Can A.I. Save The Planet? We Ask It To Help…

By Mark Campbell, GreenGreenGreen Editor

There’s a lot of fear of Artificial Intelligence (AI). It’s becoming so smart, it could take the place of humans… which – bear with me – might not be a bad thing for the planet.

Humans are messing things up badly. We’ve engineered a climate breakdown and a biodiversity emergency. Perhaps a more intelligent form of life might do a better job at saving life on Earth? Maybe AI will want to save humans, too?!

There was only one way to find out. I had a chat with the new version of ChatGPT (4o to its friends) to get its unique, emotionless, overview of the problems we face – and how best to fix them…

Hello Chat GPT 4o, good to, er, meet you…. Now, given the fact that humans can be stupid – I mean, we have both positive and negative traits – will we ever be able to save life on Earth from suffering through the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis?

Human beings possess a mix of positive and negative traits that can significantly influence their ability to address the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.

Positive traits such as empathy, open-mindedness, and courage enable people to recognize the importance of these issues, collaborate on solutions, and take bold actions to protect the planet.

On the other hand, negative traits such as greed, indifference, and shortsightedness can hinder progress by promoting behaviours that contribute to environmental degradation.

The intertwined nature of climate change and biodiversity loss requires comprehensive and simultaneous action to effectively tackle both crises. Despite the severity of these challenges, human history demonstrates a capacity for innovation and resilience in the face of adversity.

Efforts to mitigate climate change and preserve biodiversity are already underway, driven by scientific advancements, environmental activism, and policy initiatives.

While the outcome is uncertain, the potential for positive human traits to drive significant progress offers hope that humanity can indeed save life on Earth.

That sounds partially encouraging, but leading climate scientists now predict that the world will miss its 1.5 degrees target when it comes to global warming. By a long way. Many predict that the temperature will be 3 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2050. What significant impacts would this have on life?

If global temperatures rise by 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050, the impacts on life on Earth would be severe and widespread.

Can you list these impacts, as AI likes to do?

  1. Extreme Weather Events: Increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves, droughts, and heavy rainfall, leading to more severe natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires.
  2. Sea Level Rise: Significant sea level rise, threatening coastal communities and potentially displacing millions of people. Around 12% of the current global population could be at risk due to long-term sea level rise.
  3. Ecosystem Disruption: Major disruptions to ecosystems and biodiversity loss. Many species may face extinction due to changing habitats and extreme weather conditions.
  4. Agricultural Impact: Decline in agricultural productivity due to altered weather patterns and increased pest and disease outbreaks. This could lead to food shortages and increased prices.
  5. Human Health Risks: Increased health risks, including heat-related illnesses, respiratory problems from worsening air quality, and the spread of infectious diseases due to changing ecosystems.

The cumulative effect of these impacts underscores the urgent need for aggressive climate action to mitigate these risks.

But seriously, given the track record of politicians, who can be blinded by greed, how likely is it that aggressive climate action will be taken?

The likelihood of aggressive climate action being taken is significantly hindered by corruption and greed among politicians.

Corruption undermines the effectiveness of climate policies and projects, often diverting resources away from crucial initiatives and reducing the overall impact of efforts to combat climate change.

Despite the challenges, there are still reasons for cautious optimism. Increasing public awareness, pressure from civil society, and the growing importance of transparency and accountability in governance can drive politicians to take more decisive and honest actions against climate change.

Hmmmm. We’re screwed, aren’t we?

While the situation regarding climate change and biodiversity loss is dire, it’s not entirely hopeless. There are viable solutions that can help mitigate these crises if implemented effectively and urgently.

Go on then…

  1. Nature-Based Solutions, such as conserving and restoring ecosystems, can be highly effective in addressing both climate change and biodiversity loss. These solutions can sequester carbon, protect biodiversity, and enhance ecosystem resilience.
  2. Addressing the interconnected nature of climate and biodiversity crises requires a holistic approach. Integrated policies that unite climate action with biodiversity conservation can create synergies and amplify positive outcomes.
  3. International cooperation and strong political will are essential. Collaborative efforts across nations can lead to more substantial and coordinated actions to tackle these global challenges.
  4. Increasing public awareness and mobilising grassroots movements can pressure governments and corporations to act more decisively. Community-driven initiatives and sustainable practices can contribute significantly to global efforts.

While the road ahead is challenging, taking these comprehensive and concerted actions can make a substantial difference in mitigating the impacts of climate change and preserving biodiversity.

You seem to have a lot of faith in humans… but what if AI was in command? Would AI fix the problems, and sooner?

If Artificial Intelligence were in command of tackling climate change, its approach would likely be multifaceted, utilising data analysis, predictive modelling and automation to address various environmental challenges.

Sounds interesting. Can you give some examples of how AI would make things better?

   • Automated Emissions Monitoring: AI could automate the analysis of power plants’ emissions by regularly analyzing images and other data sources to track and reduce greenhouse gas outputs.

   • Predictive Weather Modelling: Advanced AI tools would enhance weather predictions, helping to prepare for and mitigate the effects of climate-related disasters.

   • Environmental Surveillance: Utilising AI for tracking icebergs and detecting plastic pollution in the oceans would improve efforts to protect marine ecosystems.

   • Waste Management: AI could revolutionise recycling processes and waste management, ensuring more efficient use of resources and reduction of landfill use.

   • Energy Optimisation: AI technologies could optimise energy use in various sectors, reducing overall carbon footprints by managing demand and supply more efficiently.

   • Research and Development: Accelerating the development of green technologies and renewable energy solutions by analyzing vast datasets to identify viable new materials and processes.

You’re hired! Oh hang on… that’s not a very compehensive job interview. Tell me, would AI be distracted by selfish interests when tackling climate change?

Artificial Intelligence itself lacks human emotions or desires, such as greed or selfishness. It operates based on the algorithms and objectives programmed by humans.

The direction and impact of AI in climate change efforts depend largely on the goals set by its developers and the entities deploying AI technologies. If designed, programmed, and used with the primary aim of combating climate change, AI can be a powerful tool for achieving sustainability goals.

It can optimize energy efficiency, enhance renewable energy sources, and improve waste management without being influenced by profit motives.

However, the application of AI is subject to the priorities of businesses, governments, and individuals who deploy it. If these stakeholders prioritise financial gain over environmental sustainability, the deployment of AI could be directed in ways that do not align with climate change mitigation or could even exacerbate environmental problems.

So, at the moment, it’s all down to human behaviour. Even if AI is asked to help?

AI has the potential to significantly impact the fight against climate change and the restoration of biodiversity, leveraging strengths that differ from human capabilities.

AI’s approach to problem-solving is fundamentally data-driven, allowing for the analysis of vast amounts of information at speeds and scales beyond human capacity. This enables AI to identify patterns, predict outcomes, and suggest interventions with a precision that humans alone cannot match.

However, the success of AI in these areas depends on human guidance, ethical considerations, and collaborative efforts with indigenous knowledge.

While AI brings unparalleled analytical and predictive power, humans provide contextual understanding, moral judgement, and creativity in problem-solving. Integrating artificial with indigenous intelligence shows promise in creating holistic and effective solutions to environmental challenges.

Therefore, while AI may not be more likely than humans on its own to combat climate change and restore biodiversity, its collaborative use with human intelligence, ethical oversight, and traditional knowledge forms a powerful alliance that is likely more effective than either entity operating in isolation.

Then let’s work together. For the good of the world.

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