Happy Earth Day 2021

All over the world, people are talking a lot about the environment and sustainability. Although the Isle of Man is aiming to be a zero carbon island by 2050, many say it should be sooner, and most of us know we need to be doing more now, but what is the urgency? What’s the Earth’s deadline for us to change?

Let’s talk about the real and fast approaching deadlines that the Isle of Man is facing to prevent runaway climate change.

The Earth’s resources have a limit. At the moment, the scientific community has stated that the nations of the world need to cut their carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, for just a 50/50 chance to stay within 1.5oC of warming. 

Think about that: our target is to put the future on a coin toss. 

Warming of more than 1.5oC would mean massive collapses in biodiversity, significant increases in extreme weather, the displacement of millions of people, food shortages and risks to our economic stability, and a higher risk of reaching climate tipping points, that could send us into runaway climate collapse. 

Image credit: WWF Climate & Energy Twitter @climateWWF

One way of figuring out whether we are living within Earth’s boundaries is Earth Overshoot Day. Earth Overshoot Day marks the date every year when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget. For the rest of the year, we run into an ecological overdraft using earth’s resources and accumulating CO2 in the atmosphere and we don’t pay it back. Every year we are operating in overshoot.

In 2020, Earth Overshoot Day fell on August 22. This year, it will be even sooner. Humanity is spending Earth’s resources as if there were two Earths.

When it comes to the limits of Earth’s boundaries, the Isle of Man’s contribution on these is not as good as it needs to be. In 2020 the Isle of Man Green Party observed that our small portion of the Earth’s global budget for CO2 emissions would run out in just 6 years (so, 2026). Read the report here. After that, we would be effectively spending someone else’s budget. We are one of the highest carbon emitters per person in the world.

Image credit: https://www.overshootday.org/newsroom/infographics/

We busted Earth’s budget!

Let’s look at this a different way. Imagine there was one big, finite reservoir that held the world’s drinking water. Everyone in the world is allocated 1000 litres per year. By August 22nd, the Isle of Man has used up all its water, and in order to survive has to use some of the water allocated to other countries, putting them at risk. 

This is exactly what is happening with carbon. Carbon is as vital to Earth’s systems and a healthy biosphere as water is to humans. We know how much carbon we can safely emit, and we are wildly over the mark. That is why we need to reign in our emissions, because we are damaging Earth’s life support systems, perhaps fatally.

Ouch, that sounds bad. What can we do?

How do things need to change so that we can live within Earth’s limits without degrading it further to the detriment of future generations? There are lots of solutions, some more effective than others, but the most important thing to do is to act. 

We should all do what we can in our own lives to reduce our impact (and you can find your own personal Earth Overshoot Day here), but we need to be asking the companies we work for to implement climate action, we need to talk to our politicians to demand action (not just plans!) and we need to work together to make a happier, healthier Isle of Man for ourselves, for others, and for our Planet Earth.

Sarah Mercer is a Green Party Committee member and a member of the Climate Change Citizens Forum. 

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