Over a century, our world climate has risen by 1 degree Celsius—a figure that’s practically harmless, if you think about it. At a superficial level, it does seem like it. However, not many are aware that it’s enough to melt polar ice caps and change marine ecosystems. And if we continue to let global temperatures rise by 2 degrees Celsius, that would be enough to flood low-lying islands worldwide.
The problem is, we only have about three or 12 years, depending on who the expert is to curb carbon emissions from inflicting permanent damage to our environment. According to climate.gov, the carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere first reached its highest in 800,000 years in 2018. The stats now read 407.4 parts per million.
Good thing Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here to rescue. Let’s look at the number of ways AI can tackle climate change.
A Few Ways AI Can Address Climate Change
Data mining, computer vision, and predictive analytics are three AI functions that would play a significant role in battling climate change. In a joint research paper published in the MIT Technology Review, experts from Microsoft, Google, Carnegie Mellon, and more explored a few use cases of AI toward this end. Here are a few of them:
1. Measuring environmental waste and pollutants
AI can estimate the waste produced in buildings, publicly owned infrastructure, and factories. Data gathered from Internet of Things (IoT) sensors in these areas can assist governments and enterprises in lowering their energy and resource consumption. AI systems can also increase monitoring and accountability among responsible parties.
2. Predicting natural catastrophes and weather events
AI can generate insights on weather events based on the aggregation and analysis of historical climate data. Additionally, AI can help prepare and mobilize people and governments in the event of hurricanes and similar natural disasters.
3. Empowering individuals to do their share
ML can enable citizens to track and manage their carbon footprint. It can take the form of apps that notify users when they’re exceeding ideal levels. ML can also educate them on what changes they can make in their daily lives that would have a positive impact on their environment. For instance, personalized educational tools that utilize a user’s real-life location as an anchor can help citizens explore what climate solutions can provide the most benefits to their community.
Challenges Standing in the Way
Unfortunately, using AI systems leaves a carbon footprint, which comes at a cost to our environment as well. According to University of Massachusetts research, training a large AI model for natural language processing (NLP) can generate emissions of up to 626,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. An average car yields around 126,000 pounds of carbon emissions in its lifetime.
Apart from this, there are also AI-related ethical issues, such as AI bias, job loss, and wealth disparity, that experts need to address. However, they can call on stakeholders to work together to foster a “collaborative” atmosphere in devising strategies to reduce AI’s environmental impact. Research is currently underway to develop ML technologies with lower computational costs.
AI is no silver bullet, but it has the potential to make substantial contributions to stopping climate change. As our examples show, AI aids the world’s best researchers in exploring solutions to reducing our carbon footprint. Hopefully, nations would be willing to embrace AI systems preprogrammed to assist in this collective fight. The sooner these technologies can be implemented across global industries, the sooner we can remedy the damage we’ve done to our environment.