"The Age of AI has Begun", stated Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft Corporation, in his blog last week. This statement is evident by looking at how Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made inroads in almost every aspect of our lives, whether it is Alexa reminding you to turn off the stove, ChatGPT articulating your business proposal, IBM Watson Health helping healthcare providers develop personalised treatment plans or Sentient Technologies analysing market data and assisting financial leaders in making investment decisions, AI is changing the way we work, live and solve challenges.
However, the most impactful application of AI may be in the realm of climate action. With the potential to revolutionise how we address the climate change crisis, AI can aid in predicting extreme weather events, optimising renewable energy systems, and providing insights to strengthen mitigation efforts in this critical moment. In this regard, a study found that AI technology might help in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by 4% by the year 2030.
How AI helps in Tackling the Climate Crisis
When it comes to solving the climate crisis, we know the fundamentals: stop using fossil fuels, curtail actions that harm the environment, transition towards sustainable alternatives, and so forth. The challenge, thus, is not knowing what to do but rather how to do it, considering that it is interlinked to myriad economic, social and technological factors. In addition, the global nature of the issue necessitates tailored solutions for specific regions, taking into account geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic disparities. All of these factors make it clear that addressing the climate problem is not a simple task and requires innovative solutions.
Speaking of the role of AI in managing these challenges, James Hodson, CEO of AI for Good Foundation, states, "To effectively address the underlying drivers and risks of our excessive reliance on fossil fuels, we need to embrace a mosaic of innovative solutions. AI sits at the centre of that mosaic and is already contributing to massively increased transparency, faster gains in efficient power generation and storage, and a renewed confidence in large-scale investments.”
The value of AI in climate action lies in its ability to analyse a vast amount of data, helping researchers and policymakers better understand the complex relationships between the environment and human activities.
In this regard, Abhilasha Purwar, CEO of Blue Sky Analytics, believes that “Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a transformative paradigm, with its ability to collect, process, and interpret vast reams of data. With efficient use of data, algorithms, and remote sensing devices, AI can help stakeholders make informed and data-driven decisions, which is crucial in bringing down emissions and building a more sustainable future.”
Some of the notable ways in which AI contributes to combatting the climate crisis include:
- Energy Efficiency:
AI can help optimise energy use in various infrastructures such as buildings, factories, and transportation systems, helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example, DeepMind AI, which uses machine learning algorithms to predict the energy consumption of data centres, adjusts cooling systems accordingly, reducing energy waste and greenhouse gas emissions. It has been able to reduce Google Data Centre’s cooling bill by 40%.
2. Renewable Energy and Grid Optimization:
AI algorithms can optimise the performance of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind farms by predicting weather patterns and adjusting energy output accordingly. It can also improve the efficiency and reliability of electrical grids in the energy sector through predictive maintenance, load balancing etc. For example, the Norwegian utility company Agder Energi uses Microsoft's cloud and AI technology to analyse data gathered from its electrical grid. This enables the company to predict and respond to fluctuations in energy demand, particularly as more electric vehicles are added to the grid.
- Enhanced Environmental and Climate Modeling:
To model extreme weather events, a significant number of variables must be taken into account. AI is well-suited for this task, as it has the capability to collect, process, and analyse large datasets, enabling it to handle the complexity of the modelling process effectively. It not only increases the accuracy of the models but also helps in creating better simulations. This further helps provide a clear picture of risks and, thus, by extension, aids in developing more effective adaptation and mitigation strategies. Read our blog “The Role of Comprehensive Data in Efficient Climate Modeling” to learn more.
- Sustainable Agriculture:
With the help of AI, it is possible to optimise crop yields and reduce food waste in agriculture. This helps in reducing GHG emissions associated with food production and distribution. For instance, The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Bayer, uses AI and machine learning to provide farmers with personalised insights on agricultural decisions, optimising yields and reducing inputs such as water and fertiliser use. Considering that agricultural activities contribute to about 30 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions, leveraging AI for sustainable agriculture holds tremendous scope in bringing down emissions.
