Green AI as a sustainable solution for climate change and poverty alleviation.

By Helio Junior

Image: ITU Image source

For many years economies and governments suffered inefficient and prejudicial resources management, promoting environmental degradation, global warming, uncontrolled technology and social exclusion. So, during the outbreak of COVID-19, governments increasingly required new measures and green initiatives to maximise well-being and prevent future disasters. Therefore, recovery from the pandemic prejudices and being aware of sustainable innovations in key sectors is a challenge. As approached in the previous posts AI makes "whatever" we teach it, even unethical requirements, for example, manipulating a huge amount of private data, modifying human autonomy, creating algorithmic biases, and maximizing cyberattacks. However, improving life quality and embracing sustainable principles based on a transparent use of Artificial Intelligence can be a powerful initiative. Green AI is a great strategy to reduce climate change, not to mention mitigate poverty levels around the world promoting diversity and inclusive opportunities for all communities.

Inclusivity, transparency, innovation and security these are some illustrations of key values of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Today’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) era has just begun, thus, according to ITU, Artificial Intelligence (AI) specialists and leaders in humanitarian affairs are collaborating to develop a eco-friendly AI able to maximize sustainability, globally. AI proposes a sustainable revolutionary process in the way sustainability works, it suggests techniques that can be applied to promote significant social,/environmental/economic outcomes highlighting opportunities to achieve a global scale goals through green AI implementation.

Moreover, AI implementation in agriculture, water management, energy consumption and transport are expected to accelerate sustainable agendas and increase productivity. Microsoft in association with PWC said:

"Using AI for environmental applications has the potential to boost global GDP by 3.1 – 4.4%10 while also reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by around 1.5 – 4.0% by 2030 relative to Business as Usual (BAU)11."

In addition, it was also estimated that approximately US$3.6 – 5.2 trillion of profit while applying AI in key sectors, which experiences a high level of productivity due to changing from manual tasks to automation. But what about job reduction due to Robotic Process Automation (RPA)? PWC confirms that AI applications will create around 18.4 – 38.2 million new types of jobs, which simultaneously will professionally qualify vulnerable communities, promoting digital inclusion in this technological transition. Also, the UN Sustainable Development Goals with sustainable applications of AI has the potential to improve intelligent grid systems through a deep predictive capability resulting in energy control. Not to mention, AI application in water management can monitor water crisis, contamination or overuse, which can also reduce waste impacts.

However, businesses that are not like-minded in sustainable investment might consider green technology as expensive and regressive to their economy. So, sustainable agreements can counter criticism and help to implement green ideas that work for a sector, for example, AI automation in agriculture that results in more promising productivity and higher income.

In recent years, urban crises including unsustainable agriculture (poor nutritional quality), lack of regulation on industrial sectors, pandemics, climate change, social disparities and natural disasters have been accentuated, this way, projects regarding AI for Smart City Transformation appears to combat many issues. The advancements in AI with predictive as well as fast outcome delivery can contribute for sustainability in cities. According to UBS, Shenzhen in China took the first steps combing technology and sustainability to regenerate urban areas. Through smart infrastructure projects, Shenzhen's abandoned industrial areas and buildings were transformed into ecological urbanized zones promoting relevant outcomes on real estate prices through renting these areas for eco-friendly companies, who follow China's steps with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to address climate change mitigation. Urban Green Structures guided by AI perform an essential role by collecting rainwater, which can be converted into energy or filtered water for human use. Due to the region's subtropical weather, Shenzhen's smart infrastructures can regulate the urban climate environment avoiding the purchase of harmful air conditioning. Subsequently, it corrects the air pollution level and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to reduce constraints, governments and industries need to adopt ethical principles based on fairness, transparency and prioritising environmental concerns. This way, innovation and regulation need to work together to transform traditional policies and train individuals for a resilient future, where everything will be digitalised. Green incentives on eco-friendly regions or industries are a great way to ensure that industries around the world are following sustainable, accountable, and explainable guidelines. So, programming a Green AI requires a bias-free system that follows responsible and explainable standards, whose objective is to mitigate climate change and alleviate poverty.

Image: Majorel Image source