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11.14.19
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Cambridge: AI Might Help Us Avoid “Environmental Catastrophe”

February 22nd 19__Kristin Houser__Filed Under: Earth & Energy
Enrique Meseguer/Tag Hartman-Simkins

Data Collectors

From images taken by satellites to measurements recorded by increasingly sensitive sensors, we now have more data about our environment than ever before.

But we’re not yet at the point where we can effectively make use of all this information, according to Simon Redfern, Head of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences.

“Such huge datasets pose their own challenges… and new methods need to be developed to tap their potential and to use this information to guide our path away from environmental catastrophe,” Redfern said in a press release about the university’s efforts to confront threats to the environment using artificial intelligence.

Challenges Ahead

Cambridge announced on Thursday that it would be launching a new center focused on developing ways use AI to address environmental risks.

Redfern will serve as the head of Cambridge’s Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Application of Artificial Intelligence to the study of Environmental Risks (AI4ER), which will share a total of $260 million in funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) with 15 other newly announced AI-focused CDTs.

Half the Battle

According to UKRI’s funding announcement, AI4ER will focus on the development of “new methods to exploit AI’s potential to analyse complex environmental data and thus help plan sustainable pathways to the future.”

UKRI cites climate change, a growing population, and shrinking biodiversity as a few of the risks the students will address with their studies. As for the specific types of projects Cambridge expects AI4ER students to undertake, the university notes several ongoing projects similar in scope, including ones focused on using AI to understand earthquake risk and monitor active volcanos.

The answers to our greatest environmental problems could be hidden within the massive troves of data we can collect from the world around us. Now we just need our ability to analyze this data to catch up with our ability to gather it — and Cambridge’s AI4ER has the potential to do just that.

READ MORE: Using AI to Avert ‘Environmental Catastrophe’ [University of Cambridge]

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