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Is AI a Climate Game-Changer?

With the climate crisis escalating faster than most people expected, one big questions to consider is whether advances in artificial intelligence will unlock new solutions to the problem. For all of the technology's potential, much will depend on how we, the humans, put it to use.

PS Quarterly regularly features predictions by leading thinkers and uniquely positioned commentators on a topic of global concern. Following the public release of powerful new generative AI models late last year, there has been a tidal wave of prognostication about the technology’s potential to transform entire economic sectors, scientific research, education, public-policy planning, and much else. With this broader debate in mind, we asked contributors to respond to the following prompt:

AI will be a game-changer for reaching the Paris climate agreement’s global targets. Agree or disagree?

Nicholas Agar

If we understand AI as a human amplifier, we should not expect it magically to fix climate change. While it could significantly improve climate modeling and help find novel solutions, it also can be expected to deliver much more of the current status quo. What might that look like? One hint comes from journalist Christopher Leonard’s 2019 book Kochland, which describes how Koch Industries profited by delaying the decommissioning of old power plants through a combination of lobbying and climate-change denial.