Google's AI push raises emissions, hindering carbon goals

Google's emissions surged 48% over five years due to AI integration, complicating its 2030 carbon goals

Google's AI push raises emissions, hindering carbon goals

Google’s emissions have increased by nearly half over five years as the company integrated artificial intelligence into many of its core products, as reported by BNN Bloomberg. 

This development has made it more challenging to achieve its goal of eliminating carbon emissions by 2030, according to a new environmental report from the tech giant.   

The annual report, released on Tuesday, details Google's progress toward its environmental goals last year. The Alphabet Inc. unit reported that its greenhouse gas emissions totalled 14.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2023.  

This figure is 48 percent higher than in 2019 and 13 percent higher than in 2022. Google attributed this increase to higher energy consumption at its data centres and emissions from its supply chain, noting that the integration of AI into its products may further complicate efforts to reduce emissions. 

 “As we further integrate AI into our products, reducing emissions may be challenging due to increasing energy demands from the greater intensity of AI compute, and the emissions associated with the expected increases in our technical infrastructure investment,” Google stated in the report.   

Google has aimed to eliminate such emissions from its operations by 2030. AI, particularly generative AI, which creates new content like text, images, or songs from user inputs, is highly resource intensive.  

A Bloomberg News investigation highlighted the rapid growth of this technology and the corresponding increase in power requirements for data centres.   

The significant rise in power demands due to Silicon Valley's aggressive approach to AI development threatens to disrupt energy transition plans globally, including the clean energy goals of trillion-dollar tech companies.  

In countries such as Saudi Arabia, Ireland, and Malaysia, the energy required to run all planned data centres at full capacity exceeds the available renewable energy supply, according to a Bloomberg analysis.   

Google is not alone in facing these challenges. In May, Microsoft Corp. reported a 30 percent increase in carbon emissions since 2020 due to its growing AI investments, complicating its goal of achieving below net-zero emissions by 2030.   

Sasha Luccioni, climate lead at startup Hugging Face Inc., noted that tech companies did not anticipate the massive growth of AI when setting their environmental goals.  

“They couldn't have,” she said. “The baseline year in that Google report was 2019 — definitely not anticipating it.” Companies have been caught off guard by the substantial energy demands required both to build and run AI technology