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The “overshoot day”, a false theory

Posted on July 28, 2022




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By Michael Gay.

(taken from a article de Michael Shellenberger appeared on Forbes July 29, 2019.)

From July 28, 2022 until the end of the year, humanity will consume more resources than our planet can produce sustainably, according to the Global Footprint Network (GFN), which has determined such dates since 1986.

Humanity uses nature 1.75 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate. This is equivalent to using 1.75 Earth.

« Rich countries use resources faster than poor countries “, explains the GFN. The United States, Australia, Denmark and Canada use their resources until the end of March, while Cuba, Nicaragua, Iraq and Ecuador do not until December.

The « overshoot day (Earth Overshoot Day) is based on the notion ecological footprint used by the World Wide Fund for Nature, the United Nations Environment and Human Development Programme, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

But is the ecological footprint a scientific concept?

Non.

In 2013, Michael Shellenberger had already demystified ” the day of the overshoot » and the calculation of the ecological footprint based on an article of the peer-reviewed scientific journal, PLOS Biologyentitled ” Is the shoe size correct? Is the imprint imaginary or real? »

It had revealed that five of the six measures that make up the Ecological Footprint, including food and forestry activity, were in balance or in surplus. The only unbalanced emissions were humanity’s carbon emissions.

But solving this problem does not require rich countries to become poor, or poor countries to remain poor, but simply to turn to energy sources that produce no or low carbon emissions. This process is known as “decarbonization”.

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France and Sweden are the only two countries in the world where energy resources are significantly decarbonized. And they did it not by getting poorer, but by getting richer through the use of nuclear energy.

Today, France produces electricity emitting a tenth of the carbon emissions of Germany with electricity half the price, thanks to nuclear power.

How did the creators of the Ecological Footprint hide what they had done?

Simply assuming that the only way to solve climate change was to increase the area of ​​forests to absorb all industrial carbon emissions.

In other words, the Ecological Footprint converts carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to land use area, thereby ignoring all other ways of absorbing or not emitting CO2.

Even worse

Different forests absorb CO2 at different rates over time. But the Ecological Footprint defined by the GFN arbitrarily chooses a single number to represent the rate of carbon uptake over time for all the world’s forests.

The method for calculating this ecological footprint is better known as ” garbage in, garbage out (entering false data into a computer leads to false results).

The result of the ecological footprint impact should therefore lead wealthy developed countries like the United States, Europe and Australia to try to live like Cubans and Nicaraguans. Or to convert all the old forests in the world back to forests with fast-growing trees.

Michael Shellenberger’s paper published in 2013 was widely covered by the media, in particular by Scientific American, New Scienceand even The worldbut this did not prevent the European Commission and other government bodies to recognize the « Earth Overshoot Day » for political and media reasons.

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The Ecological Footprint and Earth Overshoot Day were created just as Western European countries and the United Nations adopted a neo-Malthusian approach to environmental problems.

What does the UN say?

Ironically, the UN advocates the use of wood-based fuels over nuclear.

In a 1987 report entitled ” Our common future » (Our Common Future) the United Nations denounced nuclear power and insisted that poor countries use firewood. ” Wood-poor countries need to organize their agricultural sectors to produce large quantities of wood and other plant fuels ».

The main author of this report was Gro Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, a country which had become rich ten years earlier thanks to its abundant reserves of… oil and gas.

Figures like Brundtland argued that poor countries did not need to consume a lot of energy, which turned out to be totally wrong. Energy consumption is closely linked to GDP per capita, both now and in the past when rich countries were themselves poor.

No rich country depends primarily on wood for power generation, just as no poor country depends primarily on nuclear.

« The ecological footprint has as much scientific merit as astrology, phrenology and flat Earth theories, and it’s time to treat it as a false, pseudo-scientific theory.

An article originally published in July 2019 and updated on July 28, 2022.

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