Google’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Soared Nearly 50% in Five Years Driven by AI Expansion

Google’s greenhouse gas emissions spiked by nearly 50 percent in the last five years due to energy-guzzling data centers needed to power artificial intelligence, according to the company’s 2024 Environmental Report released on Tuesday. This annual report showcases Google’s progress towards its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

In 2023, Google released 14.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, as per the report. This was a 48 percent increase from 2019 and 13 percent higher than the year before. “This outcome is primarily due to increases in data center energy consumption and supply chain emissions,” stated Google in the report. “As we continue to integrate AI into our products, reducing emissions may be challenging due to the rising energy demands associated with increasing our technical infrastructure investment.”

Google’s report highlights the environmental impact that the growth of artificial intelligence has had on the planet. Tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Meta, Apple, and others plan to invest billions in AI, but training AI models demands enormous amounts of energy. Utilizing AI features also consumes significant energy. In 2023, researchers at AI startup Hugging Face and Carnegie Mellon University found that generating a single image using AI can use as much energy as charging a smartphone. Bernstein analysts suggested that AI could “double the rate of US electricity demand growth, potentially surpassing current supply in the next two years,” the Financial Times reported. Last month, Microsoft, which also committed to being “carbon negative” by the end of this decade, that its greenhouse gas emissions had risen nearly 30 percent since 2020 due to the construction of data centers.

Google’s report mentioned that the company’s data centers are using significantly more water to maintain cooling due to expanded AI workloads. Some workloads have involved Google Search suggesting people eat rocks and put glue on their pizza to prevent cheese from falling off, as well as Gemini, the company’s AI-powered chatbot, generating images of .

In 2023, Google’s data centers consumed 17 percent more water than the previous year. That equates to 6.1 billion liters, which is enough to irrigate about 41 golf courses annually in the southwestern United States, as described by the company’s measurement.

“As our business and industry continue to evolve, we anticipate that our total GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions will rise before eventually decreasing towards our absolute emissions reduction target,” stated Google’s report, without detailing what would cause the drop. “Predicting the future environmental impact of AI is complex and evolving, and our historical trends likely don’t fully capture AI’s future trajectory. As we deeply integrate AI across our product range, differentiating between AI and other workloads will become less meaningful.”

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