Artificial intelligence is developing at a rapid rate. Could AI also offer solutions to urgent environmental and climate challenges? How much can we ever trust AI? And what is the ecological impact of the technology? In RESET's first Greenbook(1) we set out to find answers to these questions.
For a long time now, artificial intelligence (AI) has been impacting our everyday lives; whether it's in a translation system, search engine or speech recognition app. In industry, research and the job market, intelligent algorithms are now also being used to evaluate data, some of which is very sensitive, recommending courses of action or even making independent decisions. And every day AI is being applied in new and different areas of our lives.
There are already growing concerns around the transparency, autonomy and security of AI technology. But while the ethical and social aspects of AI technology tend to be at the forefront of the discussion, there hasn't yet been enough work looking at AI from an ecological and sustainability perspective.
But we have to act, and soon. Climate change is developing rapidly, and while the digitalisation of more and more areas of our lives is responsible for a not inconsiderable contribution to our rising CO2 emissions, at the same time, new technologies - AI included - also offer us new solutions to urgent environmental and climate challenges.
It is therefore essential that we start talking about the potentials - and potential risks - that AI holds poses to the environment and the climate.
In our Greenbook(1) (currently available in German only) "AI and Sustainability - Can Computing Power Save Our Planet?", researched and written over the past few months, we take a closer look at a whole range of different ways that AI is being used for positive impact:
- for monitoring and protecting ecosystems
- transforming our energy system
- mitigating climate change
- better managing our recycling systems
- increasing resource efficiency
- aiding digital and resource-efficient farming
- enabling democratic civic participation and
- optimising development cooperation and humanitarian aid
We spoke with numerous experts and ecopreneurs to find out exactly how AI can be used to have positive impact on our environment and our climate, and also what we need to do to ensure that AI technology develops in a way that benefits both people and planet.
The Greenbook is a reader for everyone who wants to learn more about where AI is already being used for the good, where the biggest potentials lie, and also the biggest risks, and how we need to design AI in the future so that it has the most positive possible impact on our environment, the climate and society.
The Greenbook(1) has been published under a Creative Commons license and is available to download for free.
All publications are currently available in German language only.
We recommend opening the PDF in a two-page view.
Our infographic also provides a quick overview of our main findings:
Our publication demonstrates that we need a clear political framework and appropriate measures in order to ensure that developments in AI are both socially and environmentally sustainable. In our policy brief, we summarise the most important framework conditions and recommended action steps for policy makers:
We thank the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU) for funding this publication! Find more information about our collaboration here.