As the battle against climate change becomes more dire, efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 will be essential, as will efforts to prepare for the consequences of climate change and to minimize the resulting harm. Applying advanced analytics and artificial intelligence to climate challenges provides a vital way to make meaningful change at this critical moment.
According to a new report from the AI for the Planet Alliance, produced in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and BCG GAMMA, 87 percent of public- and private-sector leaders who oversee climate and AI topics believe that AI is a valuable asset in the fight against climate change.
Based on survey results from over 1,000 executives with decision-making authority on AI or climate-change initiatives, the new report, How AI Can Be a Powerful Tool in the Fight Against Climate Change, finds that roughly 40 percent of organizations can envision using AI for their own climate efforts (see the exhibit). However, even among these experts, there is widespread agreement that significant barriers to broad adoption remain in place: 78 percent of respondents cite insufficient AI expertise as an obstacle to using AI in their climate change efforts, 77 percent cite limited availability of AI solutions as a roadblock, and 67 percent point to a lack of confidence in AI-related data and analysis.
“AI’s unique capacity to gather, complete, and interpret large, complex data sets means it can help stakeholders take a more informed and data-driven approach to combating carbon emissions and addressing climate risks,” said Hamid Maher, managing director and partner at BCG and BCG GAMMA, and a coauthor of the report, in a news release. “However, most existing AI-related climate solutions are scattered, tend to be difficult to access, and lack the resources to scale. These shortcomings need to change.”
Uses of AI in combating climate change
Global leaders can use AI to achieve their goals in multiple ways:
- Mitigation. One of the most critical uses of AI is in the measurement, reduction, and removal of emissions and greenhouse gas (GHG) effects. More than 60 percent of public- and private-sector leaders see the greatest business value for their organizations in the reduction and measurement of emissions. According to BCG, use of AI can drive reductions of 5 percent to 10 percent GHG emissions, or 2.6 to 5.3 gigatons of CO2e if applied globally.
- Adaptation and Resilience. Adapting to climate change is a critical undertaking for policy makers and the public, as it boosts resilience to the effects of both long-term climate trends and extreme weather events. AI is well suited to help project climate-related hazards, whether by improving long-term projections of localized events such as sea-level rise or by upgrading early warning systems for extreme phenomena such as hurricanes or droughts.
- Fundamentals. AI can be used to support research and education efforts about climate change, helping stakeholders understand the risks and implications involved and encouraging them to share what they learn. These efforts support and magnify ongoing work toward mitigation and adaptation and resilience.
Need for meaningful support
A multitude of critical uses for AI exist in the climate change arena, but any successful AI solution must be user-friendly and readily accessible. It must offer tangible benefits to the user and provide clear recommendations that are easy to act on. AI solutions therefore need much more meaningful support, including access to capital investment, decision makers, and trained practitioners.
“AI has strong promise to help solve the climate crisis, but AI alone is not enough. It depends on the will of decision makers to act and make necessary changes—supported in part by AI and other emerging technologies,” said Damien Gromier, founder of AI for the Planet and a coauthor of the report, in the release.
AI for the Planet has invited all interested parties to participate in its call for solutions, with proposals in any stage of maturity (if ready for a first pilot, at a minimum) and from any sector, whether private, public, academic, or nonprofit. Support for each solution chosen will be tailored to its needs and may range from customized commercial or technical support to investor relationships and network development.