• Category
  • >Artificial Intelligence

AI for Environmental Sustainability

  • Bhumika Dutta
  • Jan 05, 2022
AI for Environmental Sustainability title banner

Artificial intelligence is a broad topic of research that may be used by a wide range of companies and sectors. The environment, while not an industry, is a critical factor to consider. It seemed impossible that technology could be employed for the welfare of the planet. 


The environment is the foundation of and support for human life, and its preservation has become a top priority for governments across the world. 


We are all dealing with environmental concerns that are beyond our control, such as global warming, growing pollution levels, the development of unsustainable trash, and much more. 


As a result, it is critical that we take meaningful efforts to safeguard the human race and the environment as a whole. We shall study how artificial intelligence contributes to environmental sustainability in this article.



How does AI impact sustainable development?


Earth.org states a report that shows the impact of artificial intelligence in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). 


According to the United Nations, there are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that may be divided into three categories: environment, economic, and society. The evolution of AI, according to research published in Nature Communications, might enable certain improvements while possibly hindering others. 


The graphs below show the potential benefits of AI adoption in terms of accomplishing SDGs.

Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goals (source)

Carbon Footprint of Artificial Intelligence:


AI-based systems require a lot of processing power. They must handle a large amount of data, which increases the demand for servers and the reliance on electricity to keep data centers cool. According to Forbes, the adoption of AI within a corporate will boost the company's demand for energy.


Training AI models to undertake Natural Language Processing (NLP) may emit the carbon dioxide equivalent of 5X the lifetime emissions of an American automobile, or the equivalent of 300 round-trip flights between San Francisco and New York, according to a University of Massachusetts research. This is just one research for a particular sort of AI that isn't widely utilized.


Carbon emissions from more realistic training jobs are negligible. However, just because today's most used AI technologies aren't large carbon producers doesn't rule out the possibility that they may become significant contributors in the future. There are currently few studies that can assist a corporation in determining the carbon effect of AI. 


There is a lot to study about the carbon footprint of all types of AI, and one must not dive into any AI project without knowing the potential risks. The Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms in Canada has created a tool to quantify how much carbon is emitted when machine learning models are being trained. This tool is a modest but important step in the right direction. There aren't many other options right now. 


To respond to the board's inquiries concerning the environmental effects, the AI teams will need to either leverage other technologies or construct their own.


The solution to this problem:


Like artificial intelligence produces a carbon footprint, it can be used to reduce carbon footprint as well. Companies should consider partnering with any cloud provider that is dedicated to lowering its carbon footprint, hence lowering theirs. Rather than focusing on big internal initiatives to decrease the environmental effects, a company's AI training and processing may be outsourced to a data center cloud provider.


For example, Google's DeepMind division has created an artificial intelligence that trains itself how to save electricity while cooling Google's data centers. As a consequence, Google's data center energy consumption was decreased by 35%. 


Google Cloud Platform is Google's public cloud service. Microsoft has also pledged to be carbon neutral by 2030. Microsoft also owns and operates enormous public data centers known as Microsoft Azure. 


Amazon has also established a long-term goal of using 100 percent renewable energy to power its worldwide infrastructure. This includes AWS, Amazon's cloud platform.


AI in Environmental Sustainability:


There are a lot of areas where AI can help in making the environment sustainable, but there are particularly three areas where the most impact is made:


  1. Error minimization is important. When humans make mistakes when performing manual activities, the work must frequently be evaluated and redone. More energy is consumed as a result of treating these preventable issues. AI has the potential to reduce human error in a variety of jobs.


  1. Increased productivity. A corporation may produce more efficient operations and save energy by merging different forms of AI, such as machine learning, natural language processing, and computer vision. In addition, AI may be used to help re-engineer processes, removing redundant stages from the present process.


  1. Materials in their natural state. When AI is used to track the consumption of raw resources, it might uncover ways to use a lesser amount of these resources. Artificial intelligence may also be utilized to help businesses develop low-carbon materials for their products.


Applications of AI in environmental factors:


The United Nations Artificial Intelligence Summit in Geneva (2017) concluded that AI has the potential to accelerate progress toward a dignified life, in peace and prosperity, for all people, and recommended that the use of this technology, which is responsible for self-driving cars and voice/face recognition smartphones, be refocused on sustainable development and assisting global efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger, as well as to protect the environment and conserve natural resources.


Some popular applications that are helping the environment are given below:


  1. Smart grids in cities can use artificial intelligence techniques to regulate and control parts of the neighborhood power grid to deliver exactly the amount of electricity needed, or requested from its dependents, as opposed to traditional power grids, which can waste electricity due to unplanned power distribution.


  1. Artificial intelligence (AI) in manufacturing can assist in minimizing waste and energy consumption in manufacturing plants. Controlling industrial emissions and waste management is another difficulty that advanced learning machines and smart networks can help with. 


These machines and networks can identify leaks, possible risks, and deviations from industry norms and government requirements. 


IoT technology, for example, has been used in a variety of industrial endeavors, including refrigerators, thermostats, and even retail stores. Precision may be improved with robotics. AI may be used to create more efficient systems. Drishti, Cognex Corp, and Spark Cognition are among the companies in this industry.


  1. In the field of materials science, AI can aid researchers in the discovery of novel materials for solar panels, heat conversion, and absorbent materials for CO2 scrubbers (taking CO2 out of the atmosphere.) Citrine, Matsci AI, and Ansys are among the companies in this field.


  1. Techniques like route optimization, eco-driving algorithms, and ride-sharing services will aid in minimizing the carbon footprint and lowering the overall number of cars on the road as AI-driven autonomous vehicles prepare to enter the market.


  1. AI can assist decrease or eliminating waste in water resource management while cutting costs and reducing environmental impact. Water use will be reduced thanks to AI-driven localized weather forecasts. Innovyze, Kurita Water Industries, and Plutoshift are among the companies in this industry.  


AI-enabled Earth programs like as iNaturalist and eBirds collect data on the species observed from its extensive network of specialists, which may be used to maintain track of their population, suitable ecosystems, and migration patterns. These applications have also aided in the improved identification and conservation of freshwater and marine environments.


  1. In agriculture, artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to revolutionize production by better monitoring and regulating environmental conditions and crop yields. AI can help farmers save money on fertilizer and water while increasing agricultural yields. Blue River Technology, Harvest CROO Robotics, and Trace Genomics are among the companies in this industry.


(Also read: How AI is revolutionizing Wildlife Conservation)




Artificial intelligence (AI) technology and algorithms are being developed to track pollution levels, minimize energy use, and better comprehend climate change implications. Governments all across the world, both local and national, are incorporating AI into their program and policy roadmaps for environmental protection. 


Combining AI and IoT technology can assist to improve environmental sustainability. This article is about how AI is helping in increasing environmental sustainability where we learn about AI carbon footprints and applications of AI in the environment

Latest Comments