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The US must balance climate justice challenges in the era of artificial intelligence
Brookings
2024.02.27
Last fall, the Fifth National Climate Assessment―a quadrennial analysis from the U.S. Global Change Research Program―outlined the country’s dire climate status. Among several takeaways, it revealed that the U.S. is warming faster than the rest of the world from human-induced climate change, and that we’re missing the mark on critical climate goals.
Notably, this installment of the Assessment emphasized social systems and justice―directly linking reductions in greenhouse gas emissions with reducing racial disparities in the U.S. As the report lays bare, climate impacts have unequal burdens, which fall most heavily on communities of color and low-income communities.
Yet to effectively address these harms and lay a strong foundation for climate and environmental justice, policymakers must acknowledge and confront the growing environmental impacts of an emerging technology: artificial intelligence (AI). These impacts are complex, but the industrial shift AI is propelling could mirror previous technologies by unequally distributing societal benefits and creating winners and losers. U.S. climate governance cannot overlook how recent developments in AI and cloud technology contribute to the environmental burdens that communities of color and low-income families face.
This report explores how climate justice is not only contingent upon how it serves these communities, but also why it’s critical to proactively mitigate the environmental harms associated with rapid technological shifts. By fundamentally changing how we live, both AI and climate change could tip the scales of U.S. communities in ways that are unfair or unjust. It will be our policies, regulating and guiding these forces, that ultimately determine their social impacts.