A new report by Google in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reveals that artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to mitigate 5-10% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. This translates to the equivalent of the total annual emissions of the European Union.
In anticipation of COP28, where global leaders will gather in Dubai to discuss climate action, the report highlights how AI can drive climate progress and create a sustainable future for all. It outlines three key areas where AI can make a significant impact:
- Providing people and organizations with better information to make more sustainable choices: Google Maps’ fuel-efficient routing, for instance, utilizes AI to suggest routes that minimize emissions. Since its launch in 2021, this feature has helped prevent more than 2.4 million metric tons of CO2e emissions.
- Delivering improved predictions to help adapt to climate change: Google Research’s flood forecasting initiative employs AI and geospatial analysis to provide real-time flood warnings, empowering communities to prepare and respond effectively. The Flood Hub platform serves over 80 countries, offering forecasts up to seven days in advance for 460 million people.
- Finding recommendations to optimize climate action for high-impact applications: Google Research, in collaboration with American Airlines and Breakthrough Energy, developed contrail forecast maps using AI to guide pilots towards routes that minimize contrail formation. During test flights, pilots were able to reduce contrails by 54%.
Despite the immense potential of AI to address climate challenges, it is crucial to manage its environmental impact as it scales up. Google is committed to developing AI responsibly and minimizing its carbon footprint. Several measures are in place to achieve this goal, including:
- Employing proven methods to reduce emissions from AI compute in data centers. Google’s Tensor Processing Units v4 is among the most energy-efficient and sustainable ML infrastructure hubs globally.
- Designing, building, and operating data centers for maximum efficiency. Google-owned data centers are 1.5 times more energy efficient than typical enterprise data centers, and the average annual power usage effectiveness (PUE) for Google’s global fleet of data centers was 1.10, compared with the industry average of 1.55.
- Implementing water-efficient cooling solutions for data centers. Google considers hyperlocal factors, including hydrology, geography, energy, and emissions, when selecting cooling methods.
- Supporting AI and climate-related upskilling programs for corporations to accelerate the deployment of AI for climate action.
Related Article: Google Launches New Sustainability Tools to Help Businesses and Cities Map Environmental Information
Google emphasizes that creating a sustainable future requires collective action from policymakers, government officials, city planners, business leaders, and individuals. Policymakers, in particular, play a pivotal role in harnessing AI’s potential for climate action while ensuring its sustainable and equitable use. They can accelerate AI for climate progress by:
- Encouraging data sharing
- Ensuring affordable technology access
- Building awareness
- Supporting the creation and expansion of AI and climate-related upskilling programs
By working together, AI can be harnessed to develop more tools and products that accelerate climate progress and create a more sustainable future.