In this year’s United Nations climate conference, COP28, artificial intelligence (AI) emerged as a key part of the international effort to fight climate change. As a new technology, AI’s role has yet to be tested, but governments, organizations, and companies are partnering to develop AI as a solution to the climate crisis, even as some experts question its efficacy and safety.
The United Nations itself announced a partnership with Microsoft to use an artificial intelligence tool to measure countries’ progress in meeting their climate goals. At the same time, countries discussed integrating AI into existing development strategies to help create innovative solutions in the fight against climate change. Many in favor of the utilization of AI argue that its technology allows for more accurate predictions of the effects of climate change, natural disasters, and renewable energy efficiency. They also claim that AI will help optimize energy consumption and analyze vast amounts of data very quickly.
However, there was widespread skepticism about embracing AI, as many are concerned that the technology will only increase existing social and economic inequalities. Experts contend that AI’s development will follow traditional patterns, with the technology concentrated in wealthier countries and inaccessible in developing nations that need it most. Critics are also concerned about privacy and security, namely that the expansion of AI will grant it access to and control over large amounts of personal and sensitive data.
While advocates still say that AI is a promising solution, some studies claim that AI would actually contribute to climate change. A global AI system would use as much energy as Sweden, requiring vast amounts of electricity and water while producing excess waste.
The summit agreed to have international cooperation and collaboration, recognizing that the use of AI needs to be equitable among countries, no matter their economic and social status. As technology continues to advance and evolve, many climate change scientists are pushing for the use of AI, alongside other technological developments, to help in the global fight against climate change.
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Tankersley, Jim. “The Climate Summit Embraces A.I., with Reservations.” The New York Times, December 3, 2023. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/03/climate/artificial-intelligence-climate-change.html?searchResultPosition=1.
Lewandowski, Jerzy. “The Balancing Act: Employing AI to Achieve COP28 Goals with Caution.” TS2 SPACE. December 5, 2023. https://ts2.space/en/the-balancing-act-employing-ai-to-achieve-cop28-goals-with-caution/.
Collins, Katie. “Cop28 Climate Summit Sees Big Push for AI Tools and Renewable Energy Transition.” CNET. December 1, 2023. https://www.cnet.com/science/climate/cop28-climate-summit-sees-big-push-for-ai-tools-and-renewable-energy-transition/.
Ma, Michelle. “AI Offers Climate Solutions, Report Says Ahead of Dubai COP28 Talks.” Bloomberg, November 29, 2023. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-11-29/ai-offers-climate-solutions-report-says-ahead-of-dubai-cop28-talks.
Elias, Jennifer. “Google CEO Sundar Pichai Compares AI to Climate Change at APEC CEO Summit.” CNBC. November 17, 2023. https://www.cnbc.com/2023/11/16/google-ceo-sundar-pichai-compares-ai-to-climate-change-at-apec-ceo-summit.html.