Ashok, CEO of UnfoldLabs, is an innovation veteran who believes in making the world a better place with futuristic technology products.
Australian researchers have suggested a 2050 scenario of doomsday for humanity.
Climate change is the biggest and toughest global problem humanity faces today. Global warming requires innovation from the brightest and the best. Our scientists have turned to artificial intelligence (AI) for the best possible solutions because it is easy to proactively predict and build models immediately. Top leaders like Google, IBM, and Intel have launched many pilot projects that read, analyze and suggest the right solutions to save our planet from global warming.
Here are some prominent and innovative AI projects to combat global warming.
1. Warm Oceans
The arctic has lost 80% of its volume of ice since 1979 and is melting at the fastest rate ever. Due to the melting glaciers, the rising sea levels threaten the natural ecosystem and other low-lying countries.
AI solution: Solutions like ASIP read satellite imagery and provide detailed sea information like ice cover, thickness or snow depth that is fed into the deep learning models. They then analyze and predict the melting point of glaciers and movement of icebergs and take the right preventive measures, such as warning sea vessels in the polar seas. This improves efficiency and the safety of every marine operation.
Interesting (scary) fact: A new AI climate model predicts Arctic sea ice could disappear in just 15 years.
2. Natural Disasters
Global warming is increasing and accelerating the magnitude of natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and wildfires. For example, Australia’s forest fires this summer occurred due to extreme heat and burned almost 20% of the country’s forests. Australia is no longer alone: The western part of the United States is also suffering greatly from wildfires.
AI solution: Today, predictive solutions using AI are not just predicting the occurrence of disasters, but also predicting where they will hit the hardest and which defensive systems will most likely fail. For example, Google has an AI model that can predict rising water levels and the areas that will be flooded quickly.
Responding to natural disasters is a massive logistical challenge. An ML system can detect and process damages using satellite imagery to generate accurate damage assessments — improving disaster delivery aids and increasing the overall coverage of critical services.
Interesting fact: AI can better forecast the slow-slip earthquakes that otherwise are impossible to track.
3. Carbon Footprint
In the U.S., transport systems are responsible for 28% of CO2 emissions, and temperatures are exponentially increasing around the globe.
AI solution: As of today, 20% of transports are empty runs, either due to the demand imbalance or lack of proper planning. AI algorithms are helping determine the complex combination of shipment size, transport mode, routing coverage, and service features, which leads to less empty runs of containers.
Further, AI is also being used extensively to read real-time traffic data to provide insights on mobility patterns, thereby negating the traffic sprawl.
Risks In Deploying AI Earth Projects
There is no doubt that AI is a key enabler of climate change technology solutions, making systems smarter and higher performing. However, there are some potential dangers of uncontrolled artificial intelligence.
• Performance: AI conclusions of today are not totally understood by humans, and thus, it may be impossible to determine if they are accurate or desirable. AI systems need more certainty when giving out warnings for natural disasters. This is expected to mature over time; however, that is the current reality.
• Security: AI can be hacked, enabling bad actors to interfere with energy, transportation, warnings or other crucial systems. If these systems were to end up in the wrong hands, chaos would surely happen.
• Control risks: AI systems that interact autonomously can produce unpredictable outcomes. For example, Facebook had to shut down its AI bots because they began to speak in an unintelligible language and started to make autocratic and autonomous decisions.
• Ethical risks: Since AI uses inferred assumptions about groups and communities for making decisions, this could lead to even more increased bias given today’s cultural divide.
My Final Thoughts
Currently, there are hundreds of “AI for Earth” projects pioneering new ways in the conservation realm. However, technology alone is not enough. Solutions to big problems such as climate change require an urgent and integrated focus on:
• Consumption patterns: It is critical to raise awareness on one’s own individual carbon footprint through the daily choices around basic living habits. Every one of us needs to take personal responsibility for our actions that are escaping historical scarcity and entering an aspirational lifestyle.
• Multinational coalition and regulatory policies: The world needs to set clearer goals and policies such as the Paris Agreement. Further legislation around pollution, consumption and energy is needed. This might be viewed as infringing on personal choices, liberties and the free market, but we must look at the bigger picture.
• Alternate opinion: There are climate change deniers who suggest that climate change is just a part of the natural cycle and that climate models are unreliable or too sensitive to carbon dioxide. Some even argue that climate change is good for us because longer and warmer summers will make farming more productive. They point out that plants need more carbon dioxide, which acts as a fertilizer. This is true in some sense because the land biosphere has been absorbing about a quarter of carbon dioxide pollution every year.
In my opinion, AI is real, and global warming is here to stay. Artificial intelligence will help us innovate more and build better systems that will help shape humanity and the planet.
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