AI is a growing problem for the planet, says UN Development Programme
The chief digital officer of the United Nations (UN) Development Programme, Robert Opp, has warned the growth of AI and its impact on the planet needs to be addressed.
At the Web Summit in Lisbon last week, Opp said: “It’s concerning that with the growth of artificial intelligence, the growth of distributed ledger technologies, and the general addition of data, how the storage of that data is generating carbon [emissions].”
Opp added that the UNDP is “aware that it’s a growing problem and needs to be addressed”.
As it stands, data storage centres are responsible for 2% of global carbon emissions, and that figure is expected to grow to 8% by 2030.
The chief digital officer said that the UNDP is working with partner agencies like the UN Environment Programme, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and others to “look for opportunities to bring in companies, and others working on those kind of technologies, to make technology more sustainable”.
Earlier this year, the UN and the ITU (the UN’s specialised agency for information and communication technologies) hosted an AI for Good conference, that also focused on how artificial intelligence can help the planet, too.
The ITU’s secretary-general, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, stressed at the conference that only 12% (now 15%) of the goals for its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were on track, while issues such as the global temperature and poverty were on the rise.
For this reason: “Using AI to help put the 2030 agenda back on track is no longer an opportunity, it’s actually our responsibility,” she said.
At Web Summit, Opp also mentioned that “there’s a huge number” of technologies growing in helping with sustainability, which companies can partner with to help become more environmentally friendly.
“We look at a lot of things like IoT technologies, so sensors that can help farmers be more efficient in climate adaptation,” Opp said.
“We are also building open-source platforms for carbon registering for national entities that want to track and trace their commitments to the Paris Agreement in terms of reduction of carbon emissions,” he added.
“Those are a few things, but there are many more,” as outlined in it’s recently launched SDG Digital Development Agenda.
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