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IBM launches AI service to assist companies with climate change analysis

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IBM today launched the Environmental Intelligence Suite, a set of AI-powered software that customers can use to prepare for climate risks that could disrupt operations. By combining AI, weather data, climate risk analytics, and carbon accounting capabilities, the Environmental Intelligence Suite can be used to help organizations assess their impact on the planet while reducing the complexity of regulatory compliance, IBM says.

Companies are facing climate-related damage to their assets, as well as increasing expectations from consumers to perform as environmental leaders. McKinsey predicts that climate change could mean more disruptions in global supply chains, interrupting production and raising costs and prices. At the same time, shoppers are seeking out — and are willing to pay a premium for — environmentally-friendly products, according to recent studies from GreenPrint and others.

The Environmental Intelligence Suite leverages existing weather data from IBM, along with technologies developed by IBM Research. Via APIs, dashboards, maps, and alerts, the platform delivers recommendations aimed at addressing both immediate challenges and long-term planning and strategies. With the platform, climate and data scientists can analyze environmental datasets and use a new climate risk modeling framework to generate data on future wildfire and flooding risks. They can also tap natural language processing and automation features designed to help estimate carbon emissions and identify opportunities for reduction.

“The future of business and the environment are deeply intertwined. Not only are companies coping with the effects of extreme weather disruptions on their operations, they’re also being held increasingly accountable by shareholders and regulators for how their operations impact the planet,” IBM’s general manager of AI applications and blockchain Kareem Yusuf said in a statement. “IBM is bringing together the power of AI and hybrid cloud to provide businesses with environmental intelligence designed to help them improve environmental performance and reporting, create more efficient business operations to reduce resource consumption, and plan for resiliency in the face of climate disruptions.”

AI for climate change

IBM is pitching the Environmental Intelligence Suite as a way to monitor for severe weather, wildfires, flooding, and air quality in addition to prioritizing mitigation efforts and measuring environmental initiatives. For example, the company says, retailers could use the platform for severe weather-related shipping and inventory disruptions, while energy and utility companies could deploy it to determine where to trim vegetation around power lines.

While studies suggest that some forms of machine learning do contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, the technology has also been proposed as a tool to combat climate change. Researchers are using AI-generated images to help visualize climate change and estimate corporate carbon emissions. And nonprofits like WattTime are working to reduce households’ carbon footprint by automating when electric vehicles, thermostats, and appliances are active based on where renewable energy is available.

Beyond AI-powered services, tech giants are releasing tools to corner a global emission management software market expected to be worth $43.6 billion by 2030. Recently, Microsoft announced Cloud for Sustainability, a service designed to help companies measure and manage their carbon emissions by setting sustainability goals. It was released on the heels of Salesforce’s Sustainability Cloud, an enterprise carbon accounting product designed to drive climate action, and apps from Google Cloud to help businesses choose cleaner regions to locate their resources.

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