Moving the Date: What’s possible?
It is possible to end overshoot. Four key factors drive a country’s resource picture and thus offer high-leverage opportunities to end overshoot: how we build and operate our cities, how we provide energy, how we feed ourselves, and how many we are. Carbon is the largest component of the Ecological Footprint, and it should fall to zero well before 2050 if we want to live up to the Paris Climate Accord. We need achieve this reduction without increasing the burden on the other components of the Ecological Footprint: cropland, grazing land, fishing grounds, forests, and built-up land.
One recent study, produced by Project Drawdown, surveyed the most substantive, existing solutions to reduce carbon concentrations in the atmosphere. This impressive project, documented in an accessible, well-explained book, analyzed all available options on their overall potential for reducing carbon emissions or sequestering carbon by 2050. A qualified and diverse group of researchers from around the world also studied the economics of each solution and dispelled the myth that we cannot afford the solutions to achieve a zero carbon Footprint.
The table below lists the Drawdown solutions and indicates how many days Earth Overshoot Day would move if they were implemented. We include here Project Drawdown’s “plausible scenario,” but the research team studied more aggressive scenarios, too.
Drawdown includes two population solutions. In our own analysis on population, we chose different assumptions on family size reductions, and also recognized that there will be Footprint savings beyond carbon. This is why we estimate a 30-day gain potential from population-oriented solutions as compared to the 12.6 days Project Drawdown estimates (for Educating Girls and Family Planning solutions). Gains from population size are particularly large in the long run, as these gains accumulate. Yet, they can be achieved through activities that have powerful short-term social gains.