Google’s greenhouse gas emissions up 50% in five years due to AI

Google’s greenhouse gas emissions up 50% in five years due to AI
Google’s greenhouse gas emissions up 50% in five years due to AI

The company’s 2024 environmental report found that the massive energy consumption of data centers powering AI complicates their journey to carbon neutrality.

Tl;dr

  • Google increased its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% due to energy-hungry data centers.
  • Google’s data centers consumed 17% more water due to AI expansion.
  • Training AI models requires enormous amounts of energy.
  • Google aims to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Google and the growing environmental impact of AI

According to the 2024 environmental report published last Tuesday by Googleits greenhouse gas emissions have increased by nearly 50% over the past five years. A rise largely attributed to the energy appetite of data centers needed to power artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

Google has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030. However, as the report reveals, it emitted 14.3 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2023. That’s a 48% increase from 2019 and 13% more than in 2022. These results are mainly due to growth in data center energy consumption and supply chain emissions.

A major challenge for energy

The growing popularity of AI poses a major challenge in terms of energy consumption. Indeed, tech giants are planning to invest heavily in AI. However, training AI models requires immense amounts of energy. “Reducing emissions may prove difficult due to growing energy demand coupled with our planned increase in investments in technical infrastructure”Google warns in its report.

In 2023, researchers found that it takes as much energy to generate a single image with AI as it does to charge a smartphone. Meanwhile, Microsoft, which has also committed to becoming “carbon negative” by the end of this decade, revealed that its greenhouse gas emissions have increased by nearly 30% since 2020 due to the construction of data centers.

Water consumption, another key issue

The expansion of AI work has led to another major problem: water consumption. In fact, to stay cool, Google’s data centers have been using much more water than before. In 2023, these centers used 17% more water than the previous year, or 6.1 billion liters. This amount would be enough to irrigate about 41 golf courses in the United States.

Ultimately, Google remains confident about achieving its environmental goals. However, the company admits that “Predicting the future environmental impact of AI is complex and evolving”.

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