Can AI Save the Planet? The Double-Edged Sword of Climate Action Technology

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Imagine tiny ants inspiring algorithms that revolutionize factories, slashing emissions in the process. Sounds like fantastical fiction? Think again. This "ant-based AI" is just one example of how artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to tackle climate change – but the path is paved with both progress and pitfalls.

At COP28, the U.N. climate summit, AI took center stage. Experts see its potential everywhere, from boosting solar panel efficiency to predicting floods. Picture solar panels that track the sun like sunflowers, maximizing energy capture. This is the power of AI unleashed.

But like a double-edged sword, AI comes with hidden costs. Developing nations lack the data and tools to leverage these technologies effectively, leading to potentially inaccurate algorithms and unequal access. If AI is going to fight climate change, it needs to be a global team effort.

Despite the challenges, hope remains. Scientists use AI to pinpoint weaknesses in remote power grids, improving reliability and saving resources. Their work even extends to managing electricity demand, balancing fluctuations from unpredictable wind and solar power.

However, this technology comes with a hefty carbon footprint. Training powerful AI models consumes mountains of energy and water, raising concerns about sustainability. Experts acknowledge these issues, emphasizing the need for energy-efficient training methods and reliance on renewable sources.

The question remains: can AI be the hero of climate action or just another villain? Navigating its potential and perils will require global collaboration, ethical development, and a commitment to a greener future. The COP28 spotlight on AI is a crucial step, but the real test lies in translating promises into action. The clock is ticking on climate change, and AI may be the key, but only if we wield it wisely.

By Aditya Bajaj (BBA-IT, 2021-24)


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