AI Ambitions vs. Carbon Neutrality Goals

Justine Calma, writing for The Verge:

Microsoft’s producing a lot more planet-heating pollution now than it did when it made a bold climate pledge back in 2020. Its greenhouse gas emissions were actually around 30 percent higher in fiscal year 2023, showing how hard it could be for the company to meet climate goals as it simultaneously races to be a leader in AI.

Training and running AI models is an increasingly energy-hungry endeavor, and the impact that’s having on the climate is just starting to come into view. Microsoft’s latest sustainability report is a good case study in the conundrum facing big tech companies that made a slew of climate pledges in recent years but could wind up polluting more as they turn their focus to AI.

The Verge ran this under the headline “Microsoft’s AI Obsession Is Jeopardizing Its Climate Ambitions”, which I think correctly pegs Microsoft’s priorities. I wonder whether for Apple the problem is flipped, and Apple’s climate obsession is jeopardizing their AI ambitions? Apple has not backed off one iota from the goal it declared in 2020 to be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2030. At the time, the Apple Car struck me as the biggest obstacle to that goal. That’s not a problem now that they’ve cancelled Project Titan. But AI strikes me as the new biggest obstacle — a wildcard industry change they didn’t foresee in 2020.

Monday, 20 May 2024