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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Artificial intelligence as potent tool to combat climate change

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is already making inroads worldwide in health, education and industry, but how can this cutting-edge technology help the world combat and mitigate the effects of climate change?

The recent launch of the UN-led AI Advisory Body advanced a growing global trend to harness machine learning to find solutions to common challenges. AI is upping the data crunching game and a growing number of governments, businesses and civil society partners are working together to reap its many benefits.

That includes speeding up and scaling efforts to realize such global ambitions as the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which serve as the world’s blueprint to make the planet greener, cleaner and fairer.

UN News looks at how AI helps the world, from communities to corporations to law makers, tackle climate change:

Weather

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AI-driven technologies offer previously unheard-of capabilities to process enormous volumes of data, extract insightful knowledge and improve predictive models, according to the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

That means improved modeling and predicting climate change patterns that can help communities and authorities to draft effective adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Several UN agencies support vulnerable communities in Burundi, Chad and Sudan through an AI-driven project to investigate past environmental change around displacement hotspots and deliver future projections to inform adaptation measures and anticipatory action for integration in humanitarian programming.

On the ground, enhanced data can be a game-changer. For instance, the MyAnga app helps Kenyan pastoralists brace for drought. With data from global meteorological stations and satellites sent to their mobile phones, herders can plan ahead, better manage their livestock and save hours of scouting for green pastures.

The UN Secretary-General has stressed that global oversight of emerging artificial intelligence (AI) technology should be based on the UN Charter’s core principles and ensure full respect for human rights.

Addressing the Summit on Artificial Intelligence Safety recently convened by the United Kingdom, at the famous Bletchley Park estate―where Allied code breakers made a huge contribution to the war effort cracking Nazi codes―the UN chief stressed the need for “sustained and structured conversation” around its risks, challenges and opportunities.

“The United Nations―an inclusive, equitable and universal platform for coordination on AI governance―is now fully engaged in that conversation,” he said.

Three key areas

The Secretary-General outlined three key areas for immediate action.

First, he called for addressing existing threats related to the release of powerful AI models which currently lack sufficient guardrails and oversight.

Second, Guterres expressed concerns about the long-term negative consequences of AI, including its impact on jobs; the erosion of cultural diversity erosion due to biased algorithms and the stoking of geopolitical tensions arising from the concentration of AI corporations in just a handful of countries.

The third concern was that in the absence of immediate action, AI will exacerbate inequalities that are already growing wider.

“This is not a risk; it’s a reality,” he warned.

Ethical principles

To address these concerns, Guterres cited the development of over 100 different sets of often overlapping ethical principles for AI.

While there is broad agreement on principles such as reliability, transparency, accountability and the ability to shut down AI applications, global oversight is needed to prevent incoherence and gaps, he urged.

The UN chief highlighted the launch of his new Advisory Body on AI, which consists of experts from government, business, the tech community, civil society, and academia. “It is truly universal, with representation from all parts of the world, in order to foster the networked, inclusive, evidence-based solutions that are needed,” he said.

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