“Even if you live with AI, you have to be part of nature,” said Her Excellency Margriet Vonno, Ambassador of Netherlands to Singapore and Brunei. She was speaking at AI x GOV’s AI: The key to climate response panel.

To emphasise this, she wore a black dress adorned in dragonfly motifs, referencing a robotic dragonfly project that Technical University of Delft (TUD) in The Netherlands is developing. These dragonfly drones will soon be able to assist urban farming by recognising and pollinating flowers, wrote Robotics Business Review.

This is one of the ways nations are integrating AI with nature for sustainability. Global experts on climate change tech gathered to share how governments can develop AI to manage disasters and optimise energy use.

Mitigating and managing disasters

First, governments are developing machine learning models to predict and manage disasters.

Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) is working with Dutch research institute Deltares to monitor pollution levels in Singapore’s waters, shared Vonno. They have placed eight buoys that can analyse coastal water quality in real time and send live updates to NEA on pollutant levels, she explained.

The Singapore government is using computer modelling to mitigate extreme rainfall events as well, she said. The government can test flood-resilient infrastructure with these models, wrote the Hydroinformatics Institute. The Institute is also working on a rainfall monitoring system to predict and manage floods in Singapore.

Similarly, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center developed an AI model that can mitigate the effects of hurricanes, shared Nieves Garcia Diez, AI & ML Business Development lead, APJ Public Sector, Amazon Web Services.

These models can estimate hurricane wind speeds. This helps government agencies in the US plan more informed hurricane responses.

Computer modeling can also aid governments in preventing disasters. An Australian energy company, AusNet, is working with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to prevent bushfires with AI, shared Diez. It has equipped cars with special cameras and AI to map out vegetation areas that need trimming, she explained.

Optimising energy use

Second, governments can use AI to analyse energy data and reduce unnecessary energy use. This will increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

South Korea is developing the Eco Delta Smart Village in Busan, shared Dr Jong-Sung Hwang, Lead Researcher at the country’s National Information Society Agency. The city collects energy data from citizens’ daily routines to determine how the government can build more energy efficient cities in the future.

The Eco-Delta Smart Village aims to be fully powered by renewable energy in the future, he said.

South Korea’s smart energy plans are similar to that of Singapore, which is rolling out its first smart district, the Punggol Digital District, in 2024. The district will use AI to monitor and reduce unnecessary energy use. For example, it may switch off lights in empty meeting rooms and tweak indoor temperatures on cooler days, wrote GovInsider.

Beyond improving how cities use energy, governments can also buy from more sustainable sources to reduce internal carbon emissions, said Louis Jamart, Climate Lead at UK’s PUBLIC, a government-focused technology company. One way to do this is to check if their supply chains are meeting energy targets, and switch to cleaner options if needed, he said.

Agencies can adopt tools such as BrainBox AI, which helps buildings optimise their energy use by predicting temperature changes and adjusting heating and cooling appropriately.

The startup won the Tech For Our Planet challenge at COP26 last year, which showcased tech startups for net-zero goals. The company’s AI model has already resulted in 20 to 40 per cent improvement in the carbon footprints of individual buildings, Jamart shared.

Much like how dragonflies can see in all 360 degrees, AI can help governments monitor what humans cannot see with the naked eye, from hurricane wind speeds to unnecessary carbon emissions. Agencies can then go one step further: they can plan for these elements, mitigate them, and even prevent them.

Watch the full ‘AI: The key to climate response’ panel discussion here.