AI Drives Up Google’s Carbon Emissions by Almost 50%

Google's recently released 2024 environmental report affirms a nearly 50% increase in greenhouse emissions within four years. It has been deduced that energy consumed by data centers and Google's supply chain contributed most to the increase.
Source: Google
Source: Google

Google wants to get to net zero emissions by 2030, but its AI investment is making its environmental commitment more challenging. Google has released its 2024 environmental report recently, which has made some striking revelations. The report affirms a nearly 50% increase in greenhouse emissions within the span of four years.

It has been deduced that energy consumed by data centers and Google's supply chain contributed most to the increase. In 2023, the tech giant's emissions totaled 14.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, a 13% increase from 2022 and a 48% increase since 2019.

"As we further integrate AI into our products, reducing emissions may be challenging due to increasing energy demands from the greater intensity of AI compute," Google wrote.

The company also expects an increase in emissions as it continues to invest more deeply in the technical infrastructure needed for AI. Apparently, Google had set a goal of net-zero emissions by 2030 to balance the emissions until its carbon footprint reaches net zero, which is at stake due to AI usage.

Google acknowledges the challenge multiple times in its environmental report, writing that AI's future environmental impact "is complex and difficult to predict."

On the contrary, Google also advocates AI's potential to address climate change in the report, highlighting a 2021 Boston Consulting Group study that claimed that AI can reduce overall emissions by 5% to 10%.

"AI has a critical enabling role to play in accelerating mitigation, supporting adaptation, and building foundational capabilities for the transition to a low-carbon future," the company mentioned.

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