Artificial intelligences and their power to combat climate change and biodiversity loss: hope and caution

Table of contents

Introduction: the potential of AIs in the environmental struggle

I have always been a person concerned about the environment and the conservation of our planet. Climate change and biodiversity loss are urgent problems that affect us all. As an individual, I feel responsible for contributing to the solution of these problems, and in this quest, I have found that artificial intelligences (AIs) can be valuable allies. However, I also wonder if these advances might have a dark side.

Benefits of IAs in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss

IAs can play a crucial role in combating climate change and biodiversity loss in a number of ways, including:

  1. Ecosystem monitoring: AIs can process satellite imagery to identify areas of deforestation and monitor ecosystem health. One example is Global Forest Watch, which uses AI to track deforestation in real time.

  2. Prediction of extreme weather events: AIs can help predict extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods and storms, enabling governments and organizations to take preventive measures. One example is Deep Thunder, an AI developed by IBM that predicts extreme weather events more accurately.

  3. Sustainable city design: AIs can contribute to the design of more sustainable cities by optimizing the use of natural resources, traffic management and urban planning.

  4. Renewable energy development: AIs can improve efficiency in the production and distribution of renewable energy, such as solar and wind. For example, DeepMind has used AI to optimize the performance of wind farms, increasing their output by 20%.

  1. Precision agriculture: AIs can help improve efficiency in precision agriculture by analyzing soil, weather and crop data to optimize the use of fertilizers, pesticides and water, thereby reducing pollution and overexploitation of water resources.

  2. Ecosystem restoration: IAs can contribute to ecosystem restoration by identifying degraded areas and prioritizing conservation and restoration interventions. For example, Restor is a platform that uses AI to help users plan, monitor and analyze restoration projects.

  3. Conservation of endangered species: AIs can be used to monitor and protect endangered species from poaching and habitat degradation. One example is Wildlife Insights, which uses AI to analyze camera trap images and help conservationists make data-driven decisions.

  4. Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions: AIs can contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by optimizing industrial processes and developing carbon capture and storage technologies. For example, Climeworks uses AI to improve the efficiency of its direct air capture facilities.

  5. Waste management: IAs can improve waste management by optimizing collection, recycling and waste reduction, which helps reduce pollution and consumption of natural resources. One example is AMP Robotics, which uses AI to sort and recycle materials in recycling facilities.

  6. Education and awareness: AIs can be used to develop education and awareness programs on climate change and biodiversity loss, customizing content to suit users’ needs and preferences. For example, EcoChallenge is a platform that uses AI to offer customized challenges that promote sustainable practices and environmental awareness.

These are just some of the many benefits that IAs can bring in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss. By harnessing their potential and applying them responsibly, we can accelerate our efforts to protect and preserve our planet.

Doubts and concerns: the dark side of AIs

Despite the benefits, I can’t help but wonder if AIs could also have negative consequences. Some concerns include:

  1. Energy consumption: The development and operation of these technologies require a large amount of energy, which could increase greenhouse gas emissions. A hypothetical case would be an AI that, in trying to optimize energy production, increases energy consumption disproportionately.

  2. Misuse of AIs: The potential misuse of AIs in the hands of malicious actors could accelerate the exploitation of natural resources, exacerbating biodiversity loss and climate change. A hypothetical example could be an AI used by illegal mining companies to quickly locate and exploit areas rich in mineral resources, regardless of the environmental impact.

  1. Dehumanization and job losses: Over-reliance on AIs could lead to the dehumanization of certain processes and job losses in sectors such as agriculture, forestry and conservation.

  2. Lack of regulation and oversight: Lack of regulation and oversight could lead to the creation of AIs with counterproductive objectives for the environment. A hypothetical case could be an AI designed to optimize agricultural production that ends up promoting unsustainable and ecosystem-damaging practices.

  1. Bias in algorithms and decision making: AIs can perpetuate and exacerbate existing inequalities and biases if not adequately addressed in their design and training. In the context of climate change and biodiversity loss, this could lead to decisions that favor certain groups or regions to the detriment of others, aggravating environmental and social injustices.

  2. Technology dependence: Increased reliance on AIs could lead to a disconnect between people and nature, decreasing environmental awareness and responsibility. In addition, reliance on technology could make communities more vulnerable to failures or cyber-attacks on AI-based systems.

  3. Privacy and surveillance: The collection and analysis of large volumes of data necessary for the operation of AIs could compromise the privacy of individuals and lead to invasive surveillance systems. In the environmental sphere, this could translate into excessive surveillance of local communities and the potential criminalization of subsistence activities.

