AI reveals how climate change will impact our cities
Green energy experts at USwitch have used artificial intelligence (AI) to visualize what the world could look like in 2100. The team used Midjourney, an AI software that creates images from text descriptions, to visually depict the best- and worst-case scenarios for how 20 famous places across the globe could look in the next 80 years. These places included Amsterdam, London, New York, Tokyo, Toronto and more.
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The USwitch team collaborated with Professor Sam Fankhauser, Research Director of Oxford University Net Zero, to analyze emission data from various industries to understand how all countries can reach net-zero emissions by 2050. This would mean that the emission we produce do not exceed quantities that we cannot remove from the atmosphere. They also used the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report to identify how climate change will impact each country. From these findings, it was found that some of the top threats to famous cities include extreme levels of pollution, severe floods and increasing temperatures that consequently give rise to wildfires or droughts.
The project’s computer-generated images showcase two scenarios for each of the 20 cities. The first scenario image shows what each city may look like if we do not make the necessary changes required to alleviate the effects of climate change. The second is more positive and depicts what cities could look like if countries finally achieve their net-zero goals.
Currently, New York’s air pollution is on the rise. Moreover, this is a result of greenhouse gas emissions from people’s daily commutes. If these emissions continue to be released at such high quantities and net-zero is not achieved by 2050, the city could end up in a permanent drought state. This is then shown in the Midjourney image where we see a dry, barren Central Park against a smoggy New York skyline.
Conversely, if the world does achieve net-zero status by 2050, the Midjourney rendering is much more pleasant. Central Park is thriving and serves as a means to sequester carbon from the city‘s atmosphere.
London‘s temperatures recently exceeded 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in the summer of 2022. Given increased air pollution, estimates show that by 2050, the average summer day in Britain could be up to three degrees Celsius (37.4 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer and 20% drier. Besides being environmental hazards, the increased air pollution and heat also have severe impacts on human health and well-being. Due to this, the AI images predict London’s worst-case scenario to be smoggy and gray.
By opting for public transportation, limiting animal products and utilizing other strategies, the U.K. aims to limit its greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the city can achieve the clearer, greener best-case scenario prediction made by Midjourney.
Meanwhile, the city of Toronto has one of North America’s most challenging net-zero goals and wishes to achieve this status by 2040. To do this, fossil fuels are being phased out by public and private corporations, homes and industries. This way, a more humid, smoggy Toronto can be prevented.
In fact, if net-zero is not achieved, the skyline will likely be clouded by significant air pollution. This will impact biodiversity and human health in the area. On the other hand, if this status is obtained, then there is hope for a cleaner, lush environment for all.
Overall, USwitch’s AI image comparisons between the best- and worst-case scenarios for 2100 are helpful for us to visualize the catastrophic damage our unsustainable climate habits can have down the line. The clear skies and green cityscapes from the best-case scenario renderings should be our goals moving forward.