Apparently we are due to reach Earth Overshoot Day on 1 August this year. That’s the day when humankind has used up our entire annual ecological budget, the point where our guzzling of natural resources goes beyond the planet’s ability to restock and regenerate.
This year we will have used up our quota two days sooner than previously, by the earliest date ever recorded.
For a bit of perspective, the overdraft point was 29 December in 1970. Unsurprisingly, though, it has been steadily coming around quicker as the population increases and we clear more forests, catch more fish and burn more fossil fuels. By 1988, the overshoot date had jumped to 15 October, and to 15 August ten years ago. The UK busted its own eco budget on 8 May this year, while the US went into the red on 15 March. This compares to Vietnam’s 21 December. Overall, we are now collectively using the equivalent of 1.7 Earths.
If that’s not worrying enough, researchers are this week warning that the world’s oceans will be more acidic by 2100 than at any time in the past 14 million years if we continue to pump out greenhouse gases at the current rate, with dire consequences for marine life.
Meanwhile, studies by the Zoological Society of London show the rate at which the world is heating up is a major driver of species declines, particularly in certain birds. If warming happens faster than wildlife can adjust, we are likely to see mass extinctions.
This all comes as the UK basks in one of the hottest, driest and sunniest summers on record, and following 17 of the last years being the warmest worldwide.
Climate change has been named as the biggest threat ever to face mankind. There’s no getting away from the fact that we must step up global action to cut emissions and reduce our impact on the world’s ecosystems if we are to stave off irreversible climate change.
In the meantime, perhaps we can enjoy a little light relief with a surreal new Scottish-Swedish comedy collaboration coming to this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Laughter is the best medicine, after all.
Picture the scene. It’s 2031. Adele’s new album, 43, is at number one. Turtles are struggling to survive due to the amount of plastic litter choking the oceans. Wildfires are burning and sea levels are rising. People are being forced to evacuate their homes to escape.
A super-rich family in the Highlands and their neighbours in a luxury holiday complex are concerned as a giant patch of seaweed spreads to threaten their beachfront homes, but they are only concerned with its effect on property prices and the quality of their cocktails. They rather like the constant searing heat and higher water levels, now literally lapping at their balconies.
Back in Moray, locals have stocked up on weapons, inflatable canoes and Marmite, ready to flee the encroaching North Sea. Meanwhile, across the water, the Swedes are frantically packing as the flames close in around them.
Let’s Inherit the Earth is billed as “a dark, funny, absurdist satire on human responses to climate change”. I’ve not seen it yet, but it was well-received by the crowd who saw the dress rehearsal. And if you can’t make it to the capital in August, the show, by Dingwall-based Dogstar Productions and Profilteatern of Umea, will be on at various venues around the country in October and November.
Just don’t laugh too much – remember we’re trying to cut our carbon dioxide emissions.