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Microsoft’s AI obsession is jeopardizing its climate ambitions

A man wearing a suit stands in front of a large screen that says “Microsoft Copilot”
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivers a speech during an event called Microsoft Build: AI Day in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on May 2nd, 2024. | Photo by MOHD RASFAN / AFP via Getty Images

Microsoft’s producing a lot more planet-heating pollution now than it did when it made a bold climate pledge back in 2020. Its greenhouse gas emissions were actually around 30 percent higher in fiscal year 2023, showing how hard it could be for the company to meet climate goals as it simultaneously races to be a leader in AI.

Training and running AI models is an increasingly energy-hungry endeavor, and the impact that’s having on the climate is just starting to come into view. Microsoft’s latest sustainability report is a good case study in the conundrum facing big tech companies that made a slew of climate pledges in recent years but could wind up polluting more as they turn their focus to AI.

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