How AI can help the environment

What’s the News?

  • New tools like ChatGPT have generated a huge amount of interest in artificial intelligence in the past few months. But AI-powered technology has already been playing a growing role in our lives and economies for some time.
  • Artificial Intelligence(AI) has been touted as a powerful tool to help tackle environmental challenges such as climate change.
What are the ways in which AI can help the environment?
Saving trees with AI: 
  • Deforestation and land use changes cause more than 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • To curb illegal land clearing, the nonprofit Rainforest Connection attaches acoustic monitoring sensors to trees that “eavesdrop” on the surrounding forest and transmit that audio in real-time to the cloud.
  •  A Non-profit organization’s “Guardian” devices attach acoustic monitoring sensors to trees to detect sounds associated with illegal logging.
Shrinking the carbon footprint of steel
  • Materials such as steel and cement are important components in construction. But they’re also heavy CO2 emitters, making decarbonizing these industries a priority.
  • Steel production alone accounts for around a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing sector. 
  • Fero Labs’ AI-driven optimization software learns from historical data to recommend the minimum amount of mined ingredients or alloys required in steel production.
Cutting energy waste in buildings
  • In Hong Kong, energy use in buildings is responsible for about 60% of the city’s carbon emissions. 
  • A Design firm has come up with an app called Neuron that uses 5G and Internet of Things sensors to gather real-time data from a building’s energy management system. 
  •  It then uses an algorithm to analyze this data and optimize the heating and cooling system, as well as make predictions for the building’s future energy demand.

Fighting poaching with algorithms

  • Poaching and habitat destruction caused rhino numbers to dwindle throughout the 20th century. Most species are now considered endangered and mainly survive in protected reserves or sanctuaries, but they’re still targeted for their horns.
  • A South Africa-based company has developed AI-enabled bracelets that fit around rhinos’ ankles to help conservation teams easily locate the animals and monitor their behavior in real time.
  • The company’s algorithms use machine learning to spot when an animal is exhibiting abnormal movement patterns — a signal that it might be distressed, for example, if poachers are close.
  • It then sends an alert to wildlife operations centers and anti-poaching teams. The devices are being used at different sites from Kenya down to South Africa.

Smart farming

  • Agriculture is vulnerable to climate change, with unpredictable temperatures, more frequent extreme weather events and invasive pests all posing a risk to crop yields.
  • At the same time, the farming sector itself contributes to the problem — agriculture, forestry and land use account for around 18% of global CO2 emissions.
  • A Germany-based startup has developed an AI system that draws on data from solar-powered sensors monitoring the microclimate around crops.
  • This data can be used to make precise recommendations about plant health and exactly how much water and fertilizer to use. This can both boost yields and reduce wasted resources.

​​Using computers to plot clouds

  • Ramping up renewable energy is a crucial step in transitioning away from fossil fuels. But with clean energy sources such as solar making up a bigger share of the energy mix, ensuring power grids are stable becomes more tricky.
  • But when clouds move over solar panels, the power supply can suddenly drop off. 
  • To fill any gaps, they need to have generation reserves running in the background that can quickly be ramped up when there’s risk of a power shortage. And these reserves usually come from fossil fuels.
  • Nonprofit Open Climate Fix has teamed up with the UK’s National Grid and uses AI to provide a precise picture of how clouds develop — the goal being to reduce the reliance on fossil-powered reserves.

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