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13.What is 'factor 4'?

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13.What is 'factor 4'?

The President's Green Column

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13.What is 'factor 4'?

- Don't you think it's about time we stop wasting our resources? -

Complete resolution of Environmental Problems

I wrote the following in my previous entry.

Extreme strategies to resolve environmental problems are 'Reduction of World Population' and 'Minimize resource consumption per person'. In order to minimize the damage caused by environmental problems, it is essential to improve the 'Global Poverty' issue.

Regardless of the method, the reduction in human population is likely to affect the prosperity of human adversely and hence, remains as the most difficult problem. Personally, I think that it is most important to 'minimize resource consumption per person' and 'ease global poverty' while controlling the growth in population as much as possible.

'Limits to Growth' and 'The First Global Revolution' by Club of Rome

The Club of Rome is a global think tank consisting of more than 100 scholars whom research on the problems of human survival. One of the most famous reports by this club, 'Limits to Growth' (1972) sold more than 10 million copies around the world. According to this book, if the increase in population and economical growth goes out of control, the earth and humans are likely to face extinction from problems such as environment pollution, insufficiency of food and etc.

On the other hand, the report 'The First Global Revolution' by Club of Rome in 1992, it was being stated that Global Hunger and Poverty are major problems that would lead to major conflicts.

In other words, 'Human survival in the long run cannot be achieved by controlling only the human population and economic growth but also the consumption of resources'. At the same time, it is necessary to make the world (especially developed countries) economy wealthier in order to calm political anxiety that results from global poverty and hunger.

What is 'factor 4'?

'factor 4' is the ideology suggested by Amory B. Lovins in 1995, with regards to the danger of human species which was also reported by the Club of Rome.
'factor 4' refers to the increase of resource productivity by 4 times via the doubling of wealth while halving resource usage.

The 'factor 4' report proposes the followings.

In order for us to overcome poverty issues and strike a balance between our wealth with our environment, we must at least increase our resource productivity by 4 times (factor 4). In other words, as long as we are able to increase resource productivity by 4 times, we would have gained ourselves a basic requirement to maintain human wealth and environment balance in the long run. The increase of resource productivity by 4 times has been achieved in various fields and are technologically feasible. Not forgetting to mention its economic benefits.

In addition, 50 examples of fulfillment of 'factor 4' were introduced in the report proving the feasibility of 'factor 4' in various fields and economically. Besides 'factor 4' there is also an ideology of 'factor 10', which applies to America, European Union, Japan and other developed countries to increase resource productivity by 10 times as suggested by Dr. Schmidt-Bleek.

How much resources are being wasted?

Is it really possible to bring up productivity by 4 times or 10 times as suggested by 'factor 4' and 'factor 10'? Rephrasing this question, have we been wasting this much resource all this while? I have raised the following examples to reconfirm the severity of wastage by the present people.

Example 1: Only 1% of the gasoline used by automobiles is being efficiently used
80% of the energy produced by gasoline are released as heat and exhaust gases.
The rotation of the wheels uses only 20% of the energy.
1 person is only about 1/20 of the weight of the vehicle.
At such,
Energy used to transport the driver is only 1/20 of the 20%, 1%.

Example 2: Only 6% of the resources that circulates in America are being made into products
94% of the resources mined from earth become waste without being made into products.
From "Industrial metabolism" by RU Ayres (1989).
Example 3: Laptops produce waste 4000 times of its actual weight
In other words, in order to make a laptop that weights 1kg, 4 tons of wastes are being produced. The efficiency of resource usage is only 0.025%.
Example 4: 90% of the energy fed into the power plant is being wasted
Assuming the fuel input is 100, 70% is lost in the plant and 30% becomes electricity. (Note: Recent power plants are capable of reducing the energy lost to 60%)
9% is lost from transmission and distribution and electrical energy from the motor becomes 27.3.
Motor accounts for 10% of losses, reducing electrical energy to 24.57. Another 2% is lost from drivetrain, 25% lost from pumps, 33% lost from throttle and 20% lost from pipes.
Actual energy output transmitted via water from the pipe is merely 9.5.
Hence, 90% of the fuel fed was wasted.

Don't you think its about time we stop wasting our resources?

After seeing the examples above, I was surprised at the severity of wastage of our limited resources.
I see the relevance of it to that mentioned by the 'factor 4', 'Don't you think its about time we stop wasting our resources?'.

Presuming 90% of a particular resource is being wasted upon usage (productivity=10%), the reduction of wastage to 60% (productivity=40%) would be equivalent to that proposed by 'factor 4'.

The best possible scenario is that the doubling of wealth around the world and reduction of resource use by half would ease the situation of global poverty and strike a balance between economical developments and our environment.

The Founder of the Polaroid Corporation, who is also the inventor of instant camera, Edwin Herbert Land described inventions as "a sudden cessation of stupidity".

I hope to see more and more inventions that would cease stupidity of resource wastage.

In my next entry, I would like to write about the 'Labor Productivity' versus 'Resource Productivity'.

15 Mar 2009 Hironobu Matsui

Related Links

「Club of Rome」 The Club of Rome Official Web Site http://www.clubofrome.org/eng/home/#
「Club of Rome」 Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Club_of_Rome
「Factor4」 Wuppertal Institute - FACTOR FOUR  http://www.wupperinst.org/FactorFour/
「Factor10」 Factor10 Institution  http://www.factor10-institute.org/
「Natural Capitalism」 Natural Capitalism  http://www.natcap.org/

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