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Thermal emissions and climate change: Cooler options for future energy technology

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Nick Cowern, Dr Chihak Ahn


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Global warming is a consequence of ‘temperature forcing’, a net imbalance between energy fluxes entering and leaving the global climate system and energy generation within this system. Humanity introduces positive forcings through greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, agriculture, and increasingly thermal emissions - heat released as a result of energy generation and use. Up to now, climate change projections have neglected thermal emissions, and typically assume a peak in forcing due to GHG emissions around the middle of this century [1,2]. Here we show that, if humanity’s future energy use grows at just 1% per year, slower than in recent history, and if thermal emissions are not controlled through changes in technology, the total forcing due to all emissions will not peak and decline significantly as currently predicted, but after a slight dip will continue to rise. This problem can be combated by geoengineering and mitigated by renewable energy sources that minimize waste heat. Such approaches could be combined in reflective wide-bandgap photovoltaic technology, which offers the possibility of a strong negative temperature forcing together with electrical power generation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cowern NEB, Ahn C

Publication type: Online Publication

Publication status: Published

Series Title:

Year: 2009

Access Year: 2009

Description: Preprint server article

Access Date: 04/11


Notes: Submitted for publication