Monthly Archives

August 2015

Living Planet Report 2014 Release

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Every two years, Global Footprint Network, WWF and the Zoological Society of London publish the Living Planet Report, the world’s leading, science-based analysis on the health of our planet and the impact of human activity. The Living Planet Report uses the Ecological Footprint and additional complementary measures to explore the changing state of global biodiversity and human consumption. The report documents the extent of human pressure on the planet, how that compares across nations, and how it is impacting the natural world.

View the Living Planet Report 2014 Press Release

View the Living Planet Report 2014 Ecological Footprint Factsheet

Humanity’s Demand on Nature Climbs as Biodiversity Suffers Major Decline

Click to view full reportThe Living Planet Report 2014, released September 30, 2014, shows that humanity’s demand on the planet is more than 50 percent larger than what nature can renew, jeopardizing the well-being of humans as well as populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.

Humanity’s Ecological Footprint has more than doubled since 1961, according to the Living Planet Report. At the same time, vertebrate wildlife populations have declined, on average, by more than half in just four decades, as measured by the Living Planet Index.

It would take 1.5 Earths to produce the resources necessary to support humanity’s current Ecological Footprint. This global overshoot means, for example, that we are cutting timber more quickly than trees regrow and releasing CO2 faster than nature can sequester it.

Growth in the Ecological Footprint is largely attributable to the carbon Footprint, which has increased to comprise 53 percent of our Footprint in 2010 from 36 percent in 1961. Carbon emissions (in particular) and food demand are the major drivers of the escalating Footprint. In addition, from 1961 to 2010, the global human population increased from 3.1 billion to 6.9 billion, and the per capita Ecological Footprint increased from 2.5 to 2.6 global hectares.

Living Planet Report Partners

WWF
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

Zoological Society of London
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation, and educational organization. Its mission is to achieve and promote the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats.

August 13th is Earth Overshoot Day this year

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Carbon emissions continue pushing the Ecological Footprint further above the planet’s annual budget

(OAKLAND, CA, USA) — AUGUST 13, 2015 —In less than eight months, humanity has used up nature’s budget for the entire year, with carbon sequestration making up more than half of the demand on nature, according to data from Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability think tank with offices in North America, Europe and Asia.

Global Footprint Network tracks humanity’s demand on the planet (Ecological Footprint) against nature’s ability to provide for this demand (biocapacity). Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. Earth Overshoot Day has moved from early October in 2000 to August 13th this year.

The costs of this ecological overspending are becoming more evident by the day, in the form of deforestation, drought, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The latter will significantly amplify the former, if current climate models are correct. Consequently, government decision-makers who factor these growing constraints in their policy making will stand a significantly better chance to set their nation’s long-term economic performance on a favorable track.

“Humanity’s carbon footprint alone more than doubled since the early 1970s, when the world went into ecological overshoot. It remains the fastest growing component of the widening gap between the Ecological Footprint and the planet’s biocapacity,” said Mathis Wackernagel, president of Global Footprint Network and the co-creator of the Ecological Footprint resource accounting metric. “The global agreement to phase out fossil fuels that is being discussed around the world ahead of the Climate Summit in Paris would significantly help curb the Ecological Footprint’s consistent growth and eventually shrink the Footprint.”

The carbon footprint is inextricably linked to the other components of the Ecological Footprint — cropland, grazing land, forests and productive land built over with buildings and roads. All these demands compete for space. As more is being demanded for food and timber products, fewer productive areas are available to absorb carbon from fossil fuel. This means carbon emissions accumulate in the atmosphere rather than being fully absorbed.

A Second Chance

The climate agreement expected at the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) 21 this December will focus on maintaining global warming within the 2-degrees-Celsius range over pre-Industrial Revolution levels. This shared goal will require nations to implement policies to completely phase out fossil fuels by 2070, per the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), directly impacting the Ecological Footprints of nations.

Assuming global carbon emissions are reduced by at least 30 percent below today’s levels by 2030, in keeping with the IPCC’s suggested scenario, Earth Overshoot Day could be moved back on the calendar to September 16, 2030 (assuming the rest of the Footprint would continue to expand at the current rate), according to Global Footprint Network.

This is not impossible. In fact, Denmark has cut its emissions over the last two decades at this rate: Since the 1990s, it reduced its carbon emissions by 33 percent. Had the world done the same (while not changing the rest of the Footprint), Earth Overshoot Day would be on October 3 this year.

This is not to say that Denmark has already reached a sustainable Ecological Footprint.  Humanity would require the resources of 2.85 planets if everyone lived like the Danes, which would move Earth Overshoot Day to May 8.

Business As Usual

By contrast, business as usual would mean using the resources equivalent to two planets by 2030, with Earth Overshoot Day moving up on the calendar to the end of June.

This projection assumes that biocapacity, population growth and consumption trends remain on their current trajectories. However, it is not clear whether a sustained level of overuse is possible without significantly damaging long-term biocapacity, with consequent impacts on consumption and population growth.

Tipping Point

“We are encouraged by the recent developments on the front line of renewable energy, which have been accelerating worldwide, and by the increasing awareness of the finance industry that a low-carbon economy is the way of the future,” said Wackernagel. “Going forward, we cannot stress enough the vital importance of reducing the carbon footprint, as nations are slated to commit to in Paris. It is not just good for the world, but increasingly becoming an economic necessity for each nation. We all know that the climate depends on it, but that is not the full story: Sustainability requires that everyone live well, within the means of one planet. This can only be achieved by keeping our Ecological Footprint within our planet’s resource budget.”

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Additional Resources:

More on Earth Overshoot Day: www.overshootday.org

Follow us on social media: #overshoot

To calculate your own personal Ecological Footprint and learn what you can do to reduce it, go to: footprintcalculator.org

Free Public Data Package (Ecological Footprint Data on 182 countries):
www.footprintnetwork.org/public2015
About Global Footprint Network:
Global Footprint Network is an international think tank working to drive informed, sustainable policy decisions in a world of limited resources. Together with its partners, Global Footprint Network coordinates research, develops methodological standards, and provides decision-makers with a menu of tools to help the human economy operate within Earth’s ecological limits.