AI Machine Learning Efforts Encounter A Carbon Footprint Blemish


By Lance Eliot, the AI Trends Insider
Green AI is arising.
Recent news about the benefits of Machine Learning (ML) and Deep Learning (DL) has taken a slightly downbeat turn toward pointing out that there is a potential ecological cost associated with these systems. In particular, AI developers and AI researchers need to be mindful of the adverse and damaging carbon footprint that they are generating while crafting ML/DL capabilities.
It is a so-called “green” or environmental wake-up call for AI that is worth hearing.
Let’s first review the nature of carbon footprints (CFPs) that are already quite familiar to all of us, such as the carbon belching transportation industry.
A carbon footprint is usually expressed as the amount of carbon dioxide emissions spewed forth, including for example when you fly in a commercial plane from Los Angeles to New York, or when you drive your gasoline-powered car from Silicon Valley to Silicon Beach.
Carbon accounting is used to figure out how much a machine or system produces in terms of its carbon footprint when being utilized and can be calculated for planes, cars, washing machines, refrigerators, and just about anything that emits carbon fumes.
We all seem to now know that our cars are emitting various greenhouse gasses including the dreaded carbon dioxide vapors that have numerous adverse environmental impacts. Some are quick to point out that hybrid cars that use both gasoline and electrical power tend to have a lower carbon footprint than conventional cars, while Electrical Vehicles (EV’s) are essentially zero carbon emissions at the tailpipe.
Calculating Carbon Footprints For A Car
When ascertaining the carbon footprint of a machine or device, it is easy to fall into the mental trap of only considering the emissions that occur when the apparatus is in use. A gasoline car might emit 200 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer traveled, while a hybrid-electric might produce about half at 92 grams, and an EV presumably at 0 grams, per EPA and Department of Energy.
See this U.S. government website for detailed estimates about carbon emissions of cars: https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/info.shtml#guzzler
Though the direct carbon footprint aspect does indeed involve what happens during the utilization effort of a machine or device, there is also the indirect carbon footprint that requires our equal attention, involving both upstream and downstream elements that contribute to a fuller picture of the true carbon footprint involved. For example, a conventional gasoline-powered car might generate perhaps 28 percent of its total life-time carbon dioxide emissions when the car was originally manufactured and shipped to being sold.
You might at first be normally thinking like this:

Total CFP of a car = CFP while burning gasoline

But it should be more like this:

Total CFP of a car =...

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