Sunday, June 10, 2018

Artificial Intelligence—A Game Changer for Climate Change and the Environment

 An atmospheric river over California. (Photo Credit: NOAA) Click to Enlarge.
As the planet continues to warm, climate change impacts are worsening.  In 2016, there were 772 weather and disaster events, triple the number that occurred in 1980.  Twenty percent of species currently face extinction, and that number could rise to 50 percent by 2100.  And even if all countries keep their Paris climate pledges, by 2100, it’s likely that average global temperatures will be 3˚C higher than in pre-industrial times.

But we have a new tool to help us better manage the impacts of climate change and protect the planet:  artificial intelligence (AI).  AI refers to computer systems that “can sense their environment, think, learn, and act in response to what they sense and their programmed objectives,” according to a World Economic Forum report, Harnessing Artificial Intelligence for the Earth.

In India AI has helped farmers get 30 percent higher groundnut yields per hectare by providing information on preparing the land, applying fertilizer and choosing sowing dates.  In Norway, AI helped create a flexible and autonomous electric grid, integrating more renewable energy.

And AI has helped researchers achieve 89 to 99 percent accuracy in identifying tropical cyclones, weather fronts and atmospheric rivers, the latter of which can cause heavy precipitation and are often hard for humans to identify on their own.  By improving weather forecasts, these types of programs can help keep people safe.
How AI is used for energy
AI is increasingly used to manage the intermittency of renewable energy so that more can be incorporated into the grid; it can handle power fluctuations and improve energy storage as well.

The Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory operated by Stanford University will use machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify vulnerabilities in the grid, strengthen them in advance of failures, and restore power more quickly when failures occur.  The system will first study part of the grid in California, analyzing data from renewable power sources, battery storage, and satellite imagery that can show where trees growing over power lines might cause problems in a storm.  The goal is to develop a grid that can automatically manage renewable energy without interruption and recover from system failures with little human involvement.

Wind companies are using AI to get each turbine’s propeller to produce more electricity per rotation by incorporating real time weather and operational data.  On large wind farms, the front row’s propellers create a wake that decreases the efficiency of those behind them.  AI will enable each individual propeller to determine the wind speed and direction coming from other propellers, and adjust accordingly.
More sustainable transport on land
As vehicles become able to communicate with each other and with the infrastructure, artificial intelligence will help drivers avoid hazards and traffic jams.  In Pittsburgh an artificial intelligence system incorporating sensors and cameras that monitors traffic flow adjusts traffic lights when needed.  The systems are functioning at 50 intersections with plans for 150 more, and have already reduced travel time by 25 percent and idling by more than 40 percent.  Less idling, of course, means fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Eventually, autonomous AI-driven shared transportation systems may replace personal vehicles.

Read more at Artificial Intelligence—A Game Changer for Climate Change and the Environment

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