How AI Benefits the Environment

Climate change has become a very familiar term since the 70s. Even though it is well-known problem, most people don’t understand what it is or its threat.

Climate change is the large-scale and long-term change in the Earth’s climatic system produced by global changes in temperature and other factors; anthropogenic climate change is climate change brought about by humans. That is the climate change we can and should control. Climate changes like the ice age are beyond our control.

As humans, if we want a better world for ourselves, our children, and future generations, we need to take climate change seriously and look for ways to combat it effectively, including using AI.

Unlimited Power!

But artificial intelligence is currently a dirty word to many environmentally-minded people because of notable concerns about AI’s incredible thirst for electricity. Estimates say that datacenters of the kind needed for AI use about 2% of the world’s electricity right now, but might take up as much as 8% in a decade or two.

Don’t think Big Tech is blind to this. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is also chairman of a nuclear power startup. That gives a good indication of how he sees AI power needs developing.

ChatGPT or Facebook’s new image generator are what people picture when they think of AI right now. That is only a small fraction of the industry.

AI is the branch of computer science focused on creating systems capable of performing tasks that normally require human intelligence. These tasks include learning, reasoning, problem-solving, perception, language understanding, and even decision-making.

Can AI Fight Climate Change?

So, how can artificial intelligence help us protect our environment and fight climate change?

AI can contribute to environmental protection and sustainability in a number of areas. Researchers in Germany have been actively researching ways to use AI for pollution monitoring, combining data from a range of sources to forecast and model air quality.

AI can be used in climate modeling and prediction to analyze climate data and predict future climate patterns, helping in planning and mitigation efforts. In 2023, Australian researchers developed a technique called QuickClim. This technique involves employing machine learning to rapidly model the climate reactions to various carbon dioxide levels as the world grapples with reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Much of effort to stabilize the climate involves resource conservation. Increasingly AI is used to conserve energy in buildings and industries by managing heating, cooling, and lighting systems, thereby reducing energy usage and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch use AI to optimize the energy produced by their wind turbines. For instance, they use AI weather prediction models to analyze potential fields for wind turbines to understand wind patterns throughout the year in that area.

Drones powered by AI and camera traps can monitor wildlife populations and detect illegal activities like poaching, enabling better conservation efforts.

AI-driven precision agriculture can optimize the use of water, fertilizers, and pesticides with assistance from satellites and drones. The result is a decrease in wasted resources, overuse of chemical fertilizers, and an increase in crop yields.

More Man Than Machine

The machines don’t have to be the enemy, they can even give us hope that there are still changes we can make and time to make them. The question remains whether AI’s role in preventing climate change will outweigh the threat of its thirst for energy.

Even in the best case we can’t leave everything to AI — we must also play our part in reducing anthropogenic climate change. It’s a human problem, it’s right there in the name.