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Is AI a climate friend or foe?

Chances are you might have used chatGPT recently to write an email, help with homework, or other tasks. AI has taken up a large part of our daily lives, and we use it for many different things; however, this novel and quickly growing technology has some negative climate consequences that are being overlooked.

AI models, programs, or algorithms that attempt to imitate human intelligence, have many benefits when it comes to creating new ideas to solve climate change. It helps to create more energy-efficient designs, modeling the effects of climate change, allowing for better infrastructure, etc. For instance, the use of AI not only allows for more efficient car routes, allowing one to save money on gas but could also reduce carbon emissions from cars by around 50%, according to a study by the University of California, Davis and the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy. These are only a few of the many expanding benefits that AI brings us. However, the rise in AI use comes with serious negative consequences.

Screenshot of Chat GPT

Many AI models being created today are being deployed to millions of users, requiring/consuming a lot of data. As they grow, they become more accurate and precise. However, this powerful tool comes with a cost. More extensive models require more data, power, and, as a consequence, energy. Studies found that the popular AI tool Chat GPT-3 consumed 552.1 tons of carbon emissions for model training. To put this into perspective, this is equivalent to around 1.4 million miles a gas-powered vehicle traveled. However, this number does not account for the fact that model training occurs several times throughout the process of training AI. Thus, the carbon emissions are significantly greater than shown by the statistic.

This being said, there are ways to limit the negative consequences of AI like investing in more energy-efficient data storage. AI is a complex tool that simultaneously aids and obstructs our efforts in combating climate change, acting as both a friend and a foe. technology improves we can hope to see the positives outweigh the negatives through reduced energy consumption.

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