Google’s greenhouse gas emissions surged by 48% from 2019 to 2023, driven largely by the growing energy demands of its data centres, particularly due to the rapid expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

AI-powered services require significantly more computer power and electricity compared to traditional online activities, raising concerns about their environmental impact.

Google aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2030, but acknowledges the challenges posed by the integration of AI into its products, which could hinder emission reductions.

The 2024 Environmental Report from Google highlights disparities in the environmental impacts of its data centres worldwide. While facilities in Europe and the Americas largely use carbon-free energy sources, those in the Middle East, Asia, and Australia rely less on such clean energy. Overall, about two-thirds of Google’s energy comes from carbon-free sources.

Experts like Professor Tom Jackson emphasize the hidden environmental costs of storing vast amounts of data in the cloud, known as “dark data,” which continues to consume energy even when not actively used.

Jackson supports Google’s goal but stresses the difficulty in achieving net zero emissions in data centres by 2030.

The increasing energy and water consumption associated with AI has raised alarms, especially as the sector is expected to grow rapidly.

However, there are varying opinions on the exact environmental impact of AI, with some experts downplaying its potential negative effects while others caution about its substantial energy demands.

Bill Gates, for instance, has suggested that while AI may increase electricity demand, it could also lead to significant efficiency improvements that offset its environmental footprint.

These discussions underscore the complex challenges and opportunities surrounding AI and sustainability in the tech industry, as reported by BBC News.

Credit : BBC

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