AI & ML

Is it True that AI is Going to Solve Global Warming?

Executive Summary

  • We are in the throes of an enormous amount of exaggerations regarding AI.
  • AI has become a magic wand, that according to some, will even solve global warming.

Introduction

Under the constant barrage of hype around AI, it is curious how AI is now being proposed for things that it can’t solve, and to fill in the “blank” where we refuse to work towards decisions that require sacrifice.

This article began as a test, could we find articles that proposed that AI could solve the most intractable and complex issues that humans face…namely climate change.

The Boundless Optimism Being Proposed Around AI

Promoters have figured out that people are susceptible to exaggerated stories around AI. Notice that this video claims a growth in AI capability that was previously promised back in the 1960s, but never occurred. This is a common feature of current AI forecasts; they entirely ignore and erase the inaccuracies of previous forecasts. If individuals can’t even (or more likely have lacked the interest to) measure forecast error, it seems that they aren’t in an excellent position to opine on the future of AI. 

Like many AI technologies, self drivings cars have been postponed. Another question is why, is there a shortage of drivers?

This is increasingly the reality of driving. Isn’t it great that someday these cars may be self-driving? 

While funding is being directed to self driving cars, traffic, in the US, and countries around the world have massively increased in just the past several decades. The biggest problem getting around the US is not that you have to drive yourself, but that all large and midsize, and many smaller cities have steadily worsening traffic conditions, and there is no solution in sight.

The emphasis on self-driving cars is distracting from the real issues, which are both congestion and the increasing of an already unsustainable carbon footprint from internal combustion engines. The most self-driving promises are some margin increased fuel efficiency; it does not address the primary issue.

AI to the Rescue for Everything?

There is a mindless application of AI to seemingly solve every issue, even issues that can’t be addressed through AI. Humans need to reduce their global population quickly. They need to reduce their carbon footprint, how much garbage they generate, and a host of other issues. These are things that require real sacrifices, but instead of facing stark trade-offs, profit-oriented AI marketing infused are pitching AI “solutions” to problems that do not require any sacrifices. AI, in the most peculiar fashion, is being used to disarm our actual human intelligence by saying..

“It’s ok…….because AI will take care of it.”

AI for Global Warming?

We were able to find the following ridiculous quotes related to how AI would or could be used to address global warming.

Artificial intelligence has been around since the late 1950s, but today, AI’s capacities are rapidly improving thanks to several factors: the vast amounts of data being collected by sensors (in appliances, vehicles, clothing, etc.), satellites and the Internet; the development of more powerful and faster computers; the availability of open source software and data; and the increase in abundant, cheap storage. AI can now quickly discern patterns that humans cannot, make predictions more efficiently and recommend better policies. – Columbia.edu

More Information is Required Until We Can Act….or Know What to Do?

Humans do not require more information about climate change, climate change is a settled issue, and the resolution is a massive reduction in population and resource consumption. The problem is not a lack of data, but an unwillingness to reduce human populations or reduce resource consumption.

Microsoft believes that artificial intelligence, often encompassing machine learning and deep learning, is a “game changer” for climate change and environmental issues. The company’s AI for Earth program has committed $50 million over five years to create and test new applications for AI. Eventually it will help scale up and commercialize the most promising projects. – Columbia.edu

Does Microsoft have any demonstrated expertise in climate change?

Last I checked, Microsoft was a software vendor, not an environmental research entity.

Using AI for Tracking Fish Will Help Solve the Problem of Climate Change?

In Washington State, Long Live the Kings is trying to restore declining steelhead and salmon populations. With a grant from Microsoft, the organization will improve an ecosystem model that gathers data about salmon and steelhead growth, tracks fish and marine mammal movements, and monitors marine conditions. The model will help improve hatchery, harvest, and ecosystem management, and support habitat protection and restoration efforts. – Columbia.edu

That is nice, but before the enormous growth of the population, there was no need to manipulate hatcheries, because the planet was far below carrying capacity. Now it is above that carrying capacity.

