American global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) along with AI for the Planet Alliance (a global coalition group), recently launched a report that sheds light on how artificial intelligence (AI) is crucial in the fight against climate change. In an exclusive interview, Hamid Maher, Managing Director& Partner, BCG, Casablanca, tells Smitha Verma, how AI is essential for solving the climate crisis.
Tell us a bit about AI for the Planet Alliance?
This alliance has a core objective to help to scale and make AI solutions that actually can help to combat climate change. We are working with the UNDP, FCC and UNESCO and with the startup community. We are the knowledge partner of this group and we have launched a report based on a survey that we have conducted in several countries from the global north and the global south. This report has great insights on the importance of AI solutions for decision makers to actually help them decide on what they can do on climate change.
How can AI help in climate change?
In the fight for climate change, you have two main categories — mitigation and adaptation. AI can be used to leverage or reduce our energy consumption by optimising operation, transport, and also by optimising the devices to make them smarter. Adaptation plans are hard to build because the risks are complex to apprehend. You need to actually be able to understand the physical risk and their intensity in the future be it the sea level rise or drought. Understanding the direct impact is not an easy task. You need to know the impact on assets, on people, on economic activity and also impact on nature and biodiversity. You also need to know the indirect impact on the economy. All these elements are a key dimension to accelerate decision making. And AI can help in making this easier.
What’s the role of AI in energy optimisation?
AI can help to reduce energy consumption in various ways. The first way is just by optimising. AI can really help accelerate planning and decision making. AI can also be quite useful for early warning systems to help the farmers in a specific location to actually adapt and cope with the upcoming drought. If you are also able to anticipate extreme weather events in a location then action can be taken accordingly to avert the crisis.
The second way is by merging the behaviour of people. For example, if I build a building, AI will actually send you a recommendation on when to use or not use electricity at home or you might actually be incentivised or be directed to a better consumption pattern.
Share with us some details of the report?
So we have conducted a study on the use of AI. We have asked 1000 leaders across the globe on what their view on the use of AI to combat climate change. In that, 87 percent really think it can have an impact. And we’d like to use it in some way, but only 43 percent see exactly how to make it happen and how to use it concretely. We have identified major roadblocks that prevent the adoption of AI for those decision-makers. A large portion of the people we have interviewed lack confidence in AI and data. So we need to work on that, we need to first make sure that expertise is available.
For AI to combat climate change in the future, we need to make sure that people have access and that the information is not fragmented. We need to make sure that the solutions that are available from academia to startups and corporate should actually scale up and become accessible to decision-makers throughout the world. People need to know what is going to happen so they can start having a say and have an influence on the policies in these countries.