Germany Blows Past "Overshoot Day" for 2022

Germany Blows Past "Overshoot Day" for 2022

If there’s a budget for the ecological resources humans can sustainably use in a year, Earth Overshoot Day is the moment when we hit that amount before the end of the year. The denotation “Earth” means an account for the whole planet's biological resources that can be regenerated in one year, but countries can track their budgets as well. At the beginning of May, Germany hit its own national Overshoot Day.

"That should be an alarm signal to remind us of the gravity of the situation,” Lara Louisa Siever, senior policy advisor at INKOTA-netzwerk, told DW. "It's a wakeup call to all of us citizens, but also politicians and industry, that we cannot continue like this."

Now This: Why Did Earth Overshoot Day Happen Almost One Month Earlier in 2021?, July 24, 2021.

Why This Matters

Ideally there should be no overshoot and the use of resources would remain within a sustainable range. To put it another way, if the entire world were to emulate Germany’s use, it would require the resources of three Earths. If the world’s population lived like Americans, it would require five. It’s a useful perspective that shows just how much work is ahead to change the systemic and individual aspects of human lives, from energy systems and infrastructure to people opting for reduced meat consumption.

IPCC: Video message by UN Secretary General at the WGIII AR6 press conference, April 4, 2022.

National Geographic: The Water Crisis, May 5, 2021.

An Overshoot By Another Name

The idea of overshoot also refers to the future climate scenario where the world surpasses warming targets, but by reducing emissions and removing carbon from the atmosphere, temperatures return within the safe zone. While this might sound fine, the impacts of a hotter planet in the interim won’t be reversible even if temperatures are brought back in line. Species that go extinct won’t come back, and rising seas won’t recede into their prior ice formations.

“Humans can control human actions, but humans cannot control the biosphere’s responses to climate change,” Camille Parmesan, an ecologist and professor at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, told Grist. “And we’re witnessing responses that are going to make it harder and harder and harder for humans to get global warming down.”

CBS: Huge carbon emissions cuts needed, UN climate report finds, April 4, 2022.

BBC: Past seven years hottest on record, EU satellite data shows, January 10, 2022.

The Economist: See what three degrees of global warming looks like, October 7, 2021.