Due to the Covid-19 epidemic and the economic downturn it caused, the “exceedance day”, which was reached on Saturday 22 August, fell by three weeks in 2020. However, the effects of the containment remain limited on the environment as, according to specialists, the planet’s condition continues to deteriorate. long term.
Mankind on Saturday consumed more natural resources than the earth can renew in twelve months: the symbolic “day of passing” subsides for once this year, under the influence of the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is not good news warns its promoters.
“Overshoot Day”, as its English name implies, calculated since 2003 by the American NGO Global Footprint Network, aims to illustrate the ever-increasing consumption of an expanding human population on a limited planet. To put it in a colorful way, it would take 1.6 earths this year to meet the world’s population in a sustainable way.
The date is calculated by crossing the ecological footprint of human activity (land and sea surfaces necessary to produce the resources consumed and to absorb the waste from the population) and the earth’s “biocapacity” (the ability of ecosystems to regenerate and absorb waste produced by humans , in particular CO2 sequestration).
An ever earlier deadline
“Exceeding” occurs when human pressure exceeds the regenerative capacities of natural ecosystems. According to the NGO, it has continued to expand for fifty years: 29 December 1970, 4 November 1980, 11 October 1990, 23 September 2000, 7 August 2010.
Last year fell on July 29. The year 2020 therefore marks a rare break, but can be attributed to the consequences of the global pandemic that has paralyzed entire areas of human activity by pushing back the date by three weeks and not to a systemic change.
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“There is nothing to celebrate because it comes with suffering. It is not done intentionally, but by a catastrophe,” Mathis Wackernagel, president of the Global Footprint Network, emphasized during an online event on Thursday. And to warn: “It’s like money: you can spend more than you earn, but not forever”.
The behaviors that “bypass day” questions and their consequences are in fact widely documented by scientists, from climate change to the catastrophic disappearance of species and ecosystems.
It still takes a lot of effort
The latest reports from UN experts clearly identify the guidelines to follow: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, withdrawing from fossil fuels or even a drastic change in the model for the production of agricultural products.
To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement 2015 and maintain the overall temperature increase “well below 2 ° C compared to pre-industrial levels, and if possible at 1.5 ° C, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to decrease by 7.6% annually”, says the UN.
According to a study published in early August by the journal Nature Climate Change, the unprecedented reduction in greenhouse gas emissions during containment due to Covid-19 (which can reach 8% according to this study, more than 10% according to Global Footprint ) will do “nothing” to slow down global warming, in the absence of systemic change in energy and food.
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The Global Footprint Network insists on this point, in particular through the #movethedate campaign (to postpone the date), which ensures that a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion would make it possible to postpone the overrun by more than 90 days, or halve the consumption of animal protein for 15 days.
Marco Lambertini, Director General of the WWF, partner of the event since 2007, wants to hope that after Covid, and the reflections it has triggered on models of society, people will be able to “learn from what this pandemic has highlighted: the unsustainable, wasteful and destructive relationship we have with nature, the planet.