The Future of Environmental Sustainability: AI and Greenhouse Emissions

Climate change continues to be one of the most important issues that humankind faces today. One of the main factors that causes climate change is the greenhouse effect; simply such effect refers to increase on earth’s temperature with respect to emissions of gases like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and ozone; more broadly greenhouse gases. Emission of such gases and increase in greenhouse effect is significantly correlated with human activities. However, AI based activities would create a difference in such processes and environmental sustainability studies suggest. AI use for environmental sustainability can lower worldwide greenhouse emissions by 4% at the end of 2030, PwC forecasts. Such percentage corresponds to 2.4 Gt, which is the combined annual greenhouse gas emission of Australia, Canada and Japan. Anticipation is that such quantities would lead many institutions to develop their sustainability models with help of AI. 

Considering AI’s ability to process data more efficiently than ever before, such ability can be used to analyze the data linked to the environmental issues the report suggests. Such analyzes would assist environmental sustainability by identifying patterns and making forecasts. As a current practice, IBM developed AI systems to process extensive data of weather models in order to make weather forecasts more reliable. It has been stated by the company that the system developed increased the accuracy rate by 30%. In terms of sustainability, such accuracy may lead large institutions to manage their energy amount and minimize greenhouse emissions. 

Moreover, AI can assist to reduce the greenhouse emissions with its practices on transportation. Autonomous vehicles can have a promising impact on such reduction, since the vehicles use less fossil fuels with fuel efficient systems. Furthermore, if AI based systems started to be used for calculating the efficient roads on car-sharing services, autonomous vehicles may change the passenger habits. With the benefits of such efficient road calculations, many passengers would prefer car-sharing services or public transportation rather than individual use of vehicles. Also, autonomous vehicles would have a reductive factor on traffic since such vehicles would be informed of each other. Such reduction on traffic and communicative systems may assist vehicles to be more efficient in terms of their energy use. Such shifts in the area of transportation may have a significant effect on environmental sustainability since the area has a remarkable emission ratio.

On the sectoral side, AI can also be used to manage companies’ emissions. Electric services company Xcel Energy’s practice with AI is an instance for such management. Prior to the practice; after producing the electricity with burning coal, the Xcel factory released the greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide into the atmosphere like the many other companies’ factories in the sector. However, in order to limit such emission; the company advanced its Texas factory’s smokestacks with artificial neural networks. Such advancement assisted the factory in terms of developing a more efficient system and most significantly, limiting the emissions. Such systems may reduce the nitrous oxide emissions 20% International Energy Agency forecasts. Therefore now, hundreds of other factories in addition to Xcel Energy are using such advanced systems for their environmental sustainability.

However; besides such significant developments, AI systems have carbon footprints too since training data requires a considerable amount of energy. Some sources even suggest that such quantities of energy can predominate AI’s benefits on energy efficiency. On the other hand, it is also suggested that as AI’s own energy efficiency is also being developed, such quantity could become a minor factor considering AI’s contributions to energy efficiency and limiting greenhouse emissions. 

AI’s such intersections with social and scientific issues are most likely to be the crucial points of society’s future. According to the research, “The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals” AI can assist to resolve 95% of the issues that are directly related to environmental SDGs; which are climate action, life below water and life on land. Considering such effect, AI can be the tool that will be used for taking a step forward in environmental sustainability. 

 

References

Vinuesa, R., Azizpour, H., Leite, I. et al. The role of artificial intelligence in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Nat Commun 11, 233 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-14108-y

https://www.greenbiz.com/article/what-artificial-intelligence-means-sustainability

https://cyfuture.com/blog/how-is-artificial-intelligence-helping-in-the-fight-against-climate-change/

https://www.irdcsabanci.com/post/wildfires-of-2020-and-solastalgia-insights-of-climate-change

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/reports/2016/11/18/292588/the-impact-of-vehicle-automation-on-carbon-emissions-where-uncertainty-lies/

https://www.infoworld.com/article/3568680/is-the-carbon-footprint-of-ai-too-big.html

https://www.pwc.co.uk/services/sustainability-climate-change/insights/how-ai-future-can-enable-sustainable-future.html