COP26 and Plan B for Climate Change AI

Given the usual state of global politics, the COP26 conference seems likely to make only incremental climate change movement when we need a radical shift to roll out climate change AI. We need to urgently develop Plan B.

Global pressure on the participants of the Glasgow conference to commit to deeper cuts in global emissions is essential. But we need to be keeping up impetus if the meeting of around 200 countries making up the United Nation’s COP26 in November founders under the weight of collective climate change inertia. There is no indication that the much needed regulatory frameworks and accords to promote climate change artificial intelligence are on the agenda. Yet this framework is urgently required to realise the outstanding potential of climate change AI.

Big tech investment would respond to a regulatory framework, potentially allowing public/private data sharing and setting ambitious reform goals for AI clusters. Global climate change initiatives could opt in, sharing data and creating action plans. It is the lack of such a regulatory framework that has seen the enormous potential of climate change AI, a topic which many global political leaders barely understand, stalled on the sidelines. Amid huge investment in tech, climate change AI remains only modestly supported by the global governance regime that has taken over the label of global citizenship, the United Nations itself.

There are indicators that climate change AI, given a global rollout, could make a critical improvement in assessing which actions are effective, but would also sheet home responsibility for high carbon emission practices. For example, dirty steel production in China and India, along with continuing fossil fuel production worldwide when renewables are an immediate benefit in terms of reducing carbon emissions.

The case for radical reform has been made, and the consequences of inaction on climate change are already obvious. However, for politicians everywhere, power and political survival largely wins over accountability and real change. Their own accountability for continuing to support destructive industries and policies will in many cases overwhelm the demonstrated need for emergency action. We will hear evasive fine sentiments from countries such as Australia and New Zealand, which will continue to put action below the interests of their key supporters, in coal in the former case, and animal-based agriculture industries in the latter. As the meeting becomes imminent, the Australian federal government is being elbowed by its own states into declaring new emissions targets. Even Net Zero by 2050, a comfortably far off target that fails to address the urgency of the climate change emergency, is too hard for some politicians to confront.

The United Nations does not own the concept of global citizenship. The concept springs from principles underlying the successful construction and operation of the internet [Shearer, J. One Net One World – Global Citizenship and the Internet, JUCS 1996]

Global citizens are thus justified in creating alliances where they can, in order to realise the potential of climate change AI. There is a rapid advance in the technology, plus a global call for climate change solutions.

It appears it will be necessary for for individual countries, or blocs, backed by Big Tech, to go ahead and create stealthy alliances and accords that will provide the de facto regulatory and network standards framework that is so urgently needed in the climate change AI space. In this way, the political fallout is minimised, and the worldwide rollout of climate change AI and associated action plans becomes an operational matter agreed between participating parties. It would then be a matter of diplomacy to bring important countries on board.

Ideally, China, the US and Russia, and regional blocs such as the EU would be foundational members, but failing that, they could be brought on board as progress continued. Climate change AI has the potential to be a key economic driver of new technologies and ecologically sustainable industries world-wide. Non-participants are likely to suffer major economic consequences.

Agreed standards for information authentication, data sharing, and privacy, investment in data analysis and auditing of resources use in running AI clusters, outreach to all climate change areas, political independence in governance (see previous blog) would set the stage for transformation in worldwide climate change accountability practices. It would also would enable pressure to be applied through economic sanctions and withdrawal of investment finance to national and corporate wrong-doers, and to educate global citizens about their personal responsibilities.

Ethics of sustainability, and as close as we can get to ethical accounting and balancing of sustainability responsibilities, are at the core of climate change AI deployment. No-one says it is the silver bullet, but the potential is unquantifiable at this time.

The time for fine speeches and greenwashing is over. We need hybrid climate change AI clusters now.

Given the logic of this development, it is highly likely the real action at COP26 will be on the sidelines. It is to be hoped that conflict and posturing will be put aside in private, in favour of getting this crucial framework in place.