AI could also reduce carbon emissions
Some climate experts also view artificial intelligence as a largely positive development. The United Nations Environment Programme has praised AI as a tool that can improve our understanding of our environmental impact and the effects of climate change.
Dr. Mohamed Abdul Aal, an expert in economics and artificial intelligence technology, told Al Majalla that it is difficult to identify precise figures or specific results related to artificial intelligence's impact on reducing the industrial sector's carbon footprint in general because the results may vary depending on the industry, company, and technologies used.
Yet, some studies and experiments indicate the potential for using intelligent energy data analysis to improve energy efficiency in the industry by up to 20%.
Many countries have used artificial intelligence in industries to reduce carbon footprints. In China, artificial intelligence has been adopted in numerous major industries, such as steel manufacturing and heavy industries. AI technologies have been used to enhance production processes and improve energy efficiency.
In Germany, artificial intelligence has been applied in the car industry and among small to medium-sized enterprises. It has been used to improve production processes, provide predictive maintenance for machinery and equipment, as well as enhance energy consumption efficiency and reduce emissions.
In the US, numerous companies rely on artificial intelligence technologies in various industries to enhance efficiency, reduce carbon footprint, generate energy from renewable sources, and improve the efficiency of electrical grids.
Nonetheless, Abdul Aal emphasised that artificial intelligence does leave a carbon footprint in certain cases: "In the context of artificial intelligence, the carbon footprint refers to the digital impact left by the AI system."
"It includes all digital activities produced by intelligent applications and systems, such as data usage, behaviour analysis, content delivery, and interaction with users," he explained, adding that: "secure encryption technologies can be applied to reduce the carbon footprint of AI applications. Much research and development is going on to improve privacy and security in this new field."
Professor Alaa El Nahry, Deputy Director of the Regional Center for Space Science and Technology Education for Western Asia (RCSSTE-WA) at the UN, referred in an interview with Al Majalla to statistics compiled in 2020 that ranked China as the world's largest source of carbon dioxide emissions. In that year, China emitted 10,668 million metric tons, followed by the US, with a total of 4,713 million metric tons.
India, Russia, and Japan were next in terms of the size of their emissions. The global annual average carbon footprint per person in 2020 was about 6.3 metric tonnes.
Climate-related forecasting and natural resource management
AI's ability to simulate human intelligence using techniques such as deep learning and its ability to apply the techniques at speed to interpret and analyse vast amounts of data with high levels of accuracy makes it ideal for use in understanding climate change.
It can improve the standard of climate-related forecasting. It can also be used in designing mathematical models for climate variations, ensuring the precision of climate forecasts for natural disasters like floods, thunderstorms, heavy rainfall, landslides, heat waves and cold snaps, hurricanes, droughts, and dust storms or snowstorms.
AI can also design models that quickly adapt to climate changes and provide practical strategies to mitigate their impacts.
AI can also be used in natural resource management through non-traditional methods, including precision farming, to improve agricultural production with lower methane emissions.
It can also develop accurate predictive models for crop needs, how to deal with rainy and dry periods, improve energy distribution and storage systems, and enhance their efficiency. This, in turn, reduces dependence on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions associated with global warming.
And so the immense potential of artificial intelligence in combating climate change cannot be denied. However, it is important to address related challenges and concerns to ensure its effective and safe use.