Climate Change

COVID-19 has caused humanity’s ecological footprint to contract by 3 weeks

Earth Overshoot Day this year is on August 22, much later than July 29 last year

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 14 August 2020

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has caused humanity’s ecological footprint to contract by three weeks, a new report has said.

Earth Overshoot Day 2020 is on August 22, more than three weeks later than in 2019 (July 29), according to the Earth Overshoot Calculation Report 2020, brought out by international research organisation, Global Footprint Network.

This means human beings consumed 9.3 per cent lesser resources between January 1 and August 22, compared to the same period last year, which is a direct consequence of the coronavirus-induced lockdowns around the world, a statement by the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature, said.

Decreases in wood harvest and carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion have been the major drivers behind the historic shift in the long-term growth of humanity’s ecological footprint, the statement said.

“This shift in the year-to-year date of Earth Overshoot Day represents the greatest ever single-year shift since the beginning of global overshoot in the early 1970s. In several instances, the date was pushed back temporarily, such as in the aftermath of the post-2008 Great Recession, but the general trend remains that of a consistent upward trajectory,” the Earth Overshoot Calculation Report 2020, said.

Humanity as a whole is currently using nature 1.6 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate. This is akin to using 1.6 Earths.

The sudden ecological footprint contraction is, however, a far cry from the intentional change which is required to achieve both ecological balance and people’s well-being, two inextricable components of sustainability.

Moving the date of Earth Overshoot Day back five days each year would allow humanity to reach one-planet compatibility before 2050.

However, for that, significant efforts would have to be made in five key areas: cities, energy, food, population and the planet itself, the WWF statement said.

For instance, cutting carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning by 50 per cent would move the date by 93 days, it added.

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