The Impact of AI on Our Environment

AI has taken the world by storm in the last couple of years – with the rise of AI content generation and new technologies being innovated every year, this tool is quickly becoming something that is transforming our lives.  

However, what impact will this drastic increase in data usage have on our environment?  

Techbuyer’s Head of Public Sector and Sustainability, and Chartered Environmentalist, Astrid Wynne, was recently interviewed by Sky News on this topic. 

The Hidden Cost of AI  

As with a lot of technology and data, the impact on the environment is often hidden. Built In has highlighted that the energy and resources needed to create and maintain AI models could raise carbon emissions by as much as 80% within the technology sector.  

According to Sky News’ recent article on the topic, data traffic is growing by around 35% a year, but it is the technology behind AI models that are causing a lot of the environmental concern – demanding increasing resources.  

Energy, water and Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) are crucial to the development of AI and data collection, as was highlighted by Astrid during her interview – this means that, as Astrid argues, data must be considered as a resource to be spent and data centres as a utility.  

Developing Data as a Resource 

Data is an extraordinarily powerful tool and has the capacity to improve so many areas of our society – from automating farming and predicting weather, to connecting grids and predicting cancer. However, we’re currently in the excitement stage of AI technology where many of us are still mesmerised but what it can do on surface level.  

This means that this valuable tool is currently used as more of a form of entertainment and exploration – however we’re just scraping the surface of how we can use data to better our lives.  

This having been said, how we use technology and data will have a dramatic impact on the environmental cost of AI overall. It is currently difficult to say how much resources data will claim in the future. Reports predict anything from a 3 to 10 fold increase in data usage in the medium term.  

However, AI does not use materials and energy in the same way once the models have been trained; the most resource intensive part of data collection and training is in the initial stages, and as it becomes more evolved you start trimming down on the amount of data you are collecting. 

Depending on the decisions that we make about AI as a society and what we want to spend data on, when considering it as a resource, there is potential to limit its impact on energy, water and CRM supplies.  

Where Will AI Take Us Next?  

It’s difficult to say what the future of AI will hold. Whilst it’s clear that this technology is an important development in the future of our society, it is unclear how much of a lasting change this will make and what other technologies like Quantum computing may be on the horizon. With new technologies being developed all the time, we don’t know where we’ll be with current data and systems in the future.  

What we do know is that there are a lot of funding opportunities and investments happening in AI now. Governments and businesses are all investing in the technology in order to stay competitive in the industry.  

There’s a lot of development and excitement focussed around AI, with different companies and countries wanting to emerge as a leading player for this technology. There’s very much a feeling of – if you don’t get on the bus right now, you’ll likely miss it.  

Read the full article, written by Sky News, on this issue here to find out more about the environmental impact of AI.  

Techbuyer’s Sustainable IT Solutions 

Techbuyer is a global provider of sustainable IT solutions, working to improve the way that we purchase, maintain and dispose of technology, without compromising on performance, power and reliability.  

We work with businesses to deliver high-quality IT solutions designed around their needs. From high-performance refurbished technology and component upgrades to full IT infrastructure designs, we deliver a variety of solutions for every company’s needs.  

View our full range of life cycle IT services here to find out more.