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AI for Climate Action: 4 Example Use Cases From Google, Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

November 27, 2023 by Joe Panettieri

How can artificial intelligence (AI) potentially assist businesses, researchers and government agencies with climate action? Google and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) offered some context in a white paper titled "Accelerating Climate Action with AI."

Dig into the report, and the authors describe four types of AI -- and the potential use cases for climate action. The examples include:

  1. Advanced Analytics, which can assist energy consumption optimization. For instance, advanced analytics can optimize a building’s carbon footprint by adjusting heating, cooling, and lighting systems in response to real-time data from sensors and weather forecasts, the report states.
  2. Machine Learning, which can help to predict wildfires. For instance, machine learning models can analyze weather data, satellite imagery, and terrain information to predict the likelihood of wildfires, helping authorities take preventive measures and optimize resource allocation, the report asserts.
  3. Deep Learning, which can help with extreme weather prediction. For instance, deep learning can analyze vast amounts of historical and real-time meteorological and satellite data, leading to more accurate forecasts for hurricanes, tornadoes, and typhoons.
  4. Large Language Models, which can help with Green Technology Innovation. For instance, large language models can accelerate innovation by digesting research papers and patent applications and rapidly surfacing ideas and identifying knowledge gaps.

Additional AI and climate change takeaways surfaced in these separate blogs from BCG and Google.

AI Applications and Energy Consumption: Cloud Services, Data Center Power Concerns?

Still, AI applications can require lots of energy for data processing, and water consumption for data center cooling, the report notes.

Third-party researchers also have concerns about AI applications and their potential energy consumption. Indeed, AI could consume up to 3.5% of the world’s electricity by 2030, Gartner predicts. In terms of current projects, 73% of IT buyers are not completely prepared for the energy requirements of AI, research from Pure Storage and Wakefield Research finds. 

As a result, cloud service providers and data center providers must focus on application optimization and renewable energy to power such workloads.

Related: Microsoft AI Playbook for Sustainability

Amid that backdrop, numerous cloud and data center service providers now pitch AI applications for sustainability-related use cases. For instance, the Google-Boston Consulting Group report surfaced around the same time as a Microsoft AI Playbook for Sustainability.

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