AIn’t A Magic Bullet

Artificial intelligence (AI) may not be the proverbial silver bullet but it can still contribute to India’s climate change initiatives

A new study roots for embedding responsible artificial intelligence (AI) in India’s climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives.

The CSTEP study examined AI’s potential for strengthening climate action in India, particularly for transport and water management. For this, it identified India-relevant uses of AI and evaluated them through a three-tier thematic framework. The impact of each use case in these two sectors was then assessed and categorised as high or heavyweight, moderate, and certain.

The report features the impact each AI use case can have in terms of tackling climate change, along with the time period over which the impact is likely to be visible (immediate, medium, or long term).

Of the 18 use cases of AI identified for both sectors, 13 were found to be in the category of ‘high impact’. One such high-impact application is in planning the electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure — a crucial factor for large-scale EV uptake, and another is in flood prediction and warning, which can enable efficient, targeted emergency responses.

The study acknowledges AI as a powerful tool to boost and speed up our response to climate change. Recognising that the manner in which AI is deployed in the near future will determine India’s progress towards achieving its climate action goals, the report furnishes a comprehensive roadmap to guide the way forward.

The roadmap consists of a climate action matrix, which positions each use case according to its potential opportunity and the expected ease of implementation in India. It thus points out the priority areas for climate action. Intelligent traffic signal systems, glacial retreat mapping, transport demand management, and precision farming are among the areas proritised by the matrix for implementation, as their benefits are expected to outweigh the costs in the long run.

The roadmap also includes a set of actionable policy recommendations to enable AI’s effective deployment for climate change adaptation and mitigation in India on a large scale. These include aligning India’s national climate action strategy with regulated AI-enabled solutions and vice versa; ensuring availability of and accessibility to comprehensive data; developing supporting physical infrastructure; promoting research and information dissemination; improving AI-for-climate literacy for widespread community participation, and forging multi-sectoral collaborations or consortiums involving government, academia, and industry to foster an AI-enabled climate action ecosystem.

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