Climate change is without doubt the most pressing of our problems. For context, Dr Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion took to the stage to paint a desperate picture of ecological collapse, and of economic and societal disintegration following in its wake. “I expect to die,” said Bradbrook, “I expect my children to die. How are we to live in these times?”
Economist Kate Raworth believes that we should redesign our economies for a start. She proposes a model called ‘the doughnut,’ which delineates a safe space in which nations can meet the needs of their citizens while ensuring they don’t overshoot planetary boundaries. “If AI is not in service of this,” said Raworth, “what the hell is it doing?”
If apocalyptic scenarios are not motivation enough, Celine Herweijer, partner in PwC’s Innovation and Sustainability practice, shared research that forecasts a $5.2 trillion opportunity for AI across the agriculture, water, transport and energy sectors alone, as well as a potential 4% reduction in greenhouse gases.
Across the conference, speakers highlighted many of the ways artificial intelligence (AI) is already contributing to the climate fight. Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the tech giant, is funding a project which uses satellite imagery to track, quantify and publicise carbon emissions from power plants. The Small Robot Company is using AI-powered robots to help farmers minimize the use of chemicals and limit carbon emissions. For the near term, Global Thermostat has developed a cutting-edge climate solution that captures carbon from the air, then puts it to commercial use or stores it permanently underground.
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