Ireland’s Earth Overshoot Day: Here’s what you need to know

21 Apr 2022

Image: © Anton Balazh/Stock.adobe.com

If everyone in the world lived like Irish people, today would be the day the Earth would run out of its ecological resources for the year.

Every year, the Global Footprint Network calculates Earth Overshoot Day – the day when humanity will have used nature’s resource budget for the entire year. And today (21 April) is Ireland’s Earth Overshoot Day.

This means that if all the people in the world lived how Irish people do in terms of the consumption of the Earth’s resources, today is the day humanity would run out of nature’s resource budget for the entire year. Consumption for the rest of the year would not be sustainable.

Future Human

Global Footprint Network is an independent think tank headquartered in Oakland, California, that aims to help decision-makers in steering the human economy to operate within the Earth’s ecological limits.

It determines the date of Earth Overshoot Day each year by calculating the number of days the Earth’s biocapacity suffices to provide for humanity’s ecological footprint. The rest of the year constitutes as overshoot.

In mathematical terms, it is calculated by dividing the planet’s biocapacity, or the amount of ecological resources the Earth is able to generate in a given year, by humanity’s ecological footprint, or demand, for the same year. The result is then multiplied by 365 for each day of the year.

Ireland falling behind

Last year, Earth Overshoot Day fell on 29 July. This was nearly a month ahead of 2020’s date of 22 August, meaning that humanity’s ecological footprint had increased. The 2020 date, however, was later than previous years – the latest it had been since 2005 – amid a slowdown in human activity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ireland is typically ahead of the global overshoot date, indicating that Irish people consume more and live less sustainably per capita than the world average. This year’s date of 21 April is nearly a week ahead of last year’s date of 27 April – a sign that we’re becoming less sustainable.

“If the whole world lived as we do in Ireland, it would have used up an entire year’s worth of its ecological resources by today,” said Chris Collins, president of Schneider Electric Ireland. “That sounds bad enough, but this year we have hit the threshold almost a week earlier than we did for the past three years running.”

Collins warned that Ireland now has less than eight years to hits its 2030 climate targets in line with EU and global efforts to limit Earth’s heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius. “If we are going to play our part, we have a lot of catching up to do.”

Energy consumption is centre stage in any discussion about the future of sustainability.

“The simple fact is, energy efficiency might sound a bit unsexy but it’s one of the fastest-growing ways to cut carbon emissions and save the planet,” added Collins, noting that technologies such as electric vehicles and smart, connected devices that make efficient use of electricity are “delivering more and wasting less”.

“Digital connectivity will enable the all-electric towns and cities of the future and the decentralised and decarbonised grid that serves them.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com