AI has caused Google's greenhouse gas emissions to increase 48% since 2019

AI For Business

Google aims to be net-zero emissions by 2030, but its investments in AI are making that environmental goal harder.

Google released its 2024 environmental report on Tuesday, reporting that its greenhouse gas emissions have increased by nearly 50% over the past four years. The tech giant's emissions for 2023 will total 14.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, up 13% from 2022 and 48% from 2019.

Energy consumed in data centers and Google's supply chain contributed the largest amount to the increase.

“As AI is further integrated into products, the increased intensity of AI computing could increase energy demands and make it harder to reduce emissions,” Google wrote.

Related: Google says election ads using deepfakes must be labeled

The company also expects increased investment in the technological infrastructure needed for AI to drive up emissions even further.

A sign outside Google's campus in Mountain View, California. Photo by Mike Kai Chen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

AI complicates the net-zero goal that Google set three years ago to balance emissions and removals until carbon emissions reach net zero.

Google acknowledges this challenge multiple times in its environmental reports, saying that the future environmental impacts of AI are “complex and difficult to predict.”

At the same time, Google foregrounded AI's potential to address climate change in the report, highlighting a 2021 Boston Consulting Group study that claims AI could reduce overall emissions by 5% to 10%.

“AI has a critical role to play in accelerating mitigation, supporting adaptation, and building foundational capabilities for the transition to a low-carbon future,” Google writes.

Google has made several AI products publicly available, including an overview of AI in search and AI integrations with Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Sheets.

Related: Google adds Gemini AI to Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drive

The tech giant isn't the only one feeling the energy downside of AI: Microsoft, which has a goal of becoming net-zero by 2030, also reported in May that its emissions increased by 30% from 2020 to 2023.

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