Tackling Climate Change using AI
Recently, Berkley University has launched a new initiative that aims to bridge the gap between artificial intelligence and climate related fields, as Students at Berkley have discovered a large gap in the application of AI technology within the field of climate change. In fact, students have realised that less than 1% of publications at prestigious AI conferences mention ‘climate’ at all, which seems a real shame given the potential insight this technology could bring.
Climate researchers have had a challenging time coping with the scope of the issue that is the climate crisis, with so much complicated data to handle and limited manpower. So, Berkley’s initiative hopes to use AI to take this complex data and scale it up much faster.
Project 1: The Fate of Snow
The first project to launch is called “The Fate of Snow”, which is a collaboration between academics from within Berkley University, Meta AI and the Centre for Western Weather and Water Extremes. The project will be using AI to predict water availability within regions that rely on snowmelt for water consumption- which is a persistent issue that effects around 1.2 billion people worldwide. In a nutshell, they’ll use AI methods to predict how much water is in the snow and forecast what this means for streamflow across the region.
“Between 60 and 90 percent of the world’s population relies in whole or in part on water that’s derived from mountains. So, we really need to have a good sense of how much water is available for ecosystems, for society – especially for vulnerable populations,” says Feldman, a staff scientist at Berkeley Lab.
AI techniques will be used in combination with measurements obtained from aircraft observations of snow, alongside gathering public data from weather and satellite sources. This information will be combined, using AI, to provide a view of the lifecycle of the snow. This can then be used to predict the regions access to water over a period of time, allowing society to react accordingly.
The project primarily focuses on the Sierra Nevuda mountains, but following successful results there is no doubt the same approach can be applied to other regions of the world.
Despite the hope this brings, critics do warn against using this kind of technology being used to solve climate issues as it can often be highly energy intensive and environmentally damaging. They warn that using AI for this purpose could end up being counter-productive and a “costly distraction” away from an important issue that should be tackled in a different way.
It is interesting to see the usefulness that AI technology can bring to important societal issues such as climate change. Let’s hope this is one of many scenarios whereby technology can be used to provoke positive societal improvements.
What do you think to Berkley’s intervention, will AI help us to solve to the climate crisis?
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