With every day that passes, millions of COVID-19 jabs are being administered around the globe.
With every day that passes, it seems as though citizens of the world can put one of history’s most damaging health crises within their rearview mirrors.
But that doesn’t in any way signify that we will drive into the sunset peacefully and wait for the credits to roll.
Technology proved that it could take on a threatening crisis; but now its role needs to be shifted back to the impending fight against climate change. With that in mind, no technologies have potential to improve more than artificial intelligence in climate change.
According to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), artificial intelligence (AI) refers to computer systems that “can sense their environment, think, learn, and act in response to what they sense and their programmed objectives.”
While the technology is raved about in all manners of the business and tech world, it has also been a massive help to many climate change-based industries and uses.
An example of this can be seen in India, where AI helped farmers receive 30 percent higher groundnut yields per hectare by providing information on preparing the land, applying fertilizer, and choosing sowing dates.
In parallel, artificial intelligence in climate change has allowed researched to reach 89 to 99 percent accuracy in pinpointing tropical cyclones, weather fronts and atmospheric rivers, the latter of which can cause heavy precipitation and are often hard for humans to identify on their own.
AI & Energy
One cannot talk of artificial intelligence in climate change without tackling its use within renewable energy systems, since the technology can take control of power fluctuations as well as improve energy storage.
The role AI will play is through tapping into decentralized energy sources and sending any excess electricity produced to the grid, while utilities direct that power to where it’s needed.
“Similarly, energy storage in industrial facilities, office buildings, homes, and cars can hold excess energy when demand is low, while AI deploys that power when generation is inadequate or impossible,” a report by the WEF explained.
The report further highlighted how an AI-centered system would be a potential game-changer.
“Shifting from an infrastructure heavy system to one centered on AI enables forecasting and control in seconds – not days – resulting in a grid that is more resilient and flexible when unforeseen events occur,” it added.
The ultimate goal of heightening the power of an AI-infused electrical grid is to develop it to automatically manage renewable energy without interruption and recover from system failures with little human involvement.
In parallel, wind power companies are utilizing the technology to allow each turbine’s propeller to produce more electricity per rotation by incorporating real time weather and operational data.
Thus, in the case of large wind farms, the front row’s propellers create a wake that decreases the efficiency of those behind them. Artificial intelligence will allow each propeller to recognize wind speed and direction coming from the remaining propellers and adjust accordingly.
This is where artificial intelligence will need a partner in crime: 5G.
Coupling together both technologies will only compliment each other, as third-party technologies such as drones, sensors, and analytics will thrive under them.
The emergence of 5G-powered drones will be the turning point for farmers far and wide; equipped with weed scanners and crop sprayers, they will have the ability to scan entire fields, apply pesticides at a more precise rate.
These drones would provide them with the information about the patches that need the most care, efficiently allocating their time accordingly.
This will also pave the way for intelligent field monitoring using AI-powered sensors which have the ability to detect, in real-time, data on weather, air, soil parameters, crop growth, and animal behavior. An example of this can be seen through sensors equipped onto drones to analyze nutrient status.
The data collected can be then merged with weather and several agronomical factors to apply an optimal quantity of fertilizer. Experiments done by Chinese telecom titan Huawei over the span of two years, showed that it was successful in decreasing the amount of nitrogen fertilizer by 10 percent without any yield loss.
Saving the seven seas
In terms of the ocean preservation and protection, a group of French researchers headed by Professor Ronan Fablet at IMT Atlantique in the western city of Nantes have been focusing on the influence of climate change on oceans since 2017.
IMT Atlantique were one of the winners of the AI for Earth EU Oceans award, an initiative for European research organizations focusing on ocean-related challenges. The grants equip these researchers with AI tools, and cloud computing resources to help develop their work.
These are part of Microsoft’s broader AI for Earth program, a five-year $50 million commitment, which has awarded more than 236 grants in larger projects since its inception two years ago.
According to Microsoft, the team at IMT Atlantique are developing data-driven and learning-based schemes for the modelling, analysis, and reconstruction of ocean atmosphere dynamics, by using satellite remote sensing data.
These improved models offer the potential to better understand the Earth’s climate, and the impact of climate change on oceans, from currents to CO2 concentrations.
“Data can help tell us about the health of our oceans, including temperature and rising sea levels. But we need technology’s help to capture this vast amount of data and convert it into actionable intelligence. Fundamentally, AI can accelerate our ability to observe ocean dynamics and how they are changing at a global scale,” Fablet said in Microsoft report.
IMT Atlantique’s team is using Microsoft Azure to get multiple ready-to-use resources to build 3D models of the ocean surface. In turn, these models are helping to test and validate new ideas and gain a deeper understanding of how ocean surfaces are changing.
Microsoft pledges to let EU users keep data inside bloc
Microsoft is pledging to let business and public sector customers in the European Union keep cloud computing data inside the 27-nation bloc to avert concerns about U.S. government access to sensitive information.
