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There is a need for a better understanding of environmental harms and AI among policymakers, experts, and the broader public.


Justice Area(s)

Environmental Justice

AI Impact(s)

Lack of Data



Global South



A Mozilla workshop on "Trustworthy AI x Climate Crisis" concluded that "experts" feel unequipped to talk about this intersection. This is a new field, and there is a general sense that no one has the answer. Participants expressed a desire to define the problem and gain a clear understanding of the environmental harms of AI. They wanted to articulate the connections between AI and the climate crisis that addresses underlying power structures and might yield possible solutions. There's also a need for a clear articulation of AI harms on the environments that are most likely to be harmed. The analyses should include who and which environments are most likely to be harmed, and a clear understanding of which harms we are talking about, from AI supply chain, to carbon emissions, to how it is optimizing the global extraction economy.

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Related Issues by Justice Area

Issue 2023

AI models, without ecological awareness, can perpetuate and amplify environmentally damaging narratives, exacerbating ecological crises.

The integration—or lack thereof—of ecological awareness in AI systems manifests significantly in how AI influences public and private sector decisions. For instance, without ecological consideration, AI-driven recommendations in urban planning and resource management could prioritize economic gains over sustainability, leading to increased carbon footprints and depletion of natural resources. The H4rmony Project addresses this by embedding ecolinguistic principles into AI to ensure its outputs promote sustainability.

Environmental Justice Human Rights
Issue 2023

Companies are rushing to integrate LLMs into products even though the output of these tools cannot be fully controlled.

This can be seen in the Gemini image generation debate. "A system that you cannot debug through a logical, Socratic process is a vulnerability that exploitative tech tycoons will use to do what they always do, undermine the vulnerable."

Community Health and Collective Security Economic Justice Environmental Justice Gender Justice Racial Justice
Issue 2019

AI is intensifying energy consumption, with disproportionate impact in the Global South.

The environmental movement originally saw tech and digital transformation as a path to efficiency for a resource-depleted planet. But the dream of "the paperless office" has given way to the reality of planned obsolescence, e-waste, and the huge carbon footprints of the server farms that power cloud computing, encryption methods like Bitcoin, and AI models. Research suggests that AI is intensifying energy consumption, especially from the development of AI by major tech companies: Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. Currently, there is little to no information about how much energy Big Tech's algorithms consume, but data suggest that the biggest carbon emissions are coming from training models, and the storing of large datasets and training a single AI model can emit as much carbon as five cars in their lifetime. The ad tech industry is assumed to be the biggest pollutant in this area. Research on energy emissions/impact of AI is from the Global North, but the disproportionate impacts of energy consumption and climate change is almost always in the Global South.

Environmental Justice
Issue 2020

AI and robotics will become integral to future security systems and therefore to border control and preventing irregular migration.

Mixed Migration Review explains that the likely impact of demographic changes and environmental stressors will be a significant increase in the number of migrants and refugees in the world. Migrants and refugees have been called some of "the most surveilled people on the planet," as they cross multiple national borders where government immigration authorities collect and compute copious amounts of new data sources (such as social media data) through black box algorithms offered by vendors to automate what can, unfortunately, amount to life-or-death decisions.

Environmental Justice Human Rights

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