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Humanity Just Ate Through Planet's Annual Resource Budget Faster Than Ever

...and it's only August. That's the fastest pace yet

"Our economy is built very heavily on fossil fuels, and that's the challenge we face." (Photo: Bill Dickinson/flickr/cc)

Earth Overshoot Day—the day on which people worldwide have officially used up more natural resources like air, food, and water than the planet can regenerate in a year—has come early.

The 2016 threshold was hit on Monday, making it the fastest pace yet, according to a new report by the Global Footprint Network, which measures the dubious milestone every year.

That's five days earlier than last year, about five weeks earlier than in 2003, and months earlier than it was in 1987, when it fell on December 19. In 1961, the global population didn't even use up 100 percent of the world's natural resources, according to the network. But the next decade propelled the planet into an era of overconsumption, the group said.

"This is possible because we emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than our oceans and forests can absorb, and we deplete fisheries and harvest forests more quickly than they can reproduce and regrow," Global Footprint Network said in a statement.

To figure out the annual date, the group analyzes United Nations statistics on thousands of economic areas like fisheries, forests, and energy production, among others. The group's co-founder Mathis Wackernagel told Deutsche Welle on Monday that there is a clear climate villain in the midst—fossil fuels.

"Currently the carbon footprint makes up more than 60 percent of humanity's ecological footprint. Our economy is built very heavily on fossil fuels, and that's the challenge we face. We have agreed that moving over 2 degrees Celsius is an unacceptable target for humanity. That translates into very clear physical constraints," he said.

"That means we cannot have more than 20 years at current emissions levels. That means, in a very short time frame, we will have to move out of fossil fuel use," he explained.

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