Microsoft “will go beyond our existing data storage commitments and enable you to process and store all your data in the EU,” said Brad Smith, the U.S. technology giant’s president.
“In other words, we will not need to move your data outside the EU,” Smith wrote in a blog post Thursday.
Microsoft is responding to customers that want stronger commitments on so-called data residency, Smith said. The updates will apply to the company’s core cloud services including Azure, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics 365.
Transatlantic data protection has been a growing concern since the European Union’s top court struck down a data sharing agreement last year known as Privacy Shield. The court said the agreement, which allowed businesses to transfer data to the U.S. under the EU’s strict data privacy rules, was invalid because it didn’t go far enough to prevent the American government from snooping on user data.
Microsoft, which operates data centers in 13 European countries including France, Germany and Switzerland, will challenge any government request for an EU public sector or commercial customer’s personal data when there’s a lawful basis for doing so, Smith said.
Public transit hopes to win back riders after crushing year
Taking the Los Angeles Metro for his first trip in months, Brad Hudson felt a moment of normalcy when the train rolled into the station in South Pasadena, California, harkening back to his daily commute into LA before the coronavirus pandemic.
Then Hudson boarded the train, and reality set in.
Not everyone wore masks. Metro staffing levels appeared much lighter. There was more trash on the trains. He worried about security.
As President Joe Biden urges more f ederal spending for public transportation, transit agencies decimated by COVID-19 are trying to figure out how to win back passengers.
It’s made more urgent by the climate change crisis. Biden has pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at least in half by the end of the decade. That aggressive target will require Americans to ditch gas-guzzling cars for electric vehicles or embrace mass transit.
“We have a huge opportunity here to provide fast, safe, reliable, clean transportation in this country, and transit is part of the infrastructure,” Biden said at an event Friday to promote rail and public transportation.
With fewer transportation alternatives, lower-income people are more reliant on public transportation for commuting and their daily lives.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti promises free transit fares for them and for students. The city’s Metro ridership has fallen to about half its peak of 1.2 million, and Garcetti said getting more people on board would accelerate economic recovery “for our most vulnerable” and reduce traffic and emissions.
In Washington D.C., where many federal employees now telework due to COVID-19 restrictions, transit officials are mulling lowering fares. New York City has deployed several hundred additional police officers in recent months after a series of subway attacks. The Chicago area is looking at rejiggering train schedules to accommodate more passengers traveling throughout the day, part of a pandemic shift from traditional 9-to-5 work days. Houston is pledging improvements to 17 of its higher-frequency bus routes, including adding brightly lit sheltered stops with digital arrival information.
Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan would provide $85 billion over eight years to update and replace subway cars and repair aging tracks and stations; of that amount, $25 billion would go to expanding bus routes and rail lines. Another $25 billion would pay to convert gasoline- and diesel-powered mass transit buses to zero-emission electric vehicles.
Congressional Republicans are balking at the price, as well as Biden’s plan to increase corporate taxes to pay for it. A Senate GOP counteroffer proposes $568 billion for infrastructure, resulting in cuts to public transit funding.
A year ago, transit ridership drained to almost nothing as tens of millions of Americans stayed home and shunned trains and buses. To stay afloat, transit agencies cut payroll and slashed services.
Three rounds of nearly $70 billion total in federal COVID-19 emergency assistance pulled transit agencies from the brink of financial collapse. That federal aid is now expected to cover operating deficits from declining passenger revenue and COVID-19 cleaning and safety protocols through at least 2022.
Still, even as vaccinations become more widespread, it’s uncertain how many riders will come back.
Work-from-home arrangements initially seen as temporary appear to be a more durable trend. Transportation alternatives such as Uber and Lyft ride-share programs — and bike shares and scooters, not to mention driverless cars — threaten to eat away at transit ridership. Some city-dwellers have moved away.
Transportation officials say a key to increasing ridership will be employers reopening offices. Even so, it could take years to get all riders back, if ever, putting lower-income workers at a greater disadvantage if levels of service drop off.
In the Chicago area, transit ridership was down 71% in March compared with the same time in 2020, according to the Regional Transportation Authority.
Those who continue to rely on public transportation are mostly Black, Latino and low-income workers. For that reason, the Chicago Transit Authority, which runs 24 hours, didn’t cut routes or service even as ridership plunged.
“We recognized that we’re carrying primarily essential workers who relied on and needed to use public transit to carry out their functions on a daily basis,” said CTA President Dorval Carter.
Although empty train cars are common in some parts of the city, 34-year-old Ryan Patrick Thomas says Chicago’s Green Line trains connecting the south and west sides to downtown remain busy. Sometimes it’s standing room only.
Thomas, who’s Black, says train cars that used to have mixed crowds are now mostly Black, noting the virus has disproportionately hit people of color.
