Cambridge-authored book explores how artificial intelligence could help address climate change

Factories with smoke under cloudy sky Credit: Patrick Hendry via Unsplash

Factories with smoke under cloudy sky Credit: Patrick Hendry via Unsplash

Humanity is facing two existential threats. The first: uncontrolled CO2 emissions irreversibly changing the climate. The second: a hostile artificial intelligence (AI) becoming the dominant form of intelligence on Earth. But while the situation may appear bleak, this two-pronged crisis also presents an opportunity.

Intelligent Decarbonisation - a new book bringing together experts from the fields of science, law, finance, industry, and government - shows that a combination of digital technologies with AI can help curb humanity’s CO2 emissions. This is the key to mitigating climate change and the existential threat it poses. By acknowledging such digital technologies and AI could also pose existential threats to humanity, the book also shows how to maximise their economic and environmental use, while minimising the risks they introduce.

The book is edited and co-authored by Professor Markus Kraft and Dr Oliver Inderwildi, from the University of Cambridge Centre for Advanced Research and Education in Singapore (Cambridge CARES).

"Intelligent Decarbonisation aims to get to the bottom of two critically important fields, using an innovative approach with original research, expert comments from academia, industry and think tanks," said Inderwildi.

The core idea of the book is to assess how AI and cyber-physical systems (CPS) - digital technologies where the physical and software components are deeply intertwined - can help humankind to overcome its most complex and most pressing challenge: climate change.

"The transformational potential of cyber-physical systems, especially when combined with artificial intelligence, is difficult to predict," said Kraft. "Cambridge CARES is dedicated to developing technology that directs economic development onto a sustainable pathway. Our latest book critically assesses the associated threats and opportunities."

The book is divided into four parts - Technology, Impact, Implications and Incubation - moving from the theoretical and technical to the real-world effects and areas for future development. It brings together work from private and public sector professionals, academics and think tank experts, and comprehensively examines the topic, highlighting new information to policymakers, researchers and industry professionals alike.

Case studies from Singapore are given prominence in the book as the city-state is at particular risk from the effects of climate change. Sea level rise and unpredictable weather could easily impact Singapore’s water resources, food supplies, and public health in the future.

To help address these threats, Singapore has invested heavily in scientific research, including the international research collaboration model seen in CREATE (Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise). CREATE gathers the world’s best research institutions and universities to work together on problems that affect Singapore and the world, at a scale that has the potential to deliver impact.

"The climate change crisis is real. The critical role of decarbonisation is indisputable. Finding sustainable paths to decarbonisation is urgent," said Dr Lim Khiang Wee, Executive Director of Academic Research at CREATE. "There have been dramatic advancements in the Digital Age and AI, with the Covid pandemic acting as an accelerator of digitalisation, and AI, a yet to be fully exploited tool. It is timely that the CREATE community led by Cambridge CARES is examining how AI and digitalisation can support the decarbonisation process, which could point the way towards globally impactful work on intelligent decarbonisation strategies."

Intelligent Decarbonisation illustrates the potential of digitalisation not just through scientific articles but also through interviews with experts in the areas of decarbonisation and artificial intelligence.

Challenges of cybersecurity, legal, and governance issues are also addressed to accompany the technologies described. For the first time, Intelligent Decarbonisation brings these perspectives and projects together in a comprehensive and accessible format.

Intelligent Decarbonisation is published by Springer.

Adapted from a Cambridge CARES press release.


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