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Google’s AI drive triggers surge in emissions

Tech firm's emissions rose 48% to 14.3 million metric tons last year when compared with the 2019 baseline

Google’s AI drive triggers surge in emissions
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

Google’s increasing reliance on power-hungry data centers to run its artificial intelligence tools is putting its climate goals in jeopardy, its annual environmental report showed.

The tech firm’s emissions rose 48% to 14.3 million metric tons last year when compared with the 2019 baseline, with a 13% year-over-year increase, according to the ‘Google Environment Report 2024’.

This marks a setback from the company’s 2021 pledge to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030.

“Our approach will continue to evolve and will require us to navigate significant uncertainty–including the uncertainty around the future environmental impact of AI, which is complex and difficult to predict,” the company said.

The company cited an increase in data center energy consumption, supply chain emissions and AI prioritization as reasons behind greater 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,” said the company.

Global data centers consumed 240-340 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2022, representing roughly 1-1.3% of global electricity demand, Google said, citing International Energy Agency (IEA) data.

Based on IEA data, Google said its data centers consumed over 24 TWh in 2023, accounting for an estimated 7-10% of global data center electricity use and roughly 0.1% of global electricity demand.

The company’s data center power usage also rose by 17% in 2023, something it anticipates will continue in the coming years as well.
Google, however, said it is taking up the climate challenge by focusing on improving energy efficiency across AI models, hardware, and data centers.

By 2030, the tech firm said it aims to achieve a 24X7 carbon-free energy use for all data centers.

While 2023 marked the first year of the implementation of Google’s carbon removals strategy, the company said that it still has a long way to meet its net-zero emissions target, and that it has already begun establishing partnerships and secured contracts for carbon removal credits..


Shireen Khan is a Senior Correspondent at Press Insider. She covers lifestyle, culture, and health. More

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