AI and Climate Change — A BIG MUST for every classroom

As the US Senator from TX — Ted Cruz’s report of leaving for Cancun, dominated the headlines, I had a Zoom call with Becky — an elementary school teacher near Dallas, Texas. We casually chatted about the extreme weather in Texas and Senator Cruz’s decision to take a short vacation while his state suffered a significant climate crisis. Becky, with anxiety, said: “Rooz, I’m not interested in the politics of climate change; I’m interested in tackling climate change through education and my classroom. Can ReadyAI help?” I replied: “Yes, I mean. No. What I want to say, Becky, is that we really want to help. We should help. We must help. Just give me a bit of time.” Last week I ran through my notes and started revisiting my conversation a year earlier with Priya Donti of Carnegie Mellon University, and Co-founder and Chair of Climate Change AI. Climate Change AI is an initiative to catalyze impactful work at the intersection of climate change and machine learning. I talked to my team, and they equally felt that we should bring AI and Climate change to classrooms.

Climate change is the biggest challenge facing our planet and the next generation. Climate change will genuinely need every solution possible, including technology like AI (what we at ReadyAI have been bringing to classrooms worldwide since 2017). I am not suggesting that AI is the silver bullet in solving climate change. I am advocating for every school to teach both AI concepts and climate change. Yes, climate change with machine learning! Although AI and machine learning may not be the best or only solution, they can bring new insight into climate change.

We need better climate predictions:

This is about building beyond climate informatics, a discipline created over a decade ago at the cross-section of data science and climate science. Today AI can help unhitch new insights (simulation generated by climate modeling) that can support making better predictions that can help policymakers make more informed climate policy, allow governments to prepare for change, and potentially discover areas that could reverse some effects of climate change.

We need to show the impact of extreme weather:

Just look at the recent destruction of extreme weather in Texas. Many Texans have already encountered the effects of a changing environment. For others, it might seem less tangible and visible. Today many researchers using GANs, a type of AI, to simulate what homes are likely to look like after being damaged by rising sleeves and more intense extreme weather.

We must actively measure where carbon is coming from:

Today AI can automate the analysis of power plants’ images and factors to get frequent emissions. It also introduces new methods to measure a plant’s impact by crunching the number of nearby infrastructure and electricity usage. That’s handy for gas-powered plants that don’t have the easy-to-measure plumes that coal-powered plants have.

The most significant challenge on the planet might benefit from machine learning (Big Idea 3 — How AI Learns) to help with solutions.

When thinking about AI education at the K12 level, we must remind ourselves that we cannot afford to train our next generation’s best minds thinking about making people click on ads. We need to have them thinking about climate change. We need to have a conversation with our children about understanding how to decrease their carbon footprint because that’s the only way forward.

The global economy is in the midst of the most profound transformation in history. The move to a low-carbon future will require insights into the climate impact of every decision we make.

In short, at ReadyAI we believe that AI and Climate Change must be discussed in every classroom. Tackling climate change requires concentrated action that starts in our classrooms, in which AI education and machine learning can play an impactful role. To build a community of diverse stakeholders in the future to tackle these issues, we must start now, and we must begin in the classroom.

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