Microsoft’s emissions increased nearly 30% as it raced to meet AI demand

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Microsoft’s emissions have increased by nearly a third since 2020, as efforts to build the infrastructure behind artificial intelligence threaten its climate goals.

Emissions increased by nearly 30% largely due to the construction of data centers running on AI and cloud computing systems, Microsoft said in its annual sustainability report on Wednesday.

“Our challenges are partly due to our position as a leading cloud provider expanding our data centers,” Microsoft said. The company is racing against rivals including Amazon and Google to invest in building infrastructure to support it Innovative AI.

Microsoft has invested billions of dollars OpenAIthe company behind ChatGPT and is building its own AI tools.

Microsoft’s direct and energy-related emissions decreased by 6.3% in 2023 compared to a 2020 baseline. However, supply chain emissions – which account for the majority of total emissions – have decreased. increased by 30.9%. That pushed overall emissions up 29.1%, according to its report.

The company is among those that have established a series of climate including goals of becoming “carbon negative” and achieving “zero waste” by 2030.

However, those goals have been hindered by the race to build general AI, which is energy-intensive with large energy and water needs.

The competition to build data center infrastructure also raises questions about the nation’s power grid’s ability to meet AI-related surges in electricity demand and whether there is enough renewable energy in emerging markets. that field to power technology or not.

In an effort to address the growing supply chain emissions, Microsoft on Wednesday said it will require certain “high volume” suppliers to use 100% “carbon-free” electricity for goods. goods and services delivered to the Seattle-based company by 2030.

This month, Microsoft also said it would invest about $10 billion in renewable power projects developed by Brookfield Asset Management as part of an effort to combine clean energy goals with its AI ambitions.

Emissions associated with building new data centers come in part from key construction materials such as carbon-intensive cement and steel and those used to make computer chips and hardware. other.

Microsoft has pledged that 100% of its electricity consumption will be 100% “matched” by “zero carbon energy purchases” by 2030.

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