• AI has been touted as a powerful tool to help tackle global crises, such as climate change.
  • Saving trees with AI ‘guardians’
  • Deforestation and land use changes cause more than 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Trees absorb carbon dioxide and store it for long periods of time, and when they’re cut down, much of that CO2 escapes into the atmosphere
  • 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.
  • Almost 600 of these devices, dubbed “guardians,” have been installed in 35 countries.
  • A recent report estimated that by empowering authorities to use AI tools to preempt the destruction of rainforests, governments could save around 29 gigatons of emissions by 2030.

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.
  • A US company has been working with five American steel plants and AI to reduce the amount of mined ingredients by up to a third.
  • AI-driven optimization software learns from historical data to recommend the minimum amount of new additional material that needs to be added.
  • According to a report by the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, Fero Labs has prevented an estimated 450,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year by skipping the mining, smelting and transporting of these alloys.

Cutting energy waste in buildings

  • In Hong Kong, energy use in buildings is responsible for about 60% of the city’s carbon emissions.
  • Design firm Arup came 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.
  • According to the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence report, these tweaks can save 10-30% of the energy used in a typical commercial building.

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.
  • The South Africa-based company Rouxcel Technology 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.
  • It then sends an alert to wildlife operations centers and anti-poaching teams.

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.
  • Agriculture, forestry and land use account for around 18% of global CO2 emissions.
  • And then there’s the fact that agriculture irrigation is responsible for 70% of water use worldwide.
  • Germany-based startup Agvolution has developed an AI system that draws on data from solar-powered sensors monitoring the microclimate around crops.
  • The devices measure temperature, humidity, radiation and soil moisture in the field, while algorithms use these insights 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.
  • The company says this can increase ecological and economic efficiency by up to 40%.
  • Using computers to plot clouds
  • When clouds move over solar panels, the power supply can suddenly drop off.
  • That’s a problem for network operators who are trying to balance the grid and prevent blackouts.
  • 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.
  • 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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