The impact of thermal engineering research on global climate change
Global climate change is recognized by many people around the world as being one of the most pressing issues facing our society today. The thermal engineering research community clearly plays an important role in addressing this critical issue, but what kind of thermal engineering research is, or will be, most impactful? In other words, in what directions should thermal engineering research be targeted in order to derive the greatest benefit with respect to global climate change? To answer this question we consider the potential reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, coupled with potential economic impacts, resulting from thermal engineering research. Here a new model framework is introduced that allows a technological, sector-by-sector analysis of GHG emissions avoidance. For each sector, we consider the maximum reduction in CO2 emissions due to such research, and the cost effectiveness of the new efficient technologies. The results are normalized on a country-by-country basis, where we consider the USA, the European Union, China, India, and Australia as representative countries or regions. Among energy supply-side technologies, improvements in coal-burning power generation are seen as having the most beneficial CO2 and economic impacts. The one demand-side technology considered, residential space cooling, offers positive but limited impacts. The proposed framework can be extended to include additional technologies and impacts, such as water consumption.