U.S. lawmakers have introduced the bicameral Artificial Intelligence Environmental Impacts Act of 2024 to understand the impact the technology has on the environment.
The bill was introduced by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.); Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety; and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), founder and co-chair of the Senate AI Caucus and a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, among others.
The current rise in the adoption of artificial intelligence models as well as computational power to train and run them could have environmental impacts, recent studies have shown.
“Our AI Environmental Impacts Act would set clear standards and voluntary reporting guidelines to measure AI’s impact on our environment. The development of the next generation of AI tools cannot come at the expense of the health of our planet. I thank Senator Heinrich, Representative Eshoo, and Representative Beyer, for their partnership in making sure that AI contributes to a more livable future for generations to come,” Senator Markey said in a press release.
Data centers which help run these AI models do consume a lot of resources like water and electricity. Last year, Microsoft revealed that its water consumption spiked 34% in 2023, after the boom of generative AI.
Similarly, another report from last year also revealed that a single query on ChatGPT consumes 1,567%, or 15 times more energy than a query on Google search.
The bill, among other things, would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a comprehensive study on the environmental impact of AI within two years.
The research will analyze the life cycle of AI models and hardware, covering energy usage, pollution, and e-waste, while also evaluating the environmental effects—both positive and negative—of AI applications.