One does not need AI to understand the unsustainable growth of human populations, and the fact that as this video shows just the population growing, the average consumption of resources and production of greenhouse gasses has exploded. 

Smart Meters and IoT Can Address Overpopulation?

AI can also improve energy efficiency on the city scale by incorporating data from smart meters and the Internet of Things (the internet of computing devices that are embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data) to forecast energy demand. In addition, artificial intelligence systems can simulate potential zoning laws, building ordinances, and flood plains to help with urban planning and disaster preparedness. – Columbia.edu

Does anything here have to do with overpopulation?

No.

How about adjusting resource consumption?

Again no.

Agriculture Needs More Technology?

Data from sensors in the field that monitor crop moisture, soil composition and temperature help AI improve production and know when crops need watering. Incorporating this information with that from drones, which are also used to monitor conditions, can help increasingly automatic AI systems know the best times to plant, spray and harvest crops, and when to head off diseases and other problems. This will result in increased efficiency, enhanced yields, and lower use of water, fertilizer and pesticides. – Columbia.edu

Topsoil has significantly degraded globally over the past several decades. Every year, more topsoil is lost, and the water table declines in the country after country. This use of AI may help extract more crops from the land, but that does not address topsoil degradation.

The US West is mostly provided freshwater by the Colorado River. Overpopulation and agriculture are draining Lake Mead, one of the major reservoirs of the West. Can AI increase rainfall? 

AI for Monitoring Ocean Degradation?

The Ocean Data Alliance is working with machine learning to provide data from satellites and ocean exploration so that decision-makers can monitor shipping, ocean mining, fishing, coral bleaching or the outbreak of a marine disease. With almost real time data, decision-makers and authorities will be able to respond to problems more quickly. – Columbia.edu

And once monitored, what are they going to do about it?

Chinese fishing vessels have been vastly overfishing the fishing waters of Africa because Africa cannot defend its territorial waters as most of the countries in Africa lack a coast guard. Are international navies willing to sink Chinese vessels? When Somalia had its civil war, a wide variety of countries took advantage of the situation to overfish Somali fisheries, leading to a drastic drop in fishing stocks, impoverishing Somali fishers, and leading some of them to piracy.

All of this is known without AI.

Will AI give people a backbone to stand up to illegal trawlers?

Climate Change Can be Mitigated by Having Cars Talk to Each Other?

As vehicles become able to communicate with each other and with the infrastructure, artificial intelligence will help drivers avoid hazards and traffic jams. In Pittsburgh, an artificial intelligence system incorporating sensors and cameras that monitors traffic flow adjusts traffic lights when needed. – Columbia.edu

None of these things were necessary when there were fewer cars on the road, and the transportation infrastructure in cities was more in line with demand.

Will AI change the level of congestion?

Climate Change Can Be Mitigated With Weather Forecasting?

AI and deep learning are also improving weather forecasting and the prediction of extreme events. That’s because they can incorporate much more of the real-world complexity of the climate system, such as atmospheric and ocean dynamics and ocean and atmospheric chemistry, into their calculations. – Columbia.edu

It was already proposed that more powerful computers would increase long term weather forecasting, and that promise never came true.

The future climate will be far more hazardous than the previous climate, putting entire agricultural areas in harm’s way, raising water levels, changing the whole ecosystem. This quote seems to misunderstand the damage that has been made to the habitability of the planet.

Climate Change Can be Mitigated with More Information About Illegal Logging?

AI can help to monitor ecosystems and wildlife and their interactions. Its fast processing speeds can offer almost real-time satellite data to track illegal logging in forests.  – Columbia.edu

Illegal logging is not occurring because officials are not aware of it, or where it happens, but because they are paid off by the commercial interests. This quote above presumes that the only issue is knowledge of illegal logging.

How is that possible?

Logging requires enormous machines…these machines are not difficult to find even without satellites.

  • Will AI remove financial donations or other forms of political corruption?
  • Will it remove the demand for paper, which is a feature of too many people versus the natural resources?

Do we need AI to tell us we have too many people on the planet, and that those in the developed world in particular are consuming far too many resources?

