The environmental impact of artificial intelligence (AI) has been a hot topic as of late—and I believe it will be a defining issue for AI this decade. The conversation began with a recent study from the Allen Institute for AI that argued for the prioritization of “Green AI” efforts that focus on the energy efficiency of AI systems.

For many years, people have been warned about the impact of climate change on the planet which poses a threat to humanity. Carbon emissions due to economic activities and other harmful practices continue to make the earth hotter, slowly transforming it into an uninhabitable planet for many species. Despite this reality, there is still hope.

One of the ways that can help address the climate crisis is through Artificial Intelligence (AI) which is already a big part of our lives, impacting how we live and work. It can empower us to achieve carbon neutral goals with the data it’s capable of providing.  AI also makes it possible for enormous data, powerful algorithms, and hardware advancements come together to reduce entry barriers for many industries and start-ups. Today, people see a world where AI has come out of exploratory labs to enter our lives, making it more efficient than ever. AI is now everywhere–letting us share a ride with strangers, talk to voice-powered assistants, navigate cities, and stake our claim in the online space. 

With the continuous growth of the tech industry, the presence and roles of AI in our lives will only grow bigger. Though, more than the efficiency it offers, what’s more important and meaningful to highlight is its capacity to help us be more responsible earth dwellers and help save our planet.  

As of today, scientists and development practitioners have already come up with a number of ways to utilize AI in mitigating the impact of climate change and helping us go green. Some of these are the following innovations.

Product innovation. AI empowers corporations and organizations alike to design new production means such as by optimizing generative design software. This kind of software helps engineers to generate countless design possibilities that they can customize to fit the needs of the company or even themselves. Through the co-creation of design solutions between humans and technology with AI, various engineering challenges can be addressed. The result would be innovative products and services that not only meet customer needs but also promote responsible consumption as the materials sourced can be deduced to those that are only environmentally friendly.

Connected electric vehicles. Jumping from ride-sharing apps that lessened the need of more vehicles out on the street, AI has also been embedded in autonomous vehicles (AVs) that can enable the shift to mobility-over-demand in the coming years. 

By maximizing AI’s capabilities, governments around the world can explore systematic vehicle platooning which could reduce operating costs for heavy shipments companies due to better fuel consumption. With the use of lesser fuel, there would also be a decrease in the environmental impact of heavy haulage. The traffic flow would certainly be smoother as well and there would be less demand to build more roads. Other ways to work towards substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions is through traffic and route of optimization, making use of eco-driving algorithms, and empowering autonomous ride-sharing services which are all feasible with AI.

Simplified supply chains. Thousands of precious hours are lost annually on managing manual processes of supply chain activities. Some of these activities include coordinating with suppliers, following up purchase orders, and processing paper invoices. Needless to say, automating these tasks would help companies and individuals save a lot of their time and allot their resources to other endeavors. Further, this can significantly reduce carbon footprints as activities will be scaled down.

It is also possible to take it a notch higher by being able to optimize supply chain planning processes with the help of AI. There’s a great potential for manufacturers to identify demand patterns of different products and services through machine learning technology where variables such as socioeconomic developments, political climate, and market behavior can be taken into consideration. What could possibly be the impact of being able to forecast future market demand? This can basically enable companies to responsibly source raw materials and guide manufacturers to come up with crucial decisions whether it be regulatory or related to financial procedures. The optimization of the whole decision-making process will both speed up delivery that meet consumers’ needs and balance supply and demand more accurately.

Climate informatics. There is this blossoming field of climate informatics where AI is utilized to essentially transform weather forecasting and further our understanding of how the world is impacted by climate change. Thanks to deep-learning networks, it is now more feasible for computers to run faster and fuse the ever-changing complexity of the systems in the physical world into reliable computations given that this field customarily requires high performance energy-intensive calculating.

The consistent advances in AI as well as in computational power provide the means for home computers to perform as much as supercomputers in this day and age. This greatly lowers research costs, hastens discoveries, and boosts scientific productivity which would be immensely helpful not only in combating climate change but also mitigating risks of possible viral outbreaks that are umbilically linked to earth. There should be continued search of better ways and evaluation of personal biases in existing models with the use of AI techniques. Through this, it would be easier to extract the most relevant data that humans can use to live a more sustainable life and predict extreme events which could be adopted in future impact modelling ventures.

Creating livable cities. Everyone wants to save our only home, which is attainable by improving the current systems and policies that we have. The only gray area is ascertaining the accuracy and efficacy of decisions that might be mostly derived from a subjective manner. This is where AI comes in as it can stimulate and automate the formation of zoning laws and build ordinances with the option to incorporate augmented and virtual reality. With AI, an urban dashboard of all critical data such as energy and water consumption, traffic flows, resource availability, and weather is within reach that could help decision makers enhance plans for urban sustainability with significant reduction in carbon emissions. 

The fourth industrial revolution is coming, which is the use of automation and exchange of data. Everyone should seriously start thinking about how to use AI to their advantage, aiming for a common goal with the rest of humanity: saving planet earth by going green and being responsible consumers. Knowing the possibilities and having the intent to do so is a good start. #livehyd

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