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Resources and Emissions IW News 13. August 2015

Need for a closer look

Today is „Earth Overshoot Day“ – according to the „Global Footprint Network“, an alliance of environmental activists and organisations. This is supposed to be the day when the Earth’s resources needed for the demand of the whole year are already exhausted. The focus is on CO2 emissions. But taking these into account the network mixes two perspectives which do not fit.

One perspective is resource use, the other is the opposite: the reservoir function of forests and other so-called carbon sinks. Looking at resources, renewable and exhaustible alike, there is enough supply for our current demand. Oil production is an example for technical progress that allows to develop new sources. Metals used by industries face some supply risks, but overall there is enough global occurrence.

Severe problems exist regarding regional shortages, because these are mainly distributive conflicts. Drinking water is a scarce resource in many world regions, while Central Europe has it in abundance.

Looking at carbon emissions opens up to a totally different perspective. The natural reservoirs for carbon emissions – first of all forests – are limited. Hence, finding a global agreement to stop global CO2 emissions from growing is a priority. The world climate conference in Paris must commit the biggest emitters to a binding treaty or else, all European efforts remain ineffective, as long fast growing economies such as China and India increase their emissions like they have done in the last couple of years.

So instead of proclaiming a scary “Earth Overshoot day” it seems better to name priorities for political action.

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