Is environmental sustainability with AI a possibility?

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AI concept design

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most promising technologies in the world. So much that its adoption has grown exponentially over the past decade. Thanks to large investments in AI, it has gradually become a mainstream technology. Today, medium to large-sized companies are using artificial intelligence to minimize their environmental footprint and make their processes sustainable. 

Environmental sustainability is a hot topic among board members and CEOs around the world. This trend is primarily driven by the increasing faith shown by investors in projects pertaining to environmental sustainability. Environment sustainability will continue to remain one of the key priorities for every investor. In fact, Goldman Sachs has made “sustainable finance” a core of its businesses. 

In this article, we will take a look at how AI can help us attain environmental sustainability goals. 

SEE ALSO: 6 important questions to ask your AI security solutions vendor

What is artificial intelligence?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a cutting-edge technology that has the ability to clone and mimic human capabilities. Some of these abilities include learning from experience, identifying objects, understanding and responding to language, decision making, and problem-solving. Machines are blending these capabilities together to perform complex tasks such as driving cars. 

In many ways, AI’s meteoric rise in popularity can be attributed to its successful deployment in a myriad of applications. For example, Alexa can now ask Siri to set up your calendar. 

Here are some noteworthy examples of how different companies are leveraging AI to create a sustainable future. 

  • IBM is leveraging the benefits of AI to make better and accurate weather forecasts. Ever since the company turned to AI, it has made 30% more accurate forecasts. This information helps players involved in the renewable energy space to improve facility management, maximize renewable energy production, and minimize carbon emissions. 
  • Google makes use of an AI model that decreases the energy consumption of its resource-heavy data centers. This has decreased the energy cost of cooling by around 40%. 
  • In 2019, Microsoft offered support for six Australian projects that were aimed toward addressing the issues related to agriculture, biodiversity, water, and more. 

AI’s role in Sustainable Development Goals

Apart from the environmental goals, AI is expected to play a pivotal role in achieving Sustainable Development goals. Right from eradicating hunger and poverty to attaining sustainable energy, AI will be a catalyst for reaching these objectives. 

As of now, the United Nations has defined a total of 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These goals can be categorized into three main pillars – Society, Economy, and Environment. 

You can also read about the different AI innovations that are promoting environmental sustainability. 

How can AI address environmental challenges?

Numerous studies have shown that AI has tremendous potential to fast-track global efforts to save the environment. In addition, artificial intelligence will also help us preserve resources by enabling seamless development of greener transportation, monitoring deforestation, CO2 removal, and predicting weather conditions. 

AI will be used to overcome the most difficult environmental challenges in the future. Some of these include:

Ocean health

A whale underwater in an ocean

  • AI-driven robots are being used to track a bunch of ocean parameters such as temperature, pH, and pollution levels. 
  • There is growing evidence that AI can collect data from different locations within the ocean that are hard to reach. This information can be used to protect endangered species. In addition, AI can also help you track illegal fishing. 

Biodiversity and conservation

  • When you bring satellite imagery and AI together, it can identify the changes in vegetation, land use, the fallout of natural disasters, and forest cover. 
  • Moreover, AI can be used to track, monitor, and identify invasive species. Machine learning models and computer vision are used to track their presence. 
  • Predictive software is increasingly used to assist anti-poaching units. 

Water problems

  • Again, AI used in conjunction with satellite imagery can pave the way for accurate prediction of the subsurface water conditions and droughts. 
  • Water scientists have turned to AI to determine water usage in a predefined geographical area. This approach can also help in making informed policies. 

Clean air

  • Air purifiers that are driven by AI can save environmental data and record air quality to improve filtration efficiency. 
  • Data pulled from radar sensors, cameras, vehicles, and cameras AI can be utilized to improve air pollution. 

Why are big companies prioritizing sustainable investment?

Solar panels installed to generate clean energy

There is no doubt that climate change is an imminent threat to our planet. However, due to advancements in technology along with substantial research, the impact of climate change is very evident today. 

Technologies like the internet have democratized data. As a result, the current generation of investors, shareholders, and employees are aware of how their actions can impact the environment.

Apart from the environment, sustainable investments also influence the political, social, and cultural aspects of the community. Modern-day stakeholders are pressing for system-wide changes that are encouraging the use of renewable energy, reducing water pollution, and curbing deforestation. 

In addition, they are also taking strides toward eradicating toxic workplace culture, poverty, data mismanagement, and nonethical marketing. 

These stakeholders are demanding change, which is why we are seeing a lot of big companies make sustainable investments. 

At present, around 200 of the largest companies in the world are investing in ESG consulting. This equips them to make informed strategic decisions that minimize social, governance, and environmental risk, and fuel sustainable growth. 

AI-driven sustainability challenges

As we have seen, AI offers numerous opportunities and benefits. It can help us reduce emissions, prevent deforestation, create green transportation, and also predict natural disasters. 

However, it can also affect human lives as it promotes unethical surveillance, authoritarianism, and optimizes resource allocation. 

Hence, it is important to formulate policies that ensure that AI is used responsibly. There is a dire need to implement independent regulations that keep an eye on how AI is being used across the globe. 

Another area where AI-driven sustainability is taking a hit is energy consumption. Artificial intelligence requires great amounts of energy, and a lot of companies have little idea about how to measure environmental impact. 

Moving forward, companies should find ways to measure AI’s impact on the environment and create more awareness around it. 

SEE ALSO: 8 things you didn’t know you relied on Artificial Intelligence for

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Riddhi Jain is a technology content writer. She is based in India and has been working as a content writer since 2018. Riddhi has been writing content in the tech domain since May 2020 and can’t get enough of it. Riddhi has pursued most of her education from her hometown, Indore. She has graduated as a Bachelor of Business Administration and discovered her love for writing blogs while pursuing an internship during college. Once she discovered her love for writing, she went on to improve this skill set (and hasn’t stopped since). Riddhi’s writing relationship with iTMunch began in May 2020. This is where she developed a knack for writing content for the technology domain. She's an expert in tech content writing who has written over 700 blogs for iTMunch in just a year. Riddhi loves diving deep into tech sub-domains like financial technology, marketing technology, HR technology, Artificial Intelligence and gaming technology. She loves staying updated with the latest and upcoming trends in digital marketing, digital payments, fintech, gaming, web design and app development. She cherishes writing about futuristic technologies like blockchain and cryptocurrency, NFTs, Internet of Things, Facial Recognition, Machine Learning, Edge Computing, etc. Riddhi also likes to keep an eye on what’s going on with the tech titans like Google, Facebook and Apple. One of her major interests is in staying updated with the latest IT startups and the groundbreaking technologies they’re coming up with. When Riddhi is not writing content, she is binging on documentaries on Netflix (check out ‘The Great Hack’, ‘Seaspiracy’, and ‘What the Health’). She also likes reading books once in a while (Yuval Noah Harari and Michelle Magorian are some of her favorite authors). Riddhi also likes listening to podcasts like The Tim Ferriss Show (do listen to the ones with guest Naval Ravikant) and The Joe Rogan Experience.