In just five years, climatologists predict that it may be too late to reverse the devastating effects of climate change. Is this the worst case scenario? Hopefully, but it’s a sign of the challenges we face as a global society. Psychologically, humanity is excellent at dealing with immediate and quick threats. We see a paintbrush shaking mysteriously in front of us, and we stand ready to face the danger. However, the slow and long-term threats – well, we are terrible to handle this. Just consider the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why we have mishandled issues such as climate change, even though the worst case scenarios of a point of no return in 2027 were recognized as early as 2016. While action as collective humanity has stagnated , we have a powerful artificial intelligence (AI) ally to combat these threats.
Throughout human history, we have been reactionary to major events. The challenge is that change happens faster and faster to the point that reacting to something is no longer an effective strategy. Worse still, we had a long trail to do these reactions while ruling out the possibility of black swan or even green swan events. Unfortunately, we are of such global scale and impact that we cannot rapidly bring about sweeping, global changes to respond to these changes. Consider the rapid expansion of data centers to support cloud computing or the rapid expansion of transportation to support delivery supply chain needs from online orders. Moreover, the elements of daily human life are the main drivers of climate change, such as the consumption of fossil fuels, the creation of waste, deforestation due to human expansion, agriculture to feed a growing population, power plans for rapidly expanding energy needs, etc.
This is where the “cold and calculating” AI machines come in to help us. According to a recent study by the World Economic Forum, harnessing AI data and digital solutions could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 4% by 2030. This includes the development of more energy-efficient buildings to optimize farms and food production to better anticipate the impacts of the green swan. With the ability to consider millions of data points, AI has created better predictive models of the likelihood and impact of extreme weather, especially wildfires and ocean flooding.
AI has also enabled precision climate impact by allowing an environmental impact at the individual level. This means we have a cognitive digital assistant that analyzes our decisions at a holistic level of climate impact. Suppose you decide to eat plant-based “meatballs” with your pasta for health and environmental reasons, knowing that livestock are huge contributors to climate change. At first glance, this seems like a smart and sustainable decision, however, we don’t know where this vegetable protein comes from. That’s where these AI climate impact calculators come in handy. Depending on where you live, this vegetable protein can be produced thousands of miles away. Suddenly the costs of transport and refrigeration and the impact on the climate are greater and can negate the benefits we perceive from eating these foods.
While it may seem like a small decision, let’s think about how many “small” decisions we make on a daily basis that add up to the big picture, from using water when showering to charging mobile devices. during peak hours of electricity consumption. where AI has the greatest impact for us. We are certainly using AI to develop more green technologies and innovative ways to fight climate change. However, if we as a society do not change some of our behaviors to be more environmentally friendly, our ability to fight climate change is reduced. This is where AI is our best ally because not only can it help us understand the impact of micro-decisions, but it can also help us quantify the impacts of our day-to-day decisions. Knowing the impact of daily lifestyle choices and their impact, these AI climate calculators are the true potential and promise to empower each of us to be a conscientious climate change warrior.