Microsoft's Emissions Are Rising Nearly 30% as the Company Tries to Meet AI Demand - Latest Global News

Microsoft’s Emissions Are Rising Nearly 30% as the Company Tries to Meet AI Demand

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Microsoft’s emissions have risen by almost a third since 2020 as its push to expand the infrastructure behind artificial intelligence threatens its climate goals.

The nearly 30 percent increase in emissions is due in large part to the construction of the data centers that run AI and cloud computing systems, Microsoft said Wednesday in its annual sustainability report.

“Our challenges are related in part to our position as a leading cloud provider expanding its data centers,” Microsoft said. The company is in a race with rivals like Amazon and Google to invest in expanding infrastructure to support generative AI.

Microsoft has invested billions of dollars in OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, and is developing its own AI tools.

Microsoft’s direct and energy-related emissions fell 6.3 percent in 2023 compared to the base year of 2020. However, emissions from its supply chain – which make up the majority of its total emissions – increased by 30.9 percent. As a result, total emissions increased by 29.1 percent, the report says.

The company is among those that have set a wide range of climate goals, including the goal of becoming “carbon negative” and achieving “zero waste” by 2030.

However, these goals have been threatened by the race to build generative AI, which is energy intensive and requires large amounts of energy and water.

The competition to build out data center infrastructure has also raised questions about whether national energy grids are able to handle the expected increase in electricity demand related to AI and whether there is sufficient renewable energy power in these markets to power the technology is.

To address rising supply chain emissions, Microsoft announced Wednesday that it would require certain “major suppliers” to use 100 percent “carbon-free” electricity for goods and services delivered to the Seattle-based company by 2030.

Microsoft also said this month that it would support an estimated $10 billion in renewable power projects to be developed by Brookfield Asset Management as part of its efforts to combine its clean energy goals with its AI ambitions.

Some of the emissions associated with building new data centers come from critical construction materials such as cement and steel, which are carbon-intensive to produce, as well as those that go into computer chips and other hardware.

Microsoft has pledged that by 2030, 100 percent of its electricity consumption will be “covered” by “carbon-free energy purchases.”

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