AI: Why Google's greenhouse gas emissions increased 48% in five years | Science and Technology News

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The tech giant has set a goal of reaching net-zero emissions by the end of the decade, but now it's entering an artificial intelligence (AI) race and admits that reducing energy use from current levels “may be difficult.”

by Connor Sefton, News Reporter Connor Sefton

Wednesday, July 3, 2024 15:17 UK

Google has admitted that its greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 48% over the past five years, with artificial intelligence being a major culprit and undermining climate change goals.

AI systems require massive amounts of computing power, which is putting a strain on the data centers of tech giants around the world.

In its latest environmental report, Google warned that reducing those emissions “can be difficult,” especially as it builds new infrastructure.

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Earlier this year the company announced it would invest £788 million in new data centres in the UK to directly meet growing data demand. artificial intelligence.

But all of this comes as Google moves closer to its self-imposed goal of achieving net-zero emissions by the end of the decade.

As the adoption of AI expands, concerns are growing about its impact on climate change.

A recent study by the International Energy Agency predicts that the amount of electricity used by data centers could double between 2022 and 2026.

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According to Google's figures, most of the company's data centers in Europe and the Americas get most of their energy from carbon-free sources, but that hasn't always been the case.

That's because facilities in the Middle East, Asia and Australia use a much lower percentage of their energy from cleaner sources.

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Google The company claims it is “aggressively addressing” the “significant challenges” it faces, but some of the efforts rolled out to reduce emissions may not have an immediate effect.

The report adds: “While we have made progress on clean energy in many of the grids in which we operate, there are still some regions, such as Asia Pacific, where CFE (carbon-free energy) is not readily available and decarbonization is difficult.”

“Furthermore, clean energy projects often require longer lead times between the initial investment and construction and the resulting greenhouse gas reductions.”

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Google further argued that AI could eventually help the world reach key climate goals and improve weather forecasting. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates shares a similar view..

But Lisa Sachs of the Columbia Center for Sustainable Investment said Google needs to do more to work with cleaner companies and invest in the power grid.

“The reality is that in terms of moving forward with the transition, we're way behind where we can be with the technology and resources we have today,” she said.

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While Sachs praised Google for its candidacy, he warned that thorough discussions were needed “to make sure things don't get worse before they get better.”

Amanda Smith, a senior scientist at climate nonprofit Project Drawdown, added that AI should be used responsibly and only if the resulting energy consumption benefits society.

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