Can Artificial Intelligence help to save the climate?

The Scientific American ranked Artifical Intelligence in 2015 among the “ten big advances that will improve life, transform computing and maybe even save the planet”, which inspired me to think about the application of AI to stabilize the Earth’s climate.

The investment company BLACKROCK, which is arguably the world’s largest asset manager [3], runs the ALADDIN computing system to control about 6 trillion (6 000 000 000 000) USD of assets [2]. The processed data is not sheer numbers but corresponds to prices of shares and shares which again correspond to real assets, e.g. planes, cars, cattle, soya beans, etc in the real world, and their production or destruction. Assuming that the ALADDIN  system is currently used to recommend buys and sells to maximize profits for its stake holders, one could use this system to suggest buys and sells to optimize the earths surface temperature at 1.5 (maximum 2) degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In technical terms, this a sheer optimization problem, which should be solvable, if the system is informed about underlying relationships, e.g. how many cows emit how much methane and how much methane increases how much the earth’s surface temperature. One may even combine the current and the sustainable target by optimizing the buy & sell recommendations so the maximize the stakeholders’ profit, however (!), within the planet’s system boundaries as previously described [4,5], esp. regarding the global climate and biodiversity. In a way, this would be an innovative step to merge “economic capital” and “ecological capital” as main outcomes in investment decisions for the greater good of humanity and the biosphere as a whole.

However, we should be careful that such an intelligent system will not just recommend the reduction of the single most important causal factor for the climate crisis, which is the number of humans (in industrialized countries), by investing in weapons of mass destruction or investing in basic foods raising the market value to unaffordable levels …


[1] Scientific-American, 2015. World Changing Ideas 2015. Scientific American.


[3] Buchter, H. (2016). Blackrock. Campus. URL:

[4] Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., Persson, A., Chapin, F. S., Lambin, E. F., … Foley, J. A. (2009). A safe operating space for humanity. Nature, 461(7263), 472–475. [PDF] 

[5] Steffen, W., Richardson, K., Rockström, J., Cornell, S. E., Fetzer, I., Bennett, E. M., … Sörlin, S. (2015). Sustainability. Planetary boundaries: guiding human development on a changing planet. Science (New York, N.Y.), 347(6223), 1259855. [PDF]