How AI and Data Science can help fight Climate Change

mediumThis post was originally published by Saptarshi Mukerji at Medium [AI]

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Can AI and Data Science be the Game Changer for solving Climate Change

Climate change is an undeniable reality and steps are being taken to reverse the damage already done. In order to prepare for the future, research scientists and data scientists are leveraging modern day technology like A.I. & Machine Learning algorithms to churn through zeta bytes of data to predict the future.

It has been acknowledged that it is the responsibility of nations, governments, scientists, companies and individuals, to contribute to reducing the carbon footprint and finding solutions for climate change and global warming. The consequences of continuing to ignore this issue has already been felt with an increase in climate disasters like floods, droughts and bush fires, resulting in knock-on effects for living beings such as scarcity of food, destruction of our earth’s ecosystem and pandemic diseases impacting the entire human race. .

While the world is currently grappling with the huge loss of life that has occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mortality as a result of climate change is expected to be much worse. In his blog, Gates Notes, Bill Gates explained that under the current model, by the end of the century deaths from climate change will be at 87 deaths per 100,000 people per year. The annualised death rate for the COVID-19 pandemic as of August 2020 was 14 per 100,000.

The ability to enforce a change on the worst contributors to climate change was proven most recently by the response to the pandemic, mainly the compulsory lockdowns of cities and countries. Data from the European Space Agency following the lockdowns of major European cities showed a significant decrease in nitrogen dioxide concentrations as people stopped driving, businesses closed and flights were grounded.

Future generations may well have occasion to ask themselves, “What were our parents thinking? Why didn’t they wake up when they had a chance?” We have to hear that question from them, now. ” Al Gore

While there are these overarching ideas and solutions of how we can avoid catastrophic consequences, such as reducing carbon emissions, cutting down on plastic, alternative plant based food supply and halting deforestation, data scientists and researchers are looking at how they can use their skills and advanced AI technologies to take specific actions to combat climate change and find ways to adapt global warming. Banks like HSBC in 2020, set out ambitious plans to prioritise financing and investments that support the transition to a net zero global economy.

Using data science to better understand climate change

According to NASA, we are already past the point of stopping climate change entirely but we are still able to limit its effects. As a result, humans will need to be able to predict what will happen to efficiently adapt in time.

Since climate change affects the entire planet, data on all parts of the planet are required to fight it. Previously collating and sharing this data would have been unimaginable but as technology has stepped up, so has our ability to generate and pull together masses of climate data.

This has allowed data scientists to push forward on projects that can provide the vast global outlook needed to initiate responses to the climate crisis across sectors, from agriculture to finance.

The Alan Turing Institute is one such group working to initiate projects based on data science to get down to the smallest details on climate change and find solutions. In one project, PhD students created a new solar forecasting system which improved day-ahead forecasts for the national grid in the UK by 33%. This helps improve the balance of supply and demand which has become harder to ensure as greener energy sources like wind and solar are introduced.

In East Africa, satellite and social data are being used to measure and advance the impact of tree planting schemes which help subsistence farmers ensure they can grow their crops. Using Google Earth Engine satellite imagery, the project can identify indicators for drought and help communities plan accordingly.

AI as an optimisation solution

Artificial Intelligence is also an important area that is already being investigated as a solution to some of the world’s most significant climate change concerns. A big factor is the ability of algorithms and machine learning to optimise well beyond the capacity of humans.

In the report How AI Can Enable a Sustainable Future by Microsoft and PwC, it is calculated that AI has the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 4%. The Capgemini Research Institute also found that AI should improve power efficiency by 15% globally should it be implemented properly.

While these are simply predictions, there are concrete examples of how AI is already being used in projects addressing climate change.

In the research paper, Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning, the researchers explained how oil and gas companies are already using machine learning to identify subsurface traces of carbon dioxide. They believe this could be modified to assist with carbon sequestering, a way to capture carbon dioxide and remove it from the atmosphere and thereby remove the dangerous impact it has on the atmosphere.

In the US, AI is being used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to build prediction models for extreme weather events. This is vital as disastrous weather phenomena like hurricanes and typhoons are already worsening. Better predictions mean there is time to ensure more people are safe and that homes can be protected.

The contribution of data science and artificial intelligence to understanding and finding solutions for climate change will only grow over the century. AI is still a fairly new field and global dedication to climate science has only picked up recently in earnest. These solutions will not entirely solve the problems that humans around the world will face but provide a better chance, deeper insight and focused response that is worthwhile getting behind.

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This post was originally published by Saptarshi Mukerji at Medium [AI]

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