- Carbon Capture and Storage:
AI can help optimise carbon capture and storage solutions, which can help in decarbonisation efforts. For example, Albo Climate, a Tel-Aviv-based company, uses AI-powered spatial and temporal monitoring to measure carbon sequestration in nature-based projects. By providing accurate measurements, AI technology has the potential to build credibility in carbon markets, which hold tremendous potential in bringing down emissions. Read our blog to learn more about how AI coupled with satellite-based MRV can revolutionise the carbon market.
- Strengthening infrastructure:
AI holds tremendous potential in strengthening infrastructure that can minimise the risks of climate-related catastrophes as well as build resilience against them. For example, irrigation systems which use weather data and plant sensors can optimise water schedules, which can aid in reducing the impact of drought. Likewise, buildings which use sensor data to adjust heating, cooling and ventilation are helpful in saving energy and reducing GHG emissions.
Learn more about how companies are levering AI to develop sustainable solutions in this article.
Assessing the Rising Recognition of AI in driving climate action
Considering the potential of AI to leverage climate action, it has gained significant traction in recent years. BCG undertook a survey recently to understand the opinions of executives with full or partial decision-making authority with regard to AI and/or climate change. 87% of respondents stated that advanced analytics and “AI”, is a helpful tool in the fight against climate change today.
However, leaders who were already engaged in the AI space have been experiencing major impediments in employing AI. For instance, the survey revealed that 78% of respondents reported inadequate access to AI expertise, 77% cited limited availability of AI solutions, and 67% expressed a lack of confidence in the data and analysis produced by AI.
Thus, organisations possessing expertise in AI, advanced computational capabilities, as well as knowledge in machine learning and data analytics, along with a profound understanding of the intricate challenges presented by climate change, play a crucial role in promoting climate solutions.
How We Power Climate Solutions With AI at Blue Sky Analytics
Blue Sky Analytics was founded on the idea that data is essential to drive climate action. One of the major obstacles in this regard is the lack of continuous spatial and temporal data. In our mission to bridge these data gaps and capture a complete view of climate risks across the globe, we began to leverage the power of Artificial Intelligence. AI has since been at the core of our mission, as it has enabled us to create a vast array of environment and climate datasets by harnessing the power of satellite data, cloud computing and machine learning.
Our company's innovative spirit was quickly recognised when we emerged as winners of the AI Innovation Challenge at MIT Solve in 2019, which was hosted by Schmidt Futures (Ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt's AI focussed foundation) and Patrick J McGovern Foundation (of Ex Founder & CEO of IDG Group Patrick J McGovern). Our victory in the challenge earned us a capital of $350,000, which was one of the first funds we received, even before the emergence of Climate-tech as a distinct category. This was just the beginning of our journey, as we went on to receive several other accolades, such as winning the Urban Livability Challenge by Social Alpha in 2019 and the European Space Agency Copernicus Masters Social Entrepreneurship Challenge in 2019, among many others.
Read the article featuring our CEO, “Women in AI: Abhilasha Purwar”, to learn more.
We consider our association with Climate TRACE as a founding member as one of our proudest achievements. A coalition of organisations, Climate Trace, tracks global GHG emissions from major emitting sources in near-real-time using satellite data and AI. For more information, we recommend reading the article titled "This Al Gore-supported project uses AI to track the world’s emissions in near real-time".
Since our inception in 2018, we have made significant progress in a short period of time. Our journey began with air pollution monitoring in 2018, and today we possess a range of datasets capable of monitoring and measuring various environmental factors, including the surface area of water bodies, wildfire prediction, monitoring GHG emissions from fires, and Power Plant Emissions, among others. Furthermore, we are slated to deliver several more datasets in the coming months, including electrification and Ground Water Potential, among others. By levering the potential of AI we are committed to delivering innovative environmental solutions that have real-world impact.
In today's rapidly changing world, understanding and managing the risks posed by climate change is more important than ever. We believe that deploying AI in a responsible and ethical way will be extremely beneficial in shaping transformative policy decisions and fostering the transition to a sustainable future.