Measuring the environmental impacts of artificial intelligence computing and applications: the AI footprint

This report looks at how policy makers can better understand and react to the positive and negative environmental impacts of AI for the good of the planet.

Artificial intelligence (AI) systems can help achieve sustainability goals but can also use massive computational resources, raising sustainability concerns. This report looks at how policy makers can better understand and react to the positive and negative environmental impacts of AI for the good of the planet.

There are direct environmental impacts of developing, using and disposing of AI systems and related equipment, and indirect costs and benefits of using AI applications. There are some steps that policy makers can initiate to increase AI’s impact as part of the solution to sustainability challenges. They include establishing measurement standards, expanding data collection, identifying AI-specific impacts, looking beyond operational energy use and emissions, and improving transparency and equity.

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Presentation of the report and panel discussion

At the OECD’s COP27 Virtual Pavilion

The report’s authors presented it at the OECD’s COP27 Virtual Pavilion on 15 November and participated in a panel discussion.

WATCH THE PRESENTATION AND PANEL DISCUSSION

This panel discussion explores these issues as presented in the report “Measuring the environmental impacts of AI compute and applications: the AI footprint”. Informed by experts from the OECD.AI Expert Group on AI Compute and Climate and the Global Partnership on AI (GPAI) Responsible AI Working Group (RAI), the report examines existing measurement tools and critical challenges for quantifying the positive and negative environmental impacts of training and deploying AI models and applications. By creating and tracking AI-specific measures of “compute”, sharing best practices, and supporting new and innovative AI applications for fighting climate change, countries can ensure that AI is trained and deployed in the most sustainable way possible, while minimising negative impacts, for the good of the planet.

Opening remarks:

  • Jens Lundsgaard, Deputy Director of the Science, Technology and Innovation Directorate, OECD

Presentation of the report:

Confirmed panellists

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