Artificial intelligence is booming – so is its carbon footprint
Artificial intelligence has become the tech industry’s shiny new toy, with expectations it’ll revolutionise trillion-dollar industries from retail to medicine. But the creation of every new chatbot and image generator requires a lot of electricity, which means the technology may be responsible for a massive and growing amount of planet-warming carbon emissions. Microsoft Corp, Alphabet Inc’s Google and ChatGPT maker OpenAI use cloud computing that relies on thousands of chips inside servers in massive data centers across the globe to train AI algorithms called models, analysing data to help them "learn” to perform tasks. The success of ChatGPT has other companies racing to release their own rival AI systems and chatbots or building products that use large AI models to deliver features to anyone from Instacart shoppers to Snap users to CFOs.AI uses more energy than other forms of computing, and training a single model can gobble up more electricity than 100 US homes use in an entire year. Yet the sector is growing so fast – and has such limited transparency – that no one knows exactly how much total electricity use and carbon emissions can be attributed to AI. The emissions could also vary widely depending on what type of power plants provide that electricity; a data center that draws its electricity from a coal or natural gas-fired plant will be responsible for much higher emissions than one that draws power from solar or wind farms.