“These trains seem to be just as full of people in more vulnerable demographics,” he said.
New York’s subway system lost billions in revenue and more than 90% of its riders at the height of the pandemic; also about 150 employees who died of COVID-19. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has spent hundreds of millions on disinfecting train cars and the system’s nearly 500 stations, even taking the unprecedented move of shutting the system down overnight; it remains closed between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.
Subway ridership remains down close to 70%, though it continues to rise gradually. There’s a slower recovery on the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road lines that serve the suburbs, where many white-collar workers have the option of working from home.
More than $14 billion in federal aid has put the agency on sound fiscal footing until mid-2024, MTA Chairman Patrick Foye said.
“If we can’t get people back in the next couple of months, it’s going to be harder to get them back in the future,” said Sarah Feinberg, interim head of New York City Transit, which runs subways and buses.
The Biden plan would invest $621 billion to modernize transportation infrastructure. Projects in the pipeline likely stand to gain the most, including a planned extension of the Bay Area Rapid Transit rail system to San Jose and Santa Clara, California; bus rapid transit lines in St. Paul, Minnesota, Charleston, South Carolina, and Las Vegas; and New York City’s long-awaited Second Avenue subway line.
There’s also Atlanta’s proposed $5 billion upgrade of its transit system, including light rail for its Beltline; and a $7.1 billion transit expansion in Austin, Texas, approved by voters in November, featuring new rail and rapid bus routes connecting downtown to suburbs, an all-electric bus fleet, on-demand shuttles and park-and-ride facilities.
WASHINGTON (AP) — By HOPE YEN, CHRISTOPHER WEBER, SOPHIA TAREEN and DAVID PORTER Associated Press..
Weber reported from Los Angeles, Tareen from Chicago and Porter from New York. AP writers Juan Lozano in Houston and Ashraf Khalil in Washington contributed.
Biden pushes for diversity in transition to clean energy
As the nation pushes to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and use cleaner energy sources, President Joe Biden’s administration says it wants to ensure diversity among the communities that benefit from the transition and the people who are hired to do the work.
The administration says it wants more solar arrays erected in communities that have suffered from pollution caused by fossil fuels. It’s also directing research grants and opportunities to students and faculty members at historically Black colleges and minority-serving institutions.
The Department of Energy on Tuesday announced $15.5 million in new funding to deploy solar energy in underserved communities and to build a more diverse, skilled workforce to help reach the administration’s ambitious goal of 100% clean energy by 2035.
Another $17.3 million, announced Monday, was awarded for internships and research opportunities designed to connect students and faculty in science, technology, engineering and math with resources at the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories.
Biden has set a goal that 40% of overall benefits of federal climate and clean-energy investments goes to disadvantaged communities.
“This administration is really committed to making the transition to clean energy an inclusive transition, offering benefits to every community, because not every community has benefited up to this point,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a discussion at Howard University, a historically Black college, Monday. “In fact, some communities, particularly communities that are indigenous and Black and people of color, have disproportionately been negatively affected by pollution, and so we want to make sure that voices are at the table that are representative of communities who can benefit from this transition.”
Historically Black colleges have faced unequal access to federal funding for research, Granholm said.
The problem stems from inequities in research infrastructure such as grants and personnel to administer them, as well as access to top laboratories at some of the historically Black colleges, said Kim Lewis, associate dean for research, graduate programs and natural sciences at Howard University.
“For example, not having state-of-the-art research laboratories could prevent or minimize faculty members from getting or obtaining preliminary data to demonstrate a proof of concept that’s needed to compete for these research funds,” Lewis said.
Many faculty members also have a heavy teaching workload, and there may be implicit bias during the review process, she added.
Data shows that the U.S. needs diversity in science, technology, engineering and math, and “it’s a huge priority for the Biden administration,” Granholm said.
The Energy Department under Biden has awarded research grants to students and faculty from 57 institutions — nearly half of which were minority-serving institutions — to collaborate with staff from the department’s National Laboratories this summer.
The solar funding announced Tuesday will provide free technical assistance to communities to streamline the process for installing solar. That, in turn, helps attract investment and lowers energy costs for consumers.
The Energy Department is also planning a series of meetings with environmental-justice organizations, government leaders, solar developers and others to talk about how to address energy challenges in underserved communities.
“We’re willing to use the force of federal contracting and policy incentives to achieve greater diversity in hiring and equity in pay,” Granholm said in a discussion with solar industry stakeholders Tuesday.
When a large array of solar panels and batteries was built to provide power to a predominantly Black community in Chicago, it was important to hire Black, Hispanic and local workers, said Van Vincent, president and CEO VLV Development, which built the array.
“It’s going to take a collaborative effort,” Vincent said in the discussion Tuesday. “There is no silver bullet … there needs to be a commitment to including the people who live in the communities.”
NEW YORK (AP) — By CATHY BUSSEWITZ Business Writer.
AP Writer Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.
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