What are the environmental implications of artificial intelligence?

However, AI systems also pose sustainability issues related to the natural resources they consume, such as electricity and water, and the carbon emissions they produce. The rise of deep learning and extensive language models has also dramatically increased the amount of processing power needed by AI systems. AI can be a powerful tool to combat climate change. Autonomous vehicles with AI, for example, could reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2050 by identifying the most efficient routes.

Using AI in agriculture produces higher yields; peanut farmers in India achieved a 30 percent higher harvest by using AI technology. In addition, AI can provide a faster and more accurate analysis of satellite images that identify areas affected by a disaster that need help or the rainforest are destroyed. AI-based data analysis can also help predict hazardous weather patterns and increase accountability by accurately monitoring whether governments and companies are meeting their emissions targets. AI and deep learning are also improving weather forecasting and the prediction of extreme events.

This is because they can incorporate much more of the complexity of the climate system in the real world, such as atmospheric and ocean dynamics and ocean and atmospheric chemistry, into their calculations. This improves the accuracy of weather and climate models, making simulations more useful for decision makers. AI refers to computer systems that “can sense their environment, think, learn and act in response to what they perceive and their programmed objectives,” according to a report by the World Economic Forum, entitled Harnessing Artificial Intelligence for the Earth. Maria Uriarte, from Columbia University, professor of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, and Tian Zheng, professor of statistics at the Data Science Institute, received a grant from Microsoft to study the effects of Hurricane Maria on the El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico.

For Andrea Renda, director of global governance and expert in digital economy at the Center for European Political Studies in Brussels (Belgium), and also a member of the group of experts that advises the European Commission, AI must be developed and implemented so that it can meet the needs of society and protect the environment by saving more energy than it spends. Artificial intelligence (AI) is often presented in binary terms in both popular culture and political analysis. The holy grail of artificial intelligence research is general artificial intelligence, when computers can reason, abstract, understand and communicate like humans. Once the initial training is complete, the autonomous vehicle's AI model performs continuous inference so that it can navigate its environment.

While AI has existed for about half a century, the question of environmental impact (and other ethical issues) only arises now because techniques developed over decades can now be used in combination with an explosion of data and strong computational power, said Prof. As big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence continue to gain prominence in information technology, experts express concern about the environmental costs of computing, mainly data and the carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions of AI. Artificial intelligence can also help predict the spread of invasive species, track marine litter, monitor ocean currents, track dead zones and measure pollution levels. AI has a number of advantages for solving the current climate crisis, but it's hard to ignore the potential environmental side effects.

In order to use AI in the fight against climate change in a way that delivers on its technological promise and recognizes its intensive use of energy, technology companies that lead the field of AI must explore solutions to the environmental impacts of AI. Other areas where AI can make a difference are the calculation of the product's environmental and climate footprints. However, Iceland is particularly suited to hosting data processing centers, and most countries cannot reproduce the unique environmental conditions. While AI allows us to better manage the impacts of climate change and protect the environment, in addition to transforming the fields of business, finance, health, medicine, law, education and more, it is not without risks.


Hilary Raney
Hilary Raney

Unapologetic reader. Professional social media scholar. Professional tv nerd. Hipster-friendly food scholar. Wannabe food fanatic.