We have known about Peak Oil for decades, but we do nothing about dealing with the impending decline of oil availability, and the lack of feasible alternatives. We don’t need AI to tell us this, we know it…but we refuse to do anything about it. 

Why?

Because it would men restricting our consumption, which we refuse to do, and which is why Peak Oil is unknown as a topic to most of the population.

A major environmental issue, similar to illegal logging, is the burning of rainforests in both Brazil and Indonesia, to clear land for agriculture and livestock. Do the governments in these countries need a satellite to see these massive fires? Notice that the video states that one of the people caught burning 700 acres of rainforest….was the mayor of the city!

Is it a lack of information…as proposed by the quotation above?

Also, notice from the video that the individuals that want to “develop” the Amazon are highly offended at the interference by NGOs that are trying to get them to stop. The quote is that those who want to prevent the burning of the rainforest are..

Enemies of Brazil!

This activity is already illegal and has been banned since 2006; however, the laws are not enforced. Brazil quadrupled its population in the seventy years since 1950. And most Brazilians are quite poor, which means that they are desperately unhappy with their slice of the resource pie.

If more Brazilians had the power, it is almost a certainty that even more rainforest would be burned every year.

Will AI solve this issue?

There were 30 environmental activists murdered in Brazil, most likely by the interests that they oppose. Can AI be used to educate them not to kill ecological activists?

Is there a neural network for that?

News coverage on the disappearing rainforest shown in this video goes back to the early 1980s. And nothing has changed even with all of the awareness. 

Climate Change Can be Mitigated with Microsoft AI?

Microsoft, a highly unethical company that is desperate to “greenwash” its reputation, provides grants for various AI projects for the environment. This is now standard with multinationals. They make claims about being concerned about the overall society, while directly engaging in profit maximization. 

Conclusion

Instead of listening to AI marketers or a software vendor like Microsoft that has a horrible ethical history and lies as it a person breathes, why not listen to climate experts?

Here is what the National Center for Climate Restoration has to say about the issue of climate change.

Climate change now represents a near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilisation. A new approach to climate-related security risk-management is thus required, giving particular attention to the high-end and difficult-to-quantify “fat-tail” possibilities.

To reduce such risks and to sustain human civilisation, it is essential to build a zero emissions industrial system very quickly. This requires the global mobilisation of resources on an emergency basis, akin to a wartime level of response.

As my colleague Professor Will Steffen has said of the climate challenge: “It’s not a technological or a scientific problem, it’s a question of humanities’ socio-political values… We need a social tipping point that flips our thinking before we reach a tipping point in the climate system.”

Climate-change impacts on food and water systems, declining crop yields and rising food prices driven by drought, wildfire and harvest failures have already become catalysts for social breakdown and conflict across the Middle East, the Maghreb and the Sahel, contributing to the European migration crisis.

An existential risk to civilisation is one posing permanent large negative consequences to humanity which may never be undone, either annihilating intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtailing its potential.

What can be done to avoid such a probable but catastrophic future? It is clear from our preliminary scenario that dramatic action is required this decade if the “hothouse Earth” scenario is to be avoided. To reduce this risk and protect human civilisation, a massive global mobilisation of resources is needed in the coming decade to build a zero-emissions industrial system and set in train the restoration of a safe climate. This would be akin in scale to the World War II emergency mobilisation.

What should become apparent is that its determination of the situation doesn’t have much to do with the quotes we have reviewed up to this point.

Climate change is predicted to force a mass climate exodus from the poorest countries. What are AI marketers and Microsoft’s recommendation for a shrinking ecological living space, while the population continues to increase? 

The quotations from AI marketers and Microsoft treat climate change as some issues that can be modified with some AI, and most importantly, they present the problem as one without sacrifice. However, the experts in climate change present the issue as an existential threat to all of humanity requiring immediate and massive adjustment by the global human population.

References

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/ai/ai-for-earth

*https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/06/05/artificial-intelligence-climate-environment/

https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/148cb0_a1406e0143ac4c469196d3003bc1e687.pdf