Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Despite increasing global consensus about the urgency of reducing emissions since the 1980s, they continue to rise relentlessly. We look to technology to deliver us from climate change, preferably without sacrificing economic growth. Our optimistic--some would say techno-utopian--visions of the future involve vast arrays of solar panels, machines that suck carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere, and replacing fossil fuels for transport and heating with electricity generated by renewable means. This is nothing less than rebuilding our civilization on stable, sustainable foundations.
This article was first published in Branch magazine, an online collaboration between EIT Climate-KIC, Mozilla Foundation and Climate Action.tech A global pandemic has shocked the world, leading to thousands of deaths, economic hardship and profound social disruption. While we worry about our immediate needs, we should remember that another crisis is looming: climate change. The lockdown made it clear that staying at home and slowing down the economy is far from enough to solve the climate crisis. We're still emitting more than 80 per cent as much CO2 as normal, despite having 17 per cent fewer emissions compared to 2019 -- which is one of the most significant drops in recent years (1).
Our planet is a mess. The past four years have been the four hottest on record, and July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded. Greenland is expected to lose 440 billion tons of ice this year, a rate that was the "worst-case scenario" for 2070. The West is on fire, the middle of the country is flooded, and the Atlantic is seeing hurricanes of increasing frequency and intensity. In Alaska, salmon are dying because of the heat. All the while, the top 5 US oil and gas companies posted revenues over $760 billion (1), and the federal government subsidized the industry to the tune of $26 billion annually (2). Climate change is an existential threat, and we need to recognize that we're already living through the negative effects. The increase in natural disasters is costing us hundreds of billions of dollars, and the total cost of climate change will run into the trillions while taking an untold number of lives. And the people who are most affected by these impacts of climate change are the least able to deal with it – economically disadvantaged and minority communities face a disproportionate burden. The right time to deal with this crisis was decades ago. We've waited too long, so we need to act fast and recognize that all options need to be on the table in order to adapt to the changed world we live in while mitigating behaviors that make it worse and reversing the damage we've already done. We can't dismiss any ideas – especially not those that have support from the scientific community – or rule anything out because it doesn't fit our ideological framework. Why have we so far barely made a dent in what we need to do in order to combat this crisis? When 78% of our fellow Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, it's hard to mobilize people to care about the massive problem of climate change. Many think, "I can't pay my bills. The penguins will have to wait." It's impossible to think about the future if you can't feed your kids today. We need to get the economic boot off of the throats of our fellow Americans so everyone can get their heads up and start facing this threat head-on. We need to bring the full force of America to bear on this problem, or we will fail, and the world will suffer.
Some of the biggest names in AI research have laid out a road map suggesting how machine learning can help save our planet and humanity from imminent peril. The report covers possible machine-learning interventions in 13 domains, from electricity systems to farms and forests to climate prediction. Within each domain, it breaks out the contributions for various subdisciplines within machine learning, including computer vision, natural-language processing, and reinforcement learning. Recommendations are also divided into three categories: "high leverage" for problems well suited to machine learning where such interventions may have an especially great impact; "long-term" for solutions that won't have payoffs until 2040; and "high risk" for pursuits that have less certain outcomes, either because the technology isn't mature or because not enough is known to assess the consequences. Many of the recommendations also summarize existing efforts that are already happening but not yet at scale.
"I don't want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act on changing the climate"– Greta Thunberg Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl, who is famously called as a climate change warrior. She has started an international youth movement against climate change and has been nominated as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize 2019 for climate activism. According to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel (IPCC), climate change is seen as the top global threat by many countries.