Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to revolutionize approaches to climate change research by rapidly advancing problem solving and formulating solutions. Scholars have begun to analyze the potential role that AI could play in addressing global climate change, both through improving our scientific understanding of the causes and impacts of climate change and by helping to develop solutions. There are increasing applications of how AI and machine learning can be used to improve the accuracy of climate system modeling, fill time series data gaps, estimate emissions inventories, refine climate scenario projections and assess climate impact, as well as develop systems for low carbon technology deployment through power, transportation and building system optimization. While we have a general sense of the scope of climate change research undertaken, and studies have previously laid out the potential for AI to improve climate research and enable the achievement of global sustainable development goals, no studies to date have taken a systematic and comprehensive approach to characterizing the way in which AI is intersecting with climate change research at a large scale.
This Data Brief aims to address this information gap by mapping the production of research publications at the intersection of climate change and AI to understand how AI methods are being applied to climate related research. As China and the United States emerge as the largest sources of research being conducted at this intersection, we dig deeper to explore the role of Chinese research institutions and funders in the context of global climate research using AI methods, and how China’s applications in climate research compare to those being used in the United States.
Key findings include:
- Chinese research institutions lead the world in publication output and observable research funding at the intersection of climate and AI, followed by the United States.
- The EU-27, UK, and India follow China and the United States in climate research publications generally, while India, the EU-27, and South Korea follow China and the United States in research publications on climate and AI.
- Climate change research areas such as climate modeling, climate impact, and energy technologies make use of a wide range of AI techniques, whereas other areas such as transportation and energy trends have fewer AI implementations.
- There appear to be publication gaps in certain climate research areas where AI tasks and methods are not as widely used and where there may be useful applications. Exploring these gaps is a proposed area for future research.
- The U.S. is more involved in global collaboration efforts among the research clusters in the climate and AI research domain than China.
As a result, the findings of this research can directly inform U.S. innovation policy, climate policy and security policy, all of which are increasingly interconnected. In addition, China’s activities at the intersection of AI technology and climate change technology have direct national security implications for the United States. Both sectors, AI and climate technologies, have been identified as key areas of strategic competition between the United States and China.