Plainsight Blog

Combating Climate Change with Advanced Visual Analytics and AI

September 2, 2022
Bennett Glace

Bennett Glace

Across the globe, leading organizations recognize that addressing climate change and its effects is an imperative. What’s more, they increasingly believe that AI will play an important role. According to a recent Boston Consulting Group (BCG) survey, a vast majority (87%) of business leaders agree that AI-powered tools will help address climate change and its multifaceted social and economic impacts. 

Even when the stakes are this high, it’s important for organizations to deploy computer vision and other types of AI responsibly. With effective planning, the right mix of resources, and appropriate long-term management, the power of AI can drive an end-to-end approach to combating climate change. Where should organizations start? 

How Can AI Help Fight and Mitigate Climate Change? 

AI is useful in mitigating climate change as well as helping people and businesses adapt to its effects. BCG identifies a number of areas of opportunity, including:

  • Measurement: On the macro level, organizations can deploy AI to aggregate visual data related to emissions and estimate the carbon footprint of their combined operations over time. Micro-level measurements can help determine the impact of individual products and processes and guide the development of emission tracking and mitigation models.

  • Reductions and Removal: AI-supported research can assist forward-looking enterprises in mitigating the volume and intensity of emissions, boosting energy efficiency, and forecasting demand for green technologies to make production and distribution more efficient. With detection models, environmental advocates can, for example, take to the skies to cut down on illegal deforestation or track the progress of wildfires.
  • Forecasting: Custom-built vision AI solutions can assess change over time to project short- and long-term trends related to factors like rising sea levels, infrastructure degradation, emissions, and extreme weather. Spotting what the naked eye can miss and automating alerts, these provide for a more proactive and risk-averse approach to climate change mitigation. When climate-related disasters do occur, AI then becomes helpful for coordinating a timely, strategic response. 
  • Management: Enterprises armed with AI can enhance their efforts to manage climate change-related crises, develop a more resilient infrastructure, and better provide for vulnerable populations of people and animals. Honeybees, for example, are an increasingly at-risk creature with an important role in global food supply chains. Climate change is among the potential contributors to colony collapse disorder and researchers are already deploying models to gain new insights into bee behavior and the threats facing them. 

 

Businesses, governments, and other organizations are also leveraging AI to improve research into climate change and better understand root causes, potential impacts, and effective solutions.

3 Key Obstacles to AI-Powered Climate Action

So, what’s standing in the way of game-changing progress? Why don’t organizations always realize the full potential of their AI investments and meet their most ambitious sustainability goals? Respondents to BCG’s survey identified a number of challenges that keep even industry leaders from accomplishing everything they can: 

  • 78% of organizations emphasized how difficult it is to secure the subject matter expertise necessary to capably deploy AI. 
  • 77% cited the lack of available solutions. 
  • 67% reported insufficient internal buy-in for AI-focused initiatives in general. 

Identifying the right partners, building a team with the right skillset and know-how, and working to build confidence in AI’s capabilities will all prove essential for enterprises hoping to overcome these challenges.

The challenges facing enterprises may be best summarized by one number in particular from BCG’s report: Though 87% of respondents are confident AI can help them on climate initiatives, just 43% currently have a vision in place. Only one of the surveyed sectors – industrial goods – reported confidence of greater than 50%. 

Who should lend a hand to enterprises in the fight against climate change? More than 65% of the private-sector leaders who answered BCG’s survey would like the government to offer more support.

Climate Change and Computer Vision

The Inflation Reduction Act recently empowered the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor oil and gas companies and impose fines for excess emissions. EPA helicopters have made use of AI to spot leaks that would be undetectable with the naked eye. Enterprises can employ similar leak-detection models proactively to keep employees safer, mitigate their environmental impact, and avoid fines. While vision AI alone cannot solve the climate crisis or address all of an organization’s challenges, it’s an essential tool capable of producing transformative change.

Elsewhere, computer vision aids in the battle against climate change by helping track and fight wildfires, monitor changing weather patterns, and more.

Plainsight supports enterprises in the fight against climate change with custom-built models, expert professional services, and an emphasis on responsible AI. Schedule a conversation with our team to learn more about some of our customer engagements and discuss your organization’s sustainability objectives.

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