The rate at which humanity consumes the Earth's resources dropped dramatically this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the researchers.
Consequently, Earth Overshoot Day, the point at which human consumption exceeds the amount that nature can regenerate in a year, has regressed more than three weeks from July 29, 2019 to August 22 of this year.
According to research by the Global Footprint Network, an international research organization, coronavirus-induced lockdowns led to a 9.3% reduction in humanity's ecological footprint compared to the same period last year. However, to continue consuming ecological resources at the current rate, we would still need the equivalent of 1.6 Earths.
"Earth Overload Day is one way to illustrate the scale of the biological challenge we face," said Mathis Wackernagel, president of the Global Footprint Network. Although Wackernagel said this year's data was encouraging, he called for further progress "by design, not disaster."
The three-week change between the dates of Earth Overshoot Day in 2019 and 2020 represents the largest one-year change since the global overshoot began in the 1970s. Since then, population increases and increases in Per capita consumption levels have pushed Earth Overdraft Day earlier in the year, with the date arriving in July for the first time in 2019.
"It's a Ponzi scheme, we are using the future to pay for the present," Wackernagel said. “Most countries have pretty strict laws on companies running Ponzi schemes, but somehow on the green we think that's okay. We only have one planet and that is not going to change. We have a very simple option, the prosperity of a planet or the misery of a planet ”.
Past economic crises have seen the date temporarily delayed, such as the 2007-08 financial crisis, which saw the date go back five more days in the year.
David Lin, who leads the research team behind Earth Overload Day, explained: "This year was particularly challenging because we wanted to give an indication of how Covid-19 affected the 2020 results."
Lin's research found that there was a significant drop in CO2 emissions (14.5% less compared to the same period last year) and in commercial forestry (8.4% less than in 2019).
Mike Childs, Head of Policy at Friends of the Earth, warned that “this year's improvement in the way we use our natural resources is solely due to Covid-19 and subsequent closures. Unless there is a significant change in the way we act, the situation is likely to return to normal, or worse, in the coming years. "