Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Officer reveals why he thinks the world of AI for Earth

At the end of 2018, the WWF published a report stating that global wildlife populations have fallen 60% since 1970.
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On October 8 last year, the United Nations published a report that called for global warming to be limited to 1.5 degrees centigrade over the next 12 years. Failure to do so will significantly worsen the risk of drought, floods and poverty for hundreds of millions of people, scientists warned. From a financial perspective, economic losses in the US alone from extreme weather and the health costs of air pollution will hit $360 billion annually in the coming decade, according to a report by the Universal Ecological Fund.

“There are two conclusions you can take from the report,” says Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Officer and the man behind the company’s $50m AI for Earth programme. “One is we are finished; but I’m not a fatalist, so I try not to take that route. If you reject that conclusion, which I hope human society does, you are left with only one other – we need to do some pretty radical things, and we need to do them now.”

“It requires everybody to lean in, and some will have to play almost disproportionate roles,” Joppa says. “Governments need to do their part and every person has to do their bit. But the tech space has a major role to play in deploying technologies, human resources and expertise. We have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it in.”

With an announcement of a bolder ambition from Microsoft President Brad Smith, calling for a tech-first approach to sustainability and the embedding of sustainability as a core value across all business units, it’s clear that Joppa is far from alone in that belief at Microsoft.

Read how Joppa’s initiative has turned into funding of over 230 projects in 60+ countries and about Microsoft’s role as enabler in the process, giving scientists access to Azure cloud platform.

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