During a recent AI safety summit in London, skepticism about artificial intelligence (AI) potentials and risks remained high with some experts warning of unpredictable risks and others emphasising the necessity of reaching a governance framework that can mitigate any risks. However, experts seemed to let their guard down when addressing the alleged AI potential to combat climate change.
As the world grapples with the escalating climate crisis, the search for effective solutions intensifies. While skepticism lingers over the potential risks of artificial intelligence (AI), its role in combating climate change offers a glimmer of hope, a promise of technological prowess that could steer us toward a sustainable future.
AI’s potential to revolutionise climate action lies in its ability to process vast amounts of data, identify patterns, and make predictions with remarkable accuracy. This capability empowers AI to tackle climate change on multiple fronts.
While admitting that the transformative potential of AI for good is difficult even to grasp, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres believes that AI could help to turn the consequences of climate change around and it could supercharge climate action and efforts to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
According to a UN report, AI can significantly improve climate models, providing more accurate forecasts of weather patterns, extreme events, and long-term climate trends. These refined models enable better preparedness for disasters, informed decision-making, and effective resource allocation.
Experts also refer to the ability of AI algorithms to optimise energy usage in buildings, transportation systems, and industrial processes, reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions. AI can also facilitate the integration of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power into the grid, ensuring a stable and sustainable energy supply.
AI can personalise behavioural change interventions, encouraging individuals and communities to adopt eco-friendly practices, such as reducing waste, conserving water, and choosing sustainable transportation options.
AI-powered platforms can provide real-time feedback and recommendations, tailoring interventions to specific lifestyles and preferences. AI can expedite the discovery of new climate-resilient crops, develop innovative materials for carbon capture and storage, and optimise renewable energy technologies. AI’s ability to analyse complex data and identifying hidden patterns can lead to breakthroughs in climate science and technology.
AI can enhance disaster preparedness and response by analysing satellite imagery, predicting flood risks, and optimising evacuation routes. AI can also assist in damage assessment and resource allocation, facilitating rapid recovery from climate-induced disasters.
The UN report is giving an example of the My Anga app which helps Kenyan pastora lists brace for drought. With data from global meteorological stations and satellites sent to their mobile phones, herders can plan, better manage their livestock, and save hours of scouting for green pastures.
While AI holds immense promise for climate action, its potential must be also harnessed responsibly and ethically. The climate AI systems should be dealt with in the same way that all AI systems should be dealt with. They must be developed with transparency, ensuring accountability and minimizing bias. AI applications should also be aligned with sustainable development goals and prioritise the well-being of communities and ecosystems.
The world’s failure to achieve its climate targets, the persistent reliance on fossil fuels, and the international community’s struggle to reach a consensus on greenhouse gas reduction measures underscore the urgency of embracing AI’s potential. AI is not just a technological leap; it’s an opportunity to transform our relationship with the planet, steering us towards a more sustainable and resilient future.
However, AI should not be viewed as a distraction from real efforts but as a powerful tool to complement and amplify those efforts to mitigate greenhouse emissions. AI can accelerate progress, enhance decision-making, and empower individuals and communities to contribute to the collective fight against climate change.
Let us harness the power of AI, not as a saviour but as a catalyst, to drive the transformation toward a sustainable future.