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Bill Gates insists AI will help world achieving climate goals

Bill Gates insists AI will help world achieving climate goals

Bill Gates insists artificial intelligence will aid in achieving climate goals.

Despite concerns increased data centres will put unprecedented strains on green energy supplies, the Microsoft co-founder, 68, argued AI could help countries reduce energy use by improving technology and electricity grid efficiency.

He told journalists: “Let’s not go overboard on this. Data centres are, in the most extreme case, a 6 per cent addition (in energy demand), but probably only 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent.

“The question is, will AI accelerate a more than 6 per cent reduction? And the answer is: certainly.”

Goldman Sachs estimates one AI query via ChatGPT requires nearly 10 times more electricity than a Google search, potentially doubling carbon emissions from data centres between 2022 and 2030.

Some experts suggest AI data centres could drive a 10 per cent increase in electricity demand in developed countries, reversing years of efficiency gains.

At a London conference hosted by Breakthrough Energy – Gates’ venture fund – he emphasised tech companies are investing in green electricity to meet the added demand from AI data centres.

He added: “The tech companies are the ones willing to pay a premium, and to help bootstrap green energy capacity.”

Breakthrough Energy has invested in more than 100 energy transition companies.

Gates, through the Gates Foundation, also significantly invests in AI, with Microsoft – the largest external investor in OpenAI – integrating AI tools into its Windows OS under the Copilot brand.

Research supports Gates’ optimism on the future of AI data centre energy use.

A Nature Scientific Reports paper found generative AI emits significantly less CO2 for simple tasks than humans.

And Google used DeepMind's technology to cut its data centre cooling bill by 40 per cent in 2016, reducing electricity needs for non-IT tasks by 15 per cent.

But Microsoft’s emissions reports indicate rising “scope three” emissions due to global data centre construction, which currently cannot rely on renewable electricity.

Gates cautioned that despite advances, the world might miss its 2050 climate targets by up to 15 years, as green electricity development lags.

He said: “I worry, in general, that the amount of green electricity that we need for the transition is not going to show up nearly as fast as we need.

“We’re not going to get to zero by 2050, I don’t think.”

Gates’ warning follows a global report indicating that despite record renewable energy growth in 2023, fossil fuel consumption also hit a new high due to rising demand.

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