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Google has not achieved its climate goal, AI is partially responsible


Google not achieved climate goal AI partially responsible

In an effort to combat climate change, Google stated three years ago that it aimed to completely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. But as a recent investigation reveals, it is far from accomplishing that aim.

In 2023, its emissions increased by 13% compared to the previous year, instead of decreasing. In contrast to 2019, the baseline year, emissions have increased by 48%. Google said that the increase last year was because of artificial intelligence and the pressure it puts on data centers, which use a lot of electricity.

Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane are produced when coal or natural gas is burned to provide energy. These gases are subsequently discharged into the environment. The planet is warmed by these gasses, which intensify the weather. The company has one of the largest climate pledges and is recognized as a leader in the sector. Lisa Sachs, director of the Columbia Center for Sustainable Investment, believes that Google ought to work with more environmentally friendly companies and increase its infrastructure investments in the area of electricity.

Scientists say that the shift to clean electricity, which is important for fighting climate change, might be at risk because of the rapid growth of data centers needed for AI. Building a new data center can stop or delay the closure of a fossil fuel power plant. Data centers require a large amount of energy, high-voltage transmission cables, and a significant amount of water for cooling. They make noise as well.

They are often built where electricity is cheapest, not where there is a lot of solar or wind power. The demand for AI and data centers worldwide may treble by 2026, predicts the International Energy Agency. The expansion of data centers poses a threat to the sustainability objectives of other major internet companies. Microsoft's environmental sustainability report from May shows that emissions increased by 29% over the company's 2020 baseline.

Tech companies say that artificial intelligence (AI), such as programs like ChatGPT, both contributes to and helps reduce climate change. In Google's case, that can entail optimizing traffic flow to conserve fuel or leveraging data to forecast future flooding. Amanda Smith, senior scientist at climate NGO Project Drawdown, advises that people who use AI, whether they are large corporations or individuals making memes, should use it responsibly. This means they should only use it when it benefits society.

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