World Hits Annual Sustainable Resource 'Overshoot'
LONDON — The world went into the ecological red on Monday -- meaning that for the rest of the year mankind will be living beyond its environmental means, scientists said.
Ecological Debt Day or Overshoot Day, measures the point at which the consumption of resources exceeds the ability of the planet to replace them -- and it gets earlier every year.
"The fact that this year, ecological debt day falls on Oct. 9, only three quarters of the way through the year, means that we are living well beyond our environmental means," said the New Economics Foundation (NEF) think-tank.
"This leads ... to a net depletion of the resources. From Oct. 9 until the end of the year, humanity will be in ecological overshoot, building up ever greater ecological debt," it added.
Calculating the rate of resource consumption against the planet's ability to replenish it, the group said humanity first went into ecological debt on Dec. 19, 1987.
Eight years later the date had moved forward by nearly a month to Nov. 21, and now in 2006 it has jumped again to Oct. 9 -- showing an accelerating rate of change.
"By living so far beyond our environmental means and running up ecological debts we make two mistakes," said NEF policy director Andrew Simms.
"Firstly, we deny millions globally who already lack access to sufficient land, food and clean water the chance to meet their needs. Secondly we put the planet's life support mechanisms in peril," he said.
For instance, if more fish are caught each year than spawn, then less fish will be available the following year, NEF said.
Britain went into ecological overshoot on April 16, barely three months into the year -- suggesting that if everyone in the world consumed at the same rate as Britons then the world would need the resources of three planets to support just this one.
"The only way to balance the budget and end overshoot is to demand less of our planet," NEF said.
Most scientists agree that global temperatures could rise by between two and six degrees Celsius by the end of the century -- most from burning fossil fuels for power and transport -- causing floods and famines and putting millions at risk.
The Kyoto treaty on curbing so-called greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide commits most nations to act.
But the United States -- the world's biggest polluter -- refuses to sign up, boom economies like China are exempt, and the major growth sector of aviation is not even mentioned.
As part of its pledge to cut carbon emissions, Britain has promised to raise to 20 percent by 2020 -- from four percent now -- the amount of electricity it gets from renewables.