  4. Disincentive to individual and collective action: The perception that IAs will solve environmental problems could deter people and organizations from taking individual and collective action to reduce their impact on the environment. This attitude could slow progress in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss.

  5. Risks associated with geoengineering: While IAs could contribute to the development of geoengineering technologies to address climate change, they could also increase the risks associated with the implementation of these technologies, such as undesirable environmental effects or geopolitical conflicts.

  6. Shifting efforts and resources: Investing in the development and application of AIs to address climate change and biodiversity loss could crowd out efforts and resources that could be invested in more conventional and proven solutions, such as direct ecosystem conservation and the implementation of emission reduction policies.

These concerns underscore the importance of addressing the potential risks and challenges associated with the use of AIs in the context of climate change and biodiversity loss. To ensure a sustainable future, it is essential to adopt a balanced and responsible approach to the implementation of these technologies.

Towards a responsible and ethical use of AIs

To ensure that AIs are allies rather than adversaries in our fight against climate change and biodiversity loss, we must promote their responsible and ethical use. Some measures include:

  1. Implementation of international regulations and standards: It is essential to establish international regulations and standards to ensure the ethical and responsible use of AIs.

  2. Promoting transparency: Promoting transparency in the development of IAs will enable citizens, governments and organizations to make informed decisions about their implementation.

  3. Collaboration between governments, companies and organizations: Cooperation between different sectors and actors is essential to ensure that IAs are used effectively and sustainably.

Conclusion: hope and responsibility in the era of AIs

In conclusion, although as an individual I have doubts about the impact of AIs in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss, I believe that we can address these challenges effectively and responsibly. AIs have great potential to help us understand and address these issues, but we must be cautious and responsible in their use.

The current scenario offers us a unique opportunity to change the course of history and protect our common home. It is essential that we focus on hope and working together to ensure a sustainable future for all. IAs can be a catalyst in this transformation, but only if we address the challenges and risks consciously and proactively.

So, while the road to a greener, more sustainable future will not be without its difficulties, I am convinced that, with determination, cooperation and a responsible approach to implementing IAs, we can meet these challenges and build a better world for generations to come. Ultimately, our ability to collaborate and adapt will be the key to success in our fight against climate change and biodiversity loss.

To meet these challenges, it is essential to promote education and awareness of climate change and biodiversity loss, both in academia and in society at large. This includes teaching new generations about the importance of conservation and sustainability, as well as informing citizens about how they can contribute individually and collectively to the fight against these problems.

Innovation and technology, including AIs, are powerful tools that enable us to address these challenges more effectively. However, we must remember that success will ultimately depend on our actions and decisions as individuals and as a society. By adopting a conscious and responsible approach, we can make the most of the potential of AIs and face climate change and biodiversity loss with determination and hope.

Ultimately, the future of our planet depends on our ability to come together to collectively address these global issues. Through cooperation, innovation and engagement, we can ensure that AIs are allies in our fight for a more sustainable and equitable future. Together, we can build a better world for ourselves and future generations, using technology not only as a means to meet our challenges, but also as a source of hope and unity in our shared mission to protect and preserve our common home, the Earth.

Quotations / References

  1. IPCC – Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C – Context on the urgency of addressing climate change and its impacts.

  2. IPBES – Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – A comprehensive assessment of biodiversity loss and its implications.

  3. DeepMind – AI for protein folding – Example of how AIs can contribute to scientific advancement in areas related to the environment.

  4. Google – Environmental Insights Explorer – Tool that uses AI to help cities make informed decisions about emissions reductions.

  5. World Economic Forum – Why global standards are the key to harnessing the power of AI – Discussion on the importance of international regulations and standards in the use of AIs.

  6. Restor – Platform that uses AI to support ecosystem restoration projects.

  7. Wildlife Insights – A project that uses AI to monitor and protect endangered species.

  8. Climeworks – A company that uses AI to improve the efficiency of its direct air capture facilities.

  9. AMP Robotics – Company that applies AI to optimize waste management and recycling.

  10. EcoChallenge – A platform that uses AI to offer customized challenges that promote sustainable practices and environmental awareness.

About me

Photographer. Digital artist. Creative director at Creatures United. Zoology student. Emotionally involved in biodiversity loss and climate change.

For as long as I can remember I have been passionate about two things: animals and image creation. Two paths that ended up converging and have led me to do what I do.


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