World Environment Day feature: In the fight to save the environment, AI emerges as the new AgniAstra


Management guru Peter Drucker put it succinctly, decades ago: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it en, an adage that fits with a more modern mantra: data is the new oil.


In the global fight to save the planet and halt environmental degradation, there has been a perennial problem: how to accurately assess the scale of the challenge, whether it’s global warming, rampant pollution, rising sea levels or the explosion of waste production.

How to make sense of unstructured data and how to interpret it in a meaningful way has been a central challenge. Now it seems that help is at hand: Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Artificial intelligence as a science has existed for almost fifty years, but it is only in the last few years, even months, that it has reached the touchy state: now, thanks to what is called generative artificial intelligence and its first avatars such as ChatGPT, the rest of us, not just brainiacs, can experience and exploit AI in myriad ways.


And this has led to some of the most massive examples of crowdsourcing studies, where thousands of agencies, in the government, business and civil society spheres are able to leverage publicly available resources global data and use AI tools to surface some of it Local learnings.

On June 4, on the eve of World Environment Day 2023, the Center for Science and the Environment (CSE) released the 8th annual edition of ‘The State of Indias Environment in figures (e-book, CSE, Rs 200).

This has become the in fact India-focused information source for many agencies and NGOs, working on specific environmental challenges. The editors say:


The book was born from the belief that processing data and information is the new way of communicating today. This is crucial as today data is overflowing and information is available from so many sources and so quickly that sometimes we end up not making any sense of the happenings.

By exploiting this data and processing it with artificial intelligence tools, many environmental issues have been addressed with new meaning and vigor.

Environmental Situation Room


The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) World Environment Situation Room (WESR), launched in 2022, is one such digital platform leveraging the capabilities of artificial intelligence to analyze complex and multifaceted datasets.

WESR curates, aggregates, and visualizes the best available Earth observation and sensor data to provide near real-time analysis and future predictions on multiple factors, including atmospheric CO2 concentration, changes in glacier mass, and sea level rise. sea ‚Äč‚Äčlevel.

It also serves as a global public database of empirically verified methane emissions. Reducing methane emissions from the energy sector is one of the fastest, most feasible and cost-effective ways to limit the impacts of global warming, says UNEP.


Another global monitoring program is the GEMS air pollution monitoring platform, the largest global air quality information network in the world.

Aggregates data from over 25,000 air quality monitoring stations in more than 140 countries and leverages artificial intelligence to deliver real-time insights into the impact of air quality on populations and help inform protective measures of health.

The growing use of cloud computing services has seen the creation of huge data centers around the world and India’s insistence, for sound strategic reasons, that data created in India must be physically stored in data centers within the country, has created at least one unintended consequence: the large use of water for cooling.


The offhand response is to say: You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. But technologists are already facing the challenge of achieving a data storage environment with minimal impact on resources like water, even by using microprocessors that are more efficient and generate less heat.

The AI-focused Aum processor under development at C-DAC could very well be a harbinger of such energy-efficient practices.

Detection of illegal logging


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