Kate Brandt and Rich Lesser, Fortune.com, December 18, 2023
The world must dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to meet Paris Agreement goals. Yet based on current trajectories, emissions are set to rise by 10% over the next eight years. This will only accelerate widespread droughts, flooding, extreme heat, and other devastating impacts across the globe.
Against this challenging backdrop, it is clear that acceleration is needed across all fronts of climate action. One of those opportunities lies in artificial intelligence (AI). Research shows that by scaling currently proven applications and technology, AI could mitigate 5 to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030–the equivalent of the total annual emissions of the European Union. For the first time, AI was highlighted at COP28 as one of the key potential solutions to tackle climate change, with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) announcing the AI Innovation Grand Challenge at the conference to identify and support the development of AI-powered solutions for climate action in developing countries.
Reversing the emissions trajectory will take everyone involved–government officials, business leaders, and technologists–all rowing the boat in the same direction. Policymakers have a central role to play, with three critical priority areas that will allow AI to contribute to its full potential.
First, policies must enable AI innovation and adoption for climate-positive applications. Data sharing frameworks, investment in research, affordable technology access, and education initiatives are needed to drive development and deployment. Government has a key role to play as an end-user. In the absence of clear community, national, or sector-specific objectives for climate action, AI-driven innovation could go off in disjointed directions. Resource allocation would be inefficient. Establishing priority innovation domains where AI could most immediately and effectively advance climate action–such as leveraging AI for flood-resilient farming, climate change adaptation, and accelerating the energy transition–can unlock resources and focus minds.