Microsoft’s Sustainability Report Raises Questions As Emissions Go Up 29% Amid AI Explosion

While the tech world focuses more on AI and the benefits it brings, not a lot is being talked about in terms of the hazards it has on the environment.

But thanks to software giant Microsoft’s latest sustainability report, we’re getting more insights on how dangerous the explosion of AI has become in regards to the planet. After all, what good does such technology hold when there’s no Mother Earth in the first place, right?

The report featured stats that were far from positive and a clear eye-opener to the world about how we tend to forget that AI might be eating up more resources and going unnoticed. To be more specific, it was alarming to witness emissions from Microsoft peaking by 29% from the previous year while the company admitted to using greater water resources which also increased by 23%.

The reason is simple in Microsoft’s language, a boom in new technology, and in this regard, it’s mostly linked to generative AI.

This particular report was designed to cover the stats for 2023 and it was the first time that we saw the impact of OpenAI’s ChatGPT launch cross the one year since the launch date. Now Microsoft was a key investor in the project with $10 billion for January of 2023. They added GPT-4 to Bing during the start of last year and now, it’s running full throttle.

This combined with the Copilot AI model for all of Microsoft 365 meant creating something huge in AI that ate up tons of electricity when it was just being trained, let alone used.

When the more complex data calculations were taken into consideration, we saw how data centers were springing up that needed greater water supplies for cooling and also more electricity. This gives rise to more challenges to meeting sustainability objectives that the tech giant launched four years back.

Microsoft admitted to how they’ve seen a massive change in the tech sector and in its comprehension of what is now required to ensure climate goals are met and sustainability is at the forefront of its operations.

It also delineated how it was well aware of the world not being on track to meet different climate objectives and with its dire situation, a lot needs to be done before it is too late.

The report further got into details about emissions being of several kinds including Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 where the majority is of the type 3 kind. This entails data centers, supply chains, and even making use of goods that spread across millions of users.

Most tech giants make use of water for cooling servers as it's the best and cheapest option for them. Last year alone, Microsoft was using 23% more supplies than that seen in 2022. In the same way, other tech giants like Amazon, Meta, and even Android maker Google also reported similar spikes in water supply consumption.

While these companies are yet to roll out their reports on this front, the latest data centers from Microsoft actually are designed to minimize the use of water supplies for cooling purposes. This would further help in causing a decline in water usage by embarking on recycling to a great extent.

This would be great, especially in those areas designated as high stress where data centers are currently in operation and diminishing water supplies at an alarming rate. A few examples of such locations include Colorado’s River Basin which was already highlighted in the past as a dire matter that needs attention from environmental activists before it’s too late.

So right now, the goal is to eliminate wastage, efficient design campuses, and also to get rid of carbon emissions that damage the earth’s atmosphere.

Still, it would not be wrong to add that data centers are never an easy matter to deal with. There is no single right answer on what can and cannot be done and that’s a hurdle that tech giants today are facing as we speak. Thankfully, the race to preserve the earth continues to occur and while it might take years to make the switch to other forms of energy that are renewable, highlighting the problem is in full swing.

Read next: Long Videos Are Coming To TikTok As App Begins Testing 60 Minute Uploads
Previous Post Next Post