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A report suggests that the use of AI may lead to higher energy consumption and an expedited spread of false information about climate change.
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A report suggests that the use of AI may lead to higher energy consumption and an expedited spread of false information about climate change.

Environmental organizations warn that assertions about the benefits of using artificial intelligence to address the climate crisis are wrong. They caution that the use of this technology could lead to increased energy consumption and worsen the spread of false information about climate change.

Advances in AI have been touted by big tech companies and the United Nations as a way to help ameliorate global heating, via tools that help track deforestation, identify pollution leaks and track extreme weather events. AI is already being used to predict droughts in Africa and to measure changes to melting icebergs.

Google, a company that has created its own artificial intelligence program called Bard (now renamed to Gemini) and has a project to improve the efficiency of traffic lights using AI, is leading the way in promoting the reduction of emissions through AI adoption. In a report released last year, Google found that AI could potentially decrease global emissions by 10%, which is equivalent to the amount of carbon pollution emitted by the entire European Union by 2030. Kate Brandt, Google’s chief sustainability officer, stated in December that AI plays a significant role in addressing climate change and that the technology is currently at a pivotal point in achieving environmental goals.

Yet, a recent study from environmental organizations has questioned the beneficial effects of the AI revolution on the issue of climate change. The report cautions that this technology may lead to increased energy consumption from data centers and the spread of misinformation regarding climate science.

Michael Khoo, director of the climate disinformation program at Friends of the Earth, reminds us that while many claim AI can rescue the planet, we should not fall for this exaggerated notion. He represents the Climate Action against Disinformation coalition that published the report.

AI is not eliminating the use of internal combustion engines. There may be a backlash when people realize how much energy AI will consume and how it could potentially spread false information about climate change in the future.

According to a recent report, the surging electricity needs of AI will lead to a 80% rise in emissions that contribute to global warming, despite efforts to make data centers more energy-efficient. This would require a doubling of data centers in order to keep up with the demands of the industry.

There are indications that in the US, coal-powered power plants are being kept in operation longer to satisfy the increasing energy needs of artificial intelligence. Recent studies have revealed that within the next three years, the energy consumption of AI servers could reach the level of Sweden’s current usage.

The additional need for energy is largely due to the heightened intricacy of AI functions. Creating AI queries may need up to 10 times the computing power of a standard online search. As per the report, training ChatGPT, which is an AI system from OpenAI, can consume the same amount of energy as 120 households in the US in a year.

According to Khoo, there is no evidence to suggest that AI’s implementation will decrease energy consumption. In fact, the data points towards a significant increase in energy usage due to the creation of new data centers. While there may be some minor improvements in data center efficiency, the overall calculation shows that carbon emissions will rise.

According to the report by the coalition, AI will make it even more difficult to address the climate crisis by enabling individuals and groups to spread incorrect or deceptive information about climate science and the effects of increasing global temperatures.

According to AI critics, this could exacerbate the problem of social media platforms like Twitter/X already serving as hubs for denying climate science.

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Khoo acknowledged the potential for AI to disrupt the flow of information and the need for it to instead bring it back together. He explained how AI can effortlessly saturate the market with low-quality and budget-friendly content, making it an ideal tool for spreading deception about climate change. This could result in targeted individuals being bombarded with false information regarding the environment.

The report argues for increased transparency in the energy usage of AI and the implementation of safeguards to track and prevent the spread of false climate information.

According to Jesse Dodge, a senior researcher at the Allen Institute for AI, there is a worry that AI may contribute to spreading false information about climate change, through the use of techniques such as creating deepfake videos and images. Additionally, there is concern that AI’s energy consumption could also contribute to increased carbon emissions.

In general, he expressed worry over this matter. However, the utilization of AI technology could have a greater impact than just its energy and resource usage. AI acts as a catalyst, making processes more efficient, which could aid in faster oil extraction. Conversely, there are also six teams utilizing AI to lessen the effects of climate change.

Climate modeling, monitoring illegal fishing and endangered species, and predicting wildfires are each important tasks carried out by different individuals. Despite possible sacrifices, we believe that the overall outcome is favorable and worth the effort.

According to Dodge, he is “carefully hopeful” that AI will contribute positively to addressing the climate crisis. However, he emphasized the importance of companies being completely transparent and honest about their energy consumption.

Source: theguardian.com