Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The AI community are having another shot at getting their hands on a share of the climate emergency budget.
Algae might be a secret weapon to combatting climate change
By Ben Lamm October 1, 2019
As fires rage in the Amazon, people have latched onto the phrase that the Amazon is the “lungs of the earth.” President Emmanuel Macron of France warned that “our house is burning.” Celebrities from Leonardo DiCaprio to Vanessa Hudgens raised funds to support the Amazon, and the hashtag #PrayforAmazonia went viral.
Trees alone will therefore not save us from the current crisis. We must look to our oceans for solutions that are more effective and scalable. Say hello to algae sequestration.
Algae as carbon sequestration
Algae, when used in conjunction with AI-powered bioreactors, is up to 400 times more efficient than a tree at removing CO2 from the atmosphere. That means that while we are learning to reduce carbon emissions and augment our consumption patterns, we can start to make big reductions in atmospheric carbon. When wielded correctly, it could make a city carbon negative without changing current production or consumption patterns of the city.
The challenges with algae
Scaling algae for biofuel production is not without its challenges. For one, algae growth is rapid and has been historically hard to manage and optimize. This can be addressed with new technology, like machine learning and AI, that helps to manage the growth process in order to ensure that growth happens through a managed and predictable cadence. Another limiting factor is the cost of implementation and the difficult road to profitability for many of these technologies. It’s been historically hard to convince people to pay more for something they can pay less for, and companies like Exxon and Shell have experienced this head-on with their stunt-filled algae-fuel concepts.
However, the time to be cheap is over. We need to consider alternative options that are planet-effective, not just cost-effective. We need more investible capital in long term solutions that help to solve big problems. The current five-year investment cycle for most VC-backed companies is too short for addressing major moonshot problems like climate change. To make these solutions work, we need investment options that allow for more gradual profit return and longer-term planning, thinking, and execution.
…Read more: https://qz.com/1718988/algae-might-be-a-secret-weapon-to-combatting-climate-change/
The author, Ben Lamm, is co-founder and CEO of Hypergiant, an AI / machine learning company.
This isn’t the first time the AI community have tried to muscle in on the climate game. AI entrepreneurs seem to be promoting the idea that AI is a kind of expensive magic sauce which will transform currently marginal climate ideas into winners.