Oceans and Net Zero AI

During Earth Summit 2021 we invited experts and leading innovators to discuss the developments, opportunities, and current limitations of artificial intelligence (AI) in our ‘water’ category. The two interesting conversations were ‘Net Zero: How AI can help accelerate us toward cleaner energy and efficiency’ and ‘Using Technology to Monitor and Protect Oceans and Coastal Communities’. 

Across industries, it is necessary to advance AI and machine learning as it is a key tool in reducing climate change. It can improve our current energy grids' efficiency by shifting production towards renewables and away from fossil fuels. AI and machine learning also are not just for land-related industries. Maritime industries also benefit from AI and machine learning, helping them become more productive and more profitable. This, of course, extends to marine life, as we see emerging technology assist in the conservation of ocean ecosystems. 


Our oceans are a source of life, sustenance, and abundance. Still, they face an ever-increasing myriad of issues such as over-fishing, pollution, acidification, rising waters, ghost nets, and more. It is predicted that 90% of the ocean’s coral will be depleted by 2050, and with oceans making up 70% of the world’s landmass it is the main source of life on earth. The ocean feeds billions and acts as an important regulator for our climate. For this reason, we need to urgently progress toward clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid a global warming catastrophe. Yet in spite of the seemingly overwhelming problems it faces, the ocean also holds many of the solutions we need. Our guest speakers from the Using Technology to Monitor and Protect Oceans and Coastal Communities discussion examined how AI technology can be utilized to accelerate humanity towards cleaner energy and efficiency in general, and how as a global society we can apply this to monitor and protect our oceans. 

The ocean is a global entity with many stakeholders, both a disadvantage and an advantage for progressing AI. With so many stakeholders, it is difficult to have a standardized approach to managing the activities that occur in the ocean. Currently, there is no single governing body or industry to drive innovation or address the climate challenges specific to the ocean. To make further progress, creativity and an ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ are the need of the hour. 

The large number of stakeholders involved in maritime industries and oceanic activities gives rise to collaboration and sharing knowledge between governments, researchers, private industry, and not-for-profits. Currently, Xerox PARC is working alongside the governmental US Department of Defense (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to build knowledge and data about the oceans. They do this by deploying small low-cost drifters to measure water temperature, air pressure, humidity, carbon dioxide levels, ship emissions, algae and plankton activity, and even information on marine life movements. This information and advanced technology will assist the government and all ocean industries and stakeholders who could benefit greatly from this collaboration between government and private industry.  


Due to the ever-increasing pressures of climate change, these industries need to avoid working as sectoral silos and instead connect through technology for a shared benefit. One of the biggest challenges facing large scale technological advances is the cost of new technology. Sectors that work together can reduce their costs by sharing the financial burden of the investment and be more efficient at identifying common risks and solving problems related to climate change. An example of this in the oceanic sector would be if cruise ship and fishing vessel sectors collated their resources in advancing technology to understand extreme weather conditions better.

“Understanding the development, propagation, pathways and intensity of hurricanes, (essentially) anything we can do to harness technology across the sectors will help solve problems for all of those industries, coastal communities and cities on the shoreline.”
- Paul Holthus, Founding President and CEO of the World Ocean Council.

This collaborative approach would be advantageous, preventing damage to infrastructure in both sectors.

To create these synergistic partnerships between sectors, we must collectively define the problems and set clear goals in order to discover advanced technological solutions. This problem-solving approach for climate change should also be broadly applied on a global scale, not just in relation to the ocean. One way to define the problem and set goals is through carbon accounting: creating a ‘common carbon bank account’ with a systemized approach of knowing how much is being deposited and withdrawn. This ensures that all stakeholders involved are measuring their carbon impact in the same way. 


By having a carbon bank account with budgets, the government can reach its goals as per the Paris Agreement. The first step would be to measure the carbon footprint of every activity in industries operating within a country – a form of carbon accounting. Once the ‘stock levels’ (outputs) are known, the next stage would be to transition industries across to carbon neutrality by reducing the carbon outputs. This could be completed by encouraging the modernization of industries through grants and regulatory incentives and governmental investment in technology and future infrastructure. In the United States, 32 states have implemented their own state climate action plan, which is a great indicator that states are prepared and ready to lead in response to the global emergency. 


We can advance our AI technology through collective thinking and collaborative decision-making through data sharing, whether it be in the oceans or on the land.

“The most important technology we have is the power of humans working together” - Dr. Martin Wainstein, Executive Director at Open Earth Foundation.

By co-funding radical innovations through crowdfunding and scaling opportunities, there is a possibility to make a real impