Cyber Ethics of Climate Change AI

Global cyber ethics are the foundation of a climate change governance assist artificial intelligence (AI), and they build on the concept of global citizenship that has been realised by the internet. We need to be familiar with this, even though we take it for granted, if we are going to quickly see a climate change AI in action.

​In the near universal global uptake of the internet, people have implicitly accepted principles that underlie its structure. In a world where efforts for global collaboration constantly run on to the rocks of national power plays and competing ideologies, it is possible to construct an internet based climate change AI on a base of principles and rights that people already understand and accept. What are these foundation principles?

Universality; we are all internet enabled citizens of a world under existential threat of climate change, and we have the right to fix this, the right to survive as a species. We see the urgency, the natural disasters and the modelling that shows the worst of climate change impacts are upon us.

Sustainability; we have the right to develop an internet mediated artificial intelligence to assist in the task of global governance to address climate change and to assure the sustainability of the earth, its people and its other species, in a time frame that will avert environmental disaster due to human instigated global warming. That time frame is ten years, according to the United Nations IPCC report on climate change.

Equality; uptake of such an AI is an implicit vote for global climate change repair, and represents a new form of global democratic decision making that rises above traditional politics and national boundaries to create an operational fast track to net zero. We need this new governance form, not as a replacement, but as essential progress for our civilisation.

Transparency of operation, independence from political interference (distributed climate change AI could route around deliberate damage to the system),* privacy of electronic communications* enabled by use of cryptography and outlawing of spyware, and collaboration to guarantee internet infrastructure, are all essential accepted principles of the internet.

All of these are key elements in the creation of a global climate change AI cluster structure that will use vast amounts of personal, privately held, and general authenticated data to generate strategies to rapidly bring communities, geographical areas, countries, and global commerce and industry to net zero carbon emissions. Competing climate change AIs developed on a commercial basis are fine, because diversity would lessen the threat of corruption or takeover. We need them to start happening now, and they should be at the forefront of the current tech investment strategy, in both private and public spheres. US President Joe Biden’s determination to move on climate change is a very good sign.

However, all climate change AIs need to adhere to these globally accepted principles to attain wide public understanding and support.

Governance assist strategic AIs should be framed as an essential adjunct to traditional governance structures, which do not have the ability to work to fix the environmental problems in a timely way. The fossil fuel lobby, ideological conflicts, the endless compromise and corruption that rules traditional politics all work against a coherent plan. In essence, a climate change AI cluster would be seen as a global public good, a serious attempt to get organised on a global basis and enable action plans to assign responsibility and cause change, at individual, industry wide, and global regulatory levels. Once everyone knows what they need to do and how they can achieve it, whether it is how they can invest in and upscale renewables, shut down polluting industries such as the fossil fuel industry, support failed states in climate change mitigation, or to change their personal behaviour by eating less meat and dairy, buying secondhand clothes, and taking less flights, whatever action is part of an AI plan and shown to be effective, we will see massive change.

​The technological basis of a climate change AI cluster needs to be addressed, although the AI technology is there.

The financing of a climate change AI cluster needs to be addressed, although there is widespread acknowledgement that investment is required to address climate change.

The practicalities of a comprehensive rollout of global AIs need to be addressed.

​The fundamental justification is there. We are all global citizens, and we have a right to save our world from climate change. A climate change AI is simply our best shot at bringing all of our knowledge, new technologies, investment and will to change together, to achieve net zero. Well over 20 years ago I presented a paper in Washington DC that discussed emerging internet ethics (The Campaign For An Ethical Internet, June 1, 1998, ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society Volume 28, Issue 2) as follows:

​”A primary task for the Internet community is to establish a Code of Ethics. This could be based on the following principles: a strong and coherent Internet infrastructure; maintenance of interconnectivity; open Internet commerce; privacy of communications; freedom of speech within the Internet (with the proviso that the best interests of children are protected in information delivery); universal Internet access; freely accessible “public good” information; mediation between national and global organizations in the interests of the Internet; authentication of information (or establishment of levels of verification of information sources); and maintenance of adequate bandwidth. These principles encompass some of the fiercest debates of the Internet regulatory environment, including those on issues of cryptography, copyright, software patents, first-level domain names, and pornography.”

​Cyber ethics have become embedded, and we now need to extend this ethical foundation to create a new AI era. Global citizenship and AI can mesh to transform our use of the earth we live on, with the consent and active participation of every concerned person, organisation and nation.