Although in existence for many decades, artificial intelligence (AI) resurfaced among public thought with OpenAl’s ChatGPT in November 2022. This new type of AI is called artificial general intelligence (AGI) meaning that it possesses a representation of general human cognitive abilities and so faced with an unfamiliar task, it is able to find a solution. AGI systems have the ability and understanding of abstract thinking, background knowledge, common sense, cause and effect, and transfer learning and have been used by various companies, people, governments, etc. for creative purposes, sensory perception, fine motor skills, natural language understanding, and navigation. However, given these newfound abilities of AGI, there has been growing debates regarding the positive and negative effects of AGI and potential regulations that need to be addressed. For example, AI algorithms contain bias, they will lead to potential job loss, they go beyond global regulations, they accelerate hacking abilities, and threaten cyber security.
Despite these fears, the development of Artificial General Intelligence has paved the way for progress in the biggest collective challenge our planet faces: climate change. Between 3.3 - 3.6 billion people live in areas at high risk to climate change. Through the large scale collection of data and new technological innovative capacities of AGI, solutions to climate issues have become increasingly feasible. Characteristics of climate change data make it difficult to analyze as the large amount of information takes a while to collect and analyze and is constantly changing. One way in which AI can have a large effect is by improving the accuracy of climate change models through extensive data collection, thereby improving predictions. In order for people to actively respond to climate change data and governments to create effective environmental policies, there must be an element of trust in the data they are receiving. By improving the accuracy as well as the amount of climate change data, the use of AGI effectively increases people's trust. There are many ways in which AI has already been put into effect in order to increase climate awareness. AGI models have been used to study the ocean and the ways in which it both absorbs and transfers heat in order to predict its response to increasing temperatures. For example, AGI is being trained to gather information in the arctic over winter (when no ships are able to travel in this region) in order to monitor sea levels, temperature, etc. AGI has also been used in space through satellite imagery to capture forest fires among other environmental devastations.
There are two main groups in which the climate data AGI collects is particularly aimed at: governments/international institutions and businesses. Many governments have begun investing in AGI solutions to climate change. Fifteen million pounds was donated to the University of Southampton by the UK government to fund AI climate change research. Additionally, the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) recently launched its World Environment Situation Room: a digital platform using aim, which “curates, aggregates and visualized the best available earth observation and sensor data to inform near real-times analysis and future predictions on multiple factors, including CO2 atmospheric concentration, changes in glacier mass and sea level rise.” This technology aims to create user friendly and trustworthy data in order to drive transparency. In addition to the UN, the European Commission (a sector of the European Union) also aims to develop a global model to track climate change using AGI. The focus of this project is on the effects of climate change on human activity in order to create accurate interactive simulations, improve predictions of impact, and support EU policy making. International institutions play a large role in the use and spread of climate change data through their international audience as well as ability to both create and inform policy decisions.
The next group in which AGI collected data on climate change could have a huge potential effect is businesses. It was found that only 33% of business leaders account for the effects of climate change, while it is estimated to have a trillion dollar effect on the US economy alone. Climate change slows the supply chain and disrupts the interconnectedness of the market. However AGI combined with GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technology allows analysts to create smart maps “that layer climate information, hazard data, and satellite imagery on the regions and networks that compose a business’s supply chain.” These maps must both be extremely accurate and detail oriented as well as project a global large scale picture in order to create a trustworthy picture. AGI has the potential to both predict future destructive potentials of climate change, mitigate potential losses, as well as inform the general public and governments to create influential policy reform.