Can AI make you care about climate change?
Climate progress, impacts, and inspiration for Black History Month
Engaging with an AI chatbot on the topic of climate change shifted people’s views towards the scientific consensus, researchers at the University of Wisconsin found. The study also revealed that people came away with a more favorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement after chatting with the bot.
Whose views shifted the most? Those skeptical of the scientific consensus on climate change and those that held the most unfavorable views of the BLM movement.
“I won’t say they began to entirely acknowledge human-caused climate change or suddenly they support Black Lives Matter, but when we repeated our survey questions about those topics after their very short conversations, there was a significant change: more positive attitudes toward the majority opinions on climate change or BLM,” said author Kaiping Chen.
It turns out that the best thing you can do to fight climate change is talk about it, even if “you” happen to be a chatbot!
It isn't only about communication, though. AI can help fight climate change in other ways, too. It is being used to detect powerful heat-trapping methane emissions using satellite images, and tiny wildfires using sensors before they can morph into large and dangerous blazes.
AI can identify the best places to dig for new deposits of cobalt, lithium, and copper, all of which are essential for present-day battery technology for clean energy technology – but AI is also designing batteries that cut the amount of lithium needed by 70%.
With all the negative news about AI use these days, it’s encouraging to see it being used for good.
Climate change is making weather extremes worse, and the brunt of those disasters is not experienced evenly. “The burden of climate change and the associated natural disasters that have become more common and more severe is unevenly felt,” writes Christian Weller from the University of Massachusetts Boston. In the U.S., he says, “Black and Latino families, for example, are much more likely to be displaced by natural disasters – hurricanes, floods, fires, tornadoes and other events such as extreme cold or heat — than white families.”
The insurance industry is adapting quickly to climate change, and it turns out that these “reductions, withdrawals, and claim denials disproportionately affect low-income and communities of color,” writes Shannon Lewis of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental and Economic Justice. It's true not only for the impacts but in some cases the responses, too: climate change affects us all, but it doesn’t affect us all equally.
INSPIRATION OF THE MONTH
My inspiration this month is the extraordinary Dr. Mamie Parker. She is a biologist who became the first Black regional director and eventually Head of Fisheries at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She is currently a trustee of The Nature Conservancy in Virginia.
Dr. Parker has been a trailblazer her whole life. She understands how climate change disproportionately impacts community of color, and that the conservation movement has a checkered record when it comes to inclusion.
Her advice? “Find innovative ways to use technology to work collaboratively on large-landscape and climate-smart conservation. Meet diverse people where they are. We’ve got to relearn and unlearn a lot of the things that we’ve done when we built the conservation movement,” she says in this 2020 interview.
Please give the whole interview a read and consider a listen, too -- Dr. Parker is an inspiring motivational speaker!
Tues., Feb 13th at 7pm CT - Finding Hope Amid Climate Change with Samford University - in person at The Wright Center in Homewood, AL