Climate Advocacy and Artificial Intelligence
Updated: Sep 12, 2020
Over time, humankind has made some progress in finding ways to combat climate change. Despite the progress, climate impacts are worsening and there are still barriers that need to be overcome to help fight climate change and truly achieve climate justice. Technology advancements such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) enable us to overcome the barriers.
It is extremely important to measure the impacts of climate change because if you cannot measure something, you cannot manage it. This is why many have made it a top priority to monitor wildlife and plant life populations, as well as to measure CO2 emission, temperature, and sea levels in different places around the world. However, it is extremely difficult for humans to do this. Oftentimes governments and companies deny the public access to vital information by restricting entry or by hiding data. In other cases, like in measuring wildlife populations, it can be almost impossible for humans to do so without technology because frequently these places are quite remote or dangerous. We also lack the resources or manpower necessary to perform large tasks like this, and this lack of measurement could lead to major problems. For example, plant species that are important to the ecosystem but are hard to distinguish could die out due to no one being able to accurately measure numbers, causing major harm to the environment.
So what could solve these problems? Technology, specifically AI, is a possible answer. Many large tasks that would normally involve lots of people and resources could be done using the abilities of AI. One example of this is a project created by the non-profit organization Carbon Tracker and supported by Google, which aims to use AI to detect where carbon is being produced using satellite imagery (https://carbontracker.org/carbon-tracker-to-measure-worlds-power-plant-emissions-from-space-with-support-from-google-org). This would keep companies or governments from hiding any sources of carbon and help influence positive change by encouraging power plants to produce less carbon. Another example of AI’s application towards the environment involves conservationists utilizing camera-traps for analysis (https://www.conservation.org/blog/in-camera-trap-snaps-scientists-tackle-big-data-challenge). AI is being used to help recognize wildlife in the area, and this data is making a real impact by showing people the effect that protected areas have on conserving wildlife.
Although AI is a powerful tool to help the environment and achieve climate justice, a lot of research on this technology is going towards solving short-term business problems. I believe that major positive impacts can be made with a long-term focus on using technology for climate advocacy. AI could measure energy consumption using computer vision of cities, as many places do not have accurate reporting of energy consumption. This would help encourage people to use less energy and release fewer greenhouse gases in areas where this consumption is too high. Another place AI could be used is by tracking where trees are being cut down and where trees are being planted, which could help identify places to plant trees and greatly help with reforestation efforts (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqSDba1ns3Y ).
Combating climate change and achieving climate justice is an extremely tough issue to tackle, but there is still hope. Using the newest technology like AI, we can better track how our climate is being affected and work together to mitigate the risks, letting us greatly help the planet and all the people affected.