent its entire natural resources budget for 2018 by 1 August – consuming a whole year’s quota of reserves in just seven months
Our demand for natural resources such as food, forestry and marine products as well as our demand on nature such as carbon emissions and built-up land is analysed by Global Footprint Network, which calculates ‘Earth Overshoot Day,’ when the year’s replenishable means have been consumed.
That day has been arriving ever earlier. In 1970 the year’s resources lasted until 29 December; by the early ’80s they been used up by November and by the end of that decade it was October. The overshoot day first came as early September in 1995 and within a decade it was in August. In 2018, it was the very beginning of that month.
As the ecological deficit grows, the impacts include an inability to support ecosystems – biodiversity and land or marine life – plus natural capital erosion, resulting in lack of freshwater, clean air and soil, as well as climate change.
Extreme events this year have included wildfires and heatwaves. Although seasonal in many countries, large-scale wildfires have appeared in latitudes as far north as Scandinavia and temperature records were broken in some areas.
The general consensus is that climate change is making such events more likely to occur and more severe.
These events have economic implications - asset loss and behavioural changes - as well as human and social implications such as lives lost and livelihoods disrupted. In our view, adaptation to climate change will move further up the agenda with a growing focus on the social consequences as scientists work on attribution analysis for specific events.
These findings and events seem to show that many businesses and governments are not adequately prepared for climate impacts and are not using natural resources efficiently. Companies will be under increasing pressure to be more sustainable – and to disclose their strategies. Investors face pressure to integrate environmental, social and governance policies into investment decisions, while governments provide adequate regulatory frameworks.
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