AI’s impact on environment

Training AI models requires significant energy consumption and emits large amounts of carbon emissions. However, there are differing opinions on whether AI’s environmental impact can be mitigated.

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The rapid rise of AI has raised concerns about its environmental impact, particularly in data centres. It is projected that by 2025, the IT industry could consume up to 20 percent of the world’s electricity and contribute approximately 5.5 percent of global carbon emissions.

The carbon problem associated with the AI industry primarily revolves around two crucial stages: training and deployment.

Training AI models requires vast amounts of energy and emits substantial carbon emissions. For example, the training of GPT-3, one of the models, resulted in 552 metric tons of carbon emissions, equivalent to driving a passenger vehicle for over 2 million kilometres. Nvidia, a chip giant supplying processors for training these AI models, plays a significant role in the carbon equation.

Deployment raises concerns about collective energy consumption resulting from AI’s widespread use. The energy consumption of AI models taking on real-world tasks, such as ChatGPT, has sparked justified concerns about its environmental impact.

To address these concerns, major tech companies are implementing sustainability initiatives. Interestingly, despite a significant workload increase, data centre energy usage only rose by 6 percent between 2010 and 2018.

However, some argue that the focus on AI’s carbon footprint may be misplaced. They propose that enhanced computing capabilities and widespread deployment of AI can ultimately offset its carbon footprint. Everyday devices could evolve into energy-efficient supercomputers, significantly reducing the energy needed for cloud-based data retrieval.

On the other hand, critics warn that the tech industry’s relentless pursuit of AI development has overlooked crucial environmental considerations. While corporations invest in AI deployment, they may conveniently ignore the environmental consequences associated with AI’s carbon footprint.

Why does it matter?

As AI continues to advance, the tech sector and policymakers face a crucial reckoning: Can it strike a balance between the transformative capabilities of AI and its substantial carbon footprint? The answer to this question will determine whether AI innovations become a blessing or a curse for both humanity and the planet.

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