Google’s AI ambitions fuels emissions surge: a 48% increase over five years

Google’s greenhouse gas emissions have surged by 48% over the past five years due to its AI products’ reliance on energy-intensive data centers, as reported by The Guardian.

Google identified increased energy consumption in data centers and supply chain emissions as the primary factors behind the rise, with total emissions reaching 14.3 million metric tons, according to its annual environmental report.

Data centers are estimated to contribute 2.3-3.7% of global CO2 emissions, surpassing the aviation industry’s 2.1%.

In the report, Google stated that achieving net-zero emissions by 2030 is an “extremely ambitious goal” and acknowledged the challenges, noting that the future environmental impact of AI is “complex and difficult to predict.”

Last week, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates downplayed AI’s climate impact, suggesting it would help rather than hinder efforts to combat climate change. He mentioned that big tech companies are “seriously willing” to pay a premium to support clean energy.

At the end of 2023, Google released Gemini, positioned as a competitor to OpenAI’s ChatGPT-4 and Google’s biggest leap into the AI trend. The tech giant is also placing AI at the heart of its new Pixel phones in order to make them ‘even more helpful’.

John Kirk, CSO at ITG commented: “The insatiable demand for AI adoption is already fuelling a wave of increased emissions, leaving big brands open to scrutiny around their sustainability credentials. Forward thinking organisations will need to look again at the impact their operations are having on the environment and work with partners in the supply chain such as creative agencies to provide a more open and honest account of their activities. Customers now expect both accountability and a clear action plan to offset or reduce emissions, and without it, trust will be lost.”

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