AI is a climate challenge

Feb 1, 2024

AI is a climate challenge. The solution? Nordic data centers.
Article by Fredrik Jansson

According to a new study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, almost 50% of CEOs do not believe their businesses will be viable in a decade as tech and climate pressures accelerate. The pressure to embrace new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and continued digital transformation efforts to remain competitive, comes at a time when awareness of the worsening climate is also demanding action from business leaders.

The huge requirement of energy to fuel the rise in AI technology is in some cases, completely at odds with any ESG and related sustainability targets, not to mention the financial impact of sky-high energy costs. Digitalization is not going to stop so it would seem that business leaders have an almost impossible task to address both these very different issues.

Yet there is a solution, and the answer lies with the data center.

Digital Infrastructure and the Impact on the Environment
Every digital transaction, from streaming online content to internet banking, starts a process in a data center and these processes necessitate extensive digital infrastructure that requires significant amounts of energy to power and cool. In fact, cooling is estimated to be responsible for 40% of data center energy usage.

This is not a new phenomenon. In 2019 researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that training several large common AI models can emit more than 283,948kgs of carbon dioxide – nearly 5 times the lifetime equivalent of the average car. Yet, up until recently it has been a problem only for very large data driven industries.

This is not the case anymore. As the use of AI becomes more widespread across all industries, the demand for energy to power the associated data centers will become truly colossal – and if those data center are coal fired, the impact of this trajectory is simply not sustainable.

Why It Matters Where Your Data Is
For many businesses the geographical location of their data may not be a top priority and yet it is an important factor in both sustainability and cost saving initiatives. Choosing a data center located in regions that benefit from a surplus of renewable energy sources such as hydro and geothermal energy can offer a stable long term power supply that is significantly cheaper compared to its natural gas counterparts.

Read the complete article online at Business Age.