Artificial intelligence is causing increasing energy consumption and accelerating the spread of climate disinformation, contrary to popular belief that artificial intelligence could solve the climate crisis faster.

Major tech companies and the United Nations have promoted the development of artificial intelligence as a way to help mitigate global warming with tools to help monitor deforestation, detect pollution leaks and track extreme weather events. Artificial intelligence is already being used to predict droughts in Africa and measure changes in melting icebergs.

Google, which has developed its own AI program called Bard (now Gemini) and has an AI project to make traffic lights more efficient, has been at the forefront of reducing emissions through the use of AI, publishing a report last year that found AI could reduce global emissions by 10 percent. which is equal to the carbon emissions produced by the entire European Union by 2030.

“AI has a really big role to play in the fight against climate change,” said Kate Brandt, head of sustainability at Google. in December, describing the technology as a turning point in achieving environmental goals.

But a new report by green groups has cast doubt on whether the AI ​​revolution will have a positive impact on the climate crisis, warning that the technology is fueling data center energy use and the spread of falsehoods about climate science.

“We hear all the time that artificial intelligence can save the planet, but we shouldn’t believe the hype,” said Michael Khoo, director of Friends of the Earth’s climate disinformation program. “People are outraged to see how much more energy AI will consume in the coming years and how it will flood the zone with misinformation about climate change.”

AI’s growing demand for electricity means that doubling the number of data centers to help keep up with industry will increase planet-heating emissions by 80%, even if measures are in place to improve the energy efficiency of those centres, a new report says.

In the US, there is already evidence that the lives of coal-fired power plants are being extended to meet the growing energy needs of AI. In just three years, AI servers could consume as much energy as Sweden.

Most of this increased energy demand is due to the complexity of AI operations – generating AI queries can require up to 10 times more computing power than a normal web search. The report claims that OpenAI system ChatGPT training can use as much energy as 120 US households in a year.

“There is no reason to believe that the presence of artificial intelligence will reduce energy use, all the evidence shows that it will significantly increase energy use because of all the new data centers,” Khoo said. “We know that data center efficiency increases slightly, but the simple math is that carbon dioxide emissions increase.”

AI will further hinder efforts to limit the climate emergency by making it easier for people or organizations to spread false or misleading claims about climate science and the effects of global warming, the coalition’s report added.

Big social media platforms like X have already become hotbeds of climate science denial, AI critics say. “AI is perfect for flooding platforms with fast and cheaply produced crap”.

The report says AI’s energy use should be more transparent, as should safeguards that monitor the output of climate lies.

Source: The Guardian