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AI writing, illustration emit less carbon than humans

Apr. 03, 2024.
1 min. read 8 Interactions

May emit between 130 and 1,500 times less CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per page of text or image

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Amara Angelica

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Comparing AI, computers, and human carbon footprints for writing a page of technology text (credit: Bill Tomlinson et al.)

A study by researchers at University of Kansas and University of California-Irvine suggests that writing and illustrating using AI emits hundreds of times less carbon than humans performing the same tasks. 

To calculate the carbon footprint of a person writing, the researchers measured the “energy budget”—the amount of energy used in certain tasks for a set period of time.

AI less energy-wasteful

They found that AI systems emit between 130 and 1,500 times less CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per page of text, compared to CO2e generated by human writers. And they also found that illustration systems like DALL-E 2 and Midjourney emit 310 to 2,900 times less CO2e per image than humans.

“When we did it, the results were kind of astonishing, even by conservative estimates,” said Torrance. “AI is extremely less wasteful.”

Environmental impact and combatting climate change

The research was conducted to improve understanding of AI and its environmental impact and to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns; and taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, the researchers wrote.

Citation: Tomlinson, B., Black, R.W., Patterson, D.J. et al. The carbon emissions of writing and illustrating are lower for AI than for humans. Sci Rep 14, 3732 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-54271-x (open access)

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  1. Good Illustration

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