Artificial intelligence (AI) is not just a buzzword we loosely throw around. This cutting-edge technology has evolved and crept into different industries and our lives in unimaginable ways. The adoption of AI continues to grow worldwide as businesses and society embrace this revolutionary technology with open arms.
But what is keeping the AI wave alive? Why are governments, businesses, and humans interested in AI? There are a few reasons for the growing interest in AI. AI-powered solutions are more efficient, automate data collection and processing, and boost supply chain transparency. But did you know AI can help us in our fight against climate change? Yes, that is right. AI is touted to play an essential role in tackling issues related to climate change.
Does this mean we will see many AI climate change solutions in the future? Yes, that is a possibility. IBM’s Global AI Adoption Index polled a few companies to understand the adoption trends of AI. It sent out a clear message that more and more companies are in favour of leveraging AI to become more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint.
The adoption of AI in climate change may not have taken flight yet, but there is tremendous potential. Numbers show that around 6% of large businesses and 9% of smaller companies deploy AI-powered solutions to tackle sustainability-related challenges .
In this article, we will explore the potential of AI in climate change and how it can be deployed to tackle this glaring issue.
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AI in climate change, what are companies doing?
Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investments continue to move in an upward trajectory each year. Increasing client demand and increasing desire to make an impact are the two main reasons ESG investments are rising.
Of all the businesses that use AI in the current scenario, around 64% of them use AI to speed up their ESG initiatives and nearly 17% more companies have plans to do so in the future .
Many companies, even those who claim to be currently researching AI, are already using it in some capacity, most often in a test or limited capacity. More than one in three (36%) business owners mention investing in AI that is linked to sustainability.
Because of the wide range of difficulties they encounter, businesses across all sectors are increasing their focus on AI for sustainability. Across the board, businesses are turning to AI to save expenses and consumption, report, and improve operations, but businesses in certain sectors are also utilising it for supply chain optimization (42%), predictive maintenance (33%) and climate modelling (30%) .
AI in climate change – how will it help?
Now that we understand how companies are leveraging AI to become more sustainable, let’s shift our focus. Now, let us understand how AI is proving to be a lethal weapon to combat climate change.
1. Self-driving cars – AI’s hidden contribution to saving our planet
Self-driven cars are becoming increasingly popular, especially in the U.S. A few countries including the Netherlands have taken giant leaps toward making self-driven cars more mainstream. Many tech giants including Tesla and Waymo have raised a considerable amount of funds to turn the self-driving car dream into reality.
Many players in the auto sector such as Audi have upped their efforts toward developing sustainable tech. According to reports, Audi is planning to spend around $16B on developing sustainable and self-driving tech by the end of 2023 .
All these talks about sustainable tech development indicate that there is genuine interest in combating climate change. However, how will self-driving cars help?
A majority of self-driving cars are electric, which emit very few greenhouse emissions compared to vehicles that run on fossil fuels. However, self-driving cars go a step further than standard electric vehicles since they also take efficient routes and increase ride-sharing options. As a result, according to some experts, self-driving cars will significantly reduce automobile emissions by an impressive 50% by the end of 2050 . The ability of artificial intelligence (AI) to interpret data and decide, perform tasks, and enhance performance, are key factors that are likely to fuel interest in self-driving cars in the long run.
2. AI in climate change – weather forecasting at its best
Although numerical weather prediction models are on point, they are not 100% accurate. These models typically rely on weather balloons, space stations, and satellites to make weather forecasts. AI helps us tackle these challenges and can also help scientists identify meteorological shifts, torrential downpours, and tropical cyclones.
People can take timely decisions in the event of storms and reduce hazards with earlier and more accurate forecasts, whether by fleeing the area or erecting storm barriers. Such technology can more accurately predict wildfires, heat waves, and other extreme weather phenomena.
Machine learning models might someday completely replace conventional numerical weather forecast techniques. These systems would analyse hundreds of historical weather maps to learn how weather systems behave, as opposed to solving a set of difficult physical equations like these models do. They would then use recent weather information to produce weather forecasts based on what they have discovered in the past.
Technology has remained at the forefront of transforming agriculture and farming practices worldwide. In many parts of the world, agriculture is the primary occupation of a majority of people. Because of rising population levels, farmers across the world are heavily burdened to increase production and plug in more efforts to meet the global demand. Practically, it is a tough feat to make do with the same amount of land and produce more.
This is exactly why smart farming and agriculture is attracting attention in recent times. Around 70% of all freshwater consumption worldwide is for agricultural purposes. According to some estimates, this industry loses 40% of its water because of ineffective resource management. For instance, many sprinkler heads waste around half the water they consume. But thanks to AI technology, farmers can irrigate crops more effectively, reducing waste—a crucial advancement has given how much the global water shortage is being exacerbated by climate change. AI can also assist farmers with fertiliser use optimization and improved planting season planning, resulting in more fruitful harvests. For instance, AI-equipped peanut farmers in India have observed a 30% spike in their fields’ yields.
4. AI is laying the foundations for cities of the future
Urban design and artificial intelligence have a lot of potential to advance urban planning. Here are a few good examples. Although artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for a while, it has only just become a part of our daily life. AI underpins many important aspects of our world, including cell phones and modern marketing techniques.
Artificial intelligence assists urban planners and designers in creating adaptive urban landscapes that are guided by plans supported by current data. With real-time information, AI can assist in deeply integrating sustainable methods into the urban environment. AI can assist urban planners in choosing routes that contribute to better traffic management, better public transportation, and smarter, more efficient utilities.
AI climate change solutions are playing a critical role in redefining urban design. The different areas of urban design wherein AI are expected to make a difference include air quality monitoring, public transport management, traffic management, and smart waste management.
Artificial intelligence may offer enough help to urban designers and assist them in achieving their goals, resulting in a better urban setting for everyone. This support can range from improving public transit to protecting the environment.
5. Manufacturers aim to become sustainable, AI offers a helping hand
Many manufacturers and experts believe that technologies such as AI will emerge as important tools that shape the future of our planet. Today, thanks to government pressure, calls for sustainable manufacturing, and increasing demand from the climate-conscious population, many manufacturers making conscious efforts to become more sustainable.
Sustainable manufacturing reduces waste and minimizes the environmental impact of production. Nearly 140 countries are on their way toward becoming developed nations. In this process, they are seeking new ways to speed up their development sustainably.
Can AI help? Yes, it can.
The primary objectives of sustainable manufacturing are also to assure resource efficiency, eliminate waste, save energy, and safeguard against equipment failure that could result in toxic emissions or production delays. Industry 4.0 technologies, which include wireless connectivity, the Internet of
Things, sensor technology, and automation are vital for manufacturing to achieve its sustainability goals.
These tools allow the creation, collection, monitoring, and use of data, which is the foundation of AI projects supporting manufacturers’ commercial and sustainability aspirations.
The simple answer to whether or not AI can tackle climate change is yes. The adoption of AI-powered climate change solutions is expected to see consistent growth over the next decade.
As the manufacturing, tech, and corporate sector continue their march toward a sustainable future, AI will play a big part in this journey. With increasing awareness and investments, advocates of AI to combat climate change are growing worldwide.
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   (2022) “IBM Global AI Adoption Index 2022” IBM [online] Available from: https://www.ibm.com/downloads/cas/GVAGA3JP [accessed September 2022]
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 Kerlin. K (2017) “Report: Electric and Driverless Vehicles Won’t Cut It Without Shared Mobility” UC Davis [online] Available from: https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/you-say-you-want-transportation-revolution-how-about-three-them-0 [accessed September 2022]