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AI Weekly: What ML practitioners are doing about climate change

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A lot happened this week deserving of attention in the AI space. The Guardian wrote an article with GPT-3 and again demonstrated that no matter what OpenAI paid to train and create the language model, the free marketing might be worth more. After losing the JEDI cloud contract appeal with the Pentagon, Amazon appointed Keith Alexander to its board -- the man who oversaw the National Security Agency mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden leaks in 2013. And Portland passed the strictest facial recognition bans in U.S. history, outlawing government and business use of the technology. However, AI Weekly attempts to reach into the zeitgeist and highlight important events on people's minds. This week without question it's the smoke that's hung over the western United States and the underlying issue of climate change.


This Al Gore-supported project uses AI to track the world's emissions in near real time

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"Although scientists have a good understanding how much carbon is in the atmosphere, it's surprisingly tough to trace where those emissions come from," says Gavin McCormick, the founder of a nonprofit called WattTime that also makes technology that enables smart devices to automatically reduce emissions. The startup is working with several other climate and tech organizations and the former vice president Al Gore on the new project. Right now, McCormick says, most emissions data is self-reported, and it can sometimes take years for the data to be gathered. "We think that technology, in particular AI and satellites, have the potential to change that pretty profoundly, which can influence sort of any sector that depends on really knowing where emissions are coming from to make good decisions," he says. "The time lag in current data makes it often non-actionable," says Gore, who has been helping structure the project to have the maximum impact on the climate crisis and enlisting partners for financial and strategic support.


Artificial Intelligence and Satellite Technology to Enhance Carbon Tracking Measures

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New carbon emission tracking technology will quantify emissions of greenhouse gas, holding the energy industry accountable for its CO2 output. Backed by Google, this cutting-edge initiative will be known as Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions). Advanced AI and machine learning now make it possible to trace greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from factories, power plants and more. By using image processing algorithms to detect carbon emissions from power plants, AI technology makes use of the growing global satellite network to develop a more comprehensive global database of power plant activity. Because most countries self-report emissions and manually compile results, scientists often rely on data that is several years out of date.


An environmental nonprofit takes on AI "sprint week"

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This May, the global group of Google AI Impact Challenge grantees gathered in San Francisco to kick off the six-month Launchpad Accelerator program. With $25 million in funding from Google.org, credits from Google Cloud and mentorship by Google's AI experts, the teams sought to apply AI to address a wide range of problems problems, from protecting rainforests to coaching students on writing skills. Now in the second phase of the program, Tech Sprint Week, the grantees tackled their projects' greatest technical challenges with support from a team of mentors from Google. At Google for Startups' campus in London, teams continued work on their ideas and learned user experience design principles along the way. Grace Mitchell, a data scientist at grantee WattTime, opened up about her team's experience at Tech Sprint Week--and how they're using AI to build a globally accessible, open-source fossil fuel emissions monitoring platform for power plants.


WattTime, Carbon Tracker, and Google Team Up to Measure Global Power Plant Emissions - The Planetary Press

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On May 7th, WattTime announced a new project in collaboration with Carbon Tracker, Google, and the World Resources Institute (WRI). The project will quantify carbon emissions from all of the world's largest power plants by utilizing AI technology. Data collected will be made available in a public database. The data is intended to hold the polluting plants accountable to environmental standards and enable advanced new emissions reduction technologies. But through the growing power of AI, our little coalition of nonprofits is about to lift that veil all over the world, all at once," said Gavin McCormick, Executive Director of WattTime. "To think that today a little team like ours can use emerging AI remote sensing techniques to hold every powerful polluter worldwide accountable is pretty incredible.