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Google’s emissions have increased by 48% over the past five years due to AI advancements

Google’s greenhouse gas emissions have surged by nearly half over the past five years, complicating the company’s goal of eliminating carbon emissions by 2030. According to Google’s latest environmental report, the tech giant’s emissions reached 14.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2023. This represents a 48% increase from 2019 and a 13% rise from 2022.

The report attributes the rise in emissions to higher energy consumption at Google’s data centers and its supply chain. Additionally, the integration of artificial intelligence into many of Google’s core products has further driven up energy demands, making it more challenging to reduce emissions.

“As we further integrate AI into our products, reducing emissions may be challenging due to increasing energy demands from the greater intensity of AI compute, and the emissions associated with the expected increases in our technical infrastructure investment,” Google stated in the report.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, has long aimed to eliminate emissions from its operations by 2030. However, the increased energy requirements for AI, especially generative AI that creates new content from user inputs, have led to a surge in power demands. This trend threatens to disrupt energy transition plans and clean energy goals for tech companies and entire nations.

Other major tech companies face similar challenges. For instance, Microsoft reported a 30% increase in carbon emissions since 2020 due to its investment in AI, complicating its goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030.

Sasha Luccioni, climate lead at Hugging Face Inc., noted that tech companies were not anticipating the massive growth of AI when setting their environmental goals. “They couldn’t have,” she said. “The baseline year in that Google report was 2019 — definitely not anticipating it.” The energy required to build and run AI technology has blindsided companies, significantly impacting their sustainability efforts.

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