A new study from PwC and the World Economic Forum examines how AI can help transform how society addresses climate change, delivers food and water security, reduces risk from disasters, protects biodiversity and bolsters human well-being.
Harnessing Artificial Intelligence for the Earth, published today by PwC and the World Economic Forum examines how AI can be put to work for the planet’s greatest environmental challenges.
The study is the latest in a series of reports from the World Economic Forum’s Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Earth initiative, designed to accelerate progress of the development and use of emerging technology to benefit environmental challenges.
The report focuses on the use of AI in the context of six critical global challenges: climate change; biodiversity and conservation; healthy oceans; water security; clean air; weather and disaster resilience.
In the six priority action areas, over 80 emerging AI applications for Earth challenges are examined and identified in the study include:
“AI is the electricity of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Today, as tech pioneers and industry execs alike are starting to see the big impact that applying AI can have, our study shows how it can also be directed to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems,” comments Celine Herweijer, Innovation and Sustainability Leader, PwC UK.
Although AI presents transformative opportunities to address the Earth’s environmental challenges, the report warns that, left unguided it also has the capability to accelerate the environment’s degradation.
As AI technology has evolved, its direct and indirect applications for the environment will need to be better understood in order to harness the full opportunity of AI for the Earth while assessing potential risks and developing approaches to mitigate them.
Risks including performance, security, control, ethics, and socio-economic impact are explored in the report which recommends that to be sure that AI is developed and governed wisely, government and industry leaders must ensure sustainability considerations are integrated into the pressing fields of AI safety, explainability, transparency and governance.
“It’s incumbent on authorities, AI researchers, technology pioneers and AI adopters to encourage deployments that earn trust and maximise positive returns for society and our planet,” comments Celine Herweijer, Innovation and Sustainability Leader, PwC UK.
“Developing approaches to guide “human-friendly” AI is arguably one of the biggest unsolved AI problems today. If we get it right, it could create a sustainability revolution. In practice that means that AI systems’ checks and balances must incorporate the health of the natural environment as a fundamental dimension.”
Dominic Waughray, Head of Public-Private Partnership, Member of the Executive Committee comments:
“The opportunity for AI to be harnessesd to benefit humankind and its environment is substantial. As we think about the gains, efficiencies and new solutions this creates for nations, business and for everyday life, we must also think about how to maximise gains for society and our environment. It means a collaborative effort between policy makers, business, investors and researchers, which makes this study’s research and recommendations all the more compelling.”
Download the report here.
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