Artificial Intelligence and the climate crisis: opportunity or threat?

An analysis of exploiting the potential of AI to mitigate global warming, while paying attention to the contraindications

Climate crisis and artificial intelligence: the reduction of greenhouse gases
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to unlock insights that could help mitigate between 5 and 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030

In November 2023, a report commissioned by Google and in which the Boston Consulting Group also collaborated demonstrated that, by scaling currently proven applications and technologies, Artificial Intelligence has the potential to unlock insights that could help mitigate between 5 and 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2030.

Moreover, such reconnaissance states that AI can drive adaptations to the inevitable impacts of climate change and provide critical capabilities to enable climate action.

The tech giant is certainly not the only one to underline the potential contribution it can make to the fight against global warming.

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A WEF article includes solutions such as mapping the impact of deforestation, predicting weather patterns and recycling more waste
A WEF article includes solutions such as mapping the impact of deforestation, predicting weather patterns and recycling more waste

The World Economic Forum aware of the technological potential for transformation

In January this year, the World Economic Forum also published an article highlighting the transformative potential of Artificial Intelligence in the fight against climate change.

It includes solutions such as mapping the impact of deforestation on the climate crisis, predicting weather patterns and using AI to recycle larger amounts of waste.

There are countless examples around the world of how Artificial Intelligence is already rapidly transforming our approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

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Ideas for reducing consumption of buildings and electric cars from Iranian and Swedish researchers

A paper published in 2020 by Iranian researchers showed how AI can be used to predict a building's energy consumption, taking into account various factors.

They cover its occupancy, structure, materials and local weather conditions, using algorithms to optimize the building's energy consumption, reducing it by 35 percent.

In Sweden, Artificial Intelligence models have been used to suggest optimal routes, which minimize energy consumption for electric vehicle drivers, using characteristics such as vehicle speed and the location of charging points.

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Research conducted by Stanford University in California in 2017 showed how AI can help manufacturers and distributors minimize waste in agriculture

Stanford University's point on crop and crop yields in the future

Research conducted by Stanford University in 2017 showed how AI can help agricultural producers and distributors minimize waste by predicting how much of a crop consumers will buy in a given market, comparing different models to accurately predict la rsa of crops and for plan for bad harvests.

Powerful AI technology, which has already permeated almost every aspect of our lives, has the potential to be a game-changer, not only in the fight against global warming and climate-related adaptation and resilience initiatives, but also in approach to sustainable development in a broader sense, from resource depletion to social inequalities.

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Coalition partners Climate Action Against Disinformation have mapped the risks that Artificial Intelligence poses to the climate crisis

Sustainability risks due to water and energy consumption of supercomputers

Like any powerful tool, AI also carries a number of risks that need to be carefully considered.

These are dangers that can effectively cancel out the gains achieved in terms of emissions savings pollutants thanks to its implementation.

Coalition partners Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD) recently mapped the risks that deep learning and machine learning pose to the climate crisis, the most significant and immediate of which are the huge increase in energy consumption and di water required by AI systems.

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Artificial Intelligence queries could require up to 10 times more computing power than a normal Internet search, for example on Google

Computing power ten times greater than that of a normal Internet search

As an example, the report cites research that suggests AI queries could require up to 10 times more computing power than a typical Internet search.

Google's report, which highlights the risks of increased water use and greenhouse gas emissions linked to energy and complex AI models, also draws attention to the increase in e-waste generation as a further by-product of Artificial Intelligence.

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Balliol is one of the oldest constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in Great Britain, a university that is very attentive to the relationship between climate and Artificial Intelligence

The many systemic impacts are likely underestimated for Oxford University

Felippa Amanta, a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford, goes further, arguing that the true extent of AI's impact on the environment is likely underestimated, especially if one focuses only on the direct carbon footprint of its infrastructure.

Whether Artificial Intelligence will lead to greater or to a lower energy consumption will depend on how we adapt to using it, writes the scholar from the British university, underlining that the so-called "rebound effect" of efficiency is one of the greatest threats in terms of the impact of Artificial Intelligence on climate change.

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For scholars, the so-called "rebound effect" of efficiency is considered one of the greatest threats in terms of the impact of Artificial Intelligence on climate change

An increase in demand for goods or services can create a “rebound” in emissions

By completing tasks more efficiently or replacing analog tools with digital equivalents, the resulting convenience and lower costs can spur an increase in demand for goods or services, creating a “rebound” in emissions.

Take for example ride-hailing apps that use Artificial Intelligence to optimize routes.

If on the one hand the reduction of travel times and distances can reduce emissions, on the other one their greater diffusion could lead to an increase in travel demand, crowding out more sustainable public transport models and causing an increase in air pollution ande congestiontraffic i.

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A decline in public trust, sense of initiative and political participation could hamper society's efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change

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There is also fear that Artificial Intelligence has systemic impacts that threaten climate action.

CAAD research highlights AI's ability to enhance misinformation, allowing climate deniers to more easily develop and spread false and persuasive content.

A decline in public trust, sense of initiative and political participation could significantly hamper efforts to mitigate and for adapt to climate change.

This includes both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing the necessary adjustments to social structures in response global warming.

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Efficiency gains can lead to unintended consequences, such as increased energy consumption due to new organizational and personal behaviors

To balance he… balancechin: to more responsible developments in Artificial Intelligence

While the game-changing potential of AI to aid efforts to slow climate change is multifaceted, it is clear that the risks of employing AIArtificial intelligence to this end they go beyond its physical creation and operation.

Although some research focuses on improving methods to measure and reduce the carbon footprint of Artificial Intelligence systems themselves, many argue that this is onlyso much a part of the picture total.

As AI becomes increasingly integrated into our daily lives, developers must consider how efficiency gains can lead to unintended consequences, such as increased energy consumption due to both organizational and personal behavioral changes.

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Climate crisis
It is essential to promote collaboration between governments, businesses and researchers to maximize the positive impact of Artificial Intelligence on sustainable development

Collaboration between governments, businesses and researchers is fundamental for the guidelines

The key to harnessing the power of AI responsibly and balancing threats with opportunities may lie in developing energy-efficient algorithms and using renewable energy sources, as well as establishing clear guidelines for ethical development of deep learning and machine learning.

Above all, however, it is essential to promote collaboration between governments, businesses and researchers to maximize the positive impact of IArtificial intelligence on sustainable development, including in while addressing the resulting threats to climate change and protecting ourselves from them.

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Climate crisis and artificial intelligence: adaptations to inevitable impacts
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