Photo of PIF Tricia Martinez

Lessons Learned as a Presidential Innovation Fellow: 3 ways AI can fight climate change


Through Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF), I’m partnering with federal government leaders and using my expertise as an emerging technology entrepreneur to help address some of our nation’s greatest challenges. 

As a PIF, I work with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to analyze and highlight how artificial intelligence (AI) can aid the fight against the climate crisis. 

Two things are true: addressing the climate crisis is no easy task, and tech can fuel a healthier planet. The challenges the climate crisis presents are generational, and there’s no single solution. But inclusive AI approaches can help build fair and lasting progress.

Extreme weather events like megastorms, droughts, and high temperatures affect how we experience our everyday lives. Three key problem areas have informed my research, relationships, and work:

  • Carbon emissions contribute the most to the climate crisis. Over eighty percent of emissions come from carbon dioxide (CO2) with human energy consumption being the largest. 
  • Wind and solar energy are the fastest growing and lowest cost renewable sources; however, they only account for four percent of total energy in the United States.
  • Carbon stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of thousands of years, and causes damage.

Reducing emissions alone is not enough to fix the climate crisis. While it’s not a silver bullet, AI is a valuable resource that can jumpstart green solutions and help the United States achieve its ambitious climate goals. 

Working with DOE has revealed three important use cases:

1. Reduce Carbon Emissions

AI drives efficiency across carbon-intensive industries. The transportation industry is using AI to increase vehicle efficiency, reduce travel, and prioritize low-carbon options for logistics. AI is already used in homes to monitor energy use. It will expand beyond homes and businesses to larger footprints like smart cities.

2. Invest in Renewable Energies

AI can reduce waste and forecast supply and demand. That will help energy suppliers integrate distributed energy resources like wind and solar energy to our national grids. Today, sensors use AI to monitor wind turbines and solar panels. By collecting and analyzing data, AI can inform suppliers when technical malfunctions might happen, and track weather to predict changes in energy supply.

3. Capture, Use, and Store Carbon

Carbon capture, use, and storage captures CO2 emissions from sources like coal-fired power plants and either reuses or keeps it out of  the atmosphere. This game-changing technology in the climate change battle allows AI to fill a significant gap, like developing new low-carbon alternatives.

AI has incredible potential in our climate change battle. As my fellowship continues, I’m working with DOE leaders to 

  • increase research and development; 
  • advance our understanding of available solutions 
  • bring more green technologies to market; and 
  • unite public, private, and nonprofit sectors to drive sustainable and fair green economic growth. 

We each have the power and ability to change our future, and technology is my tool of choice.

Last Reviewed: 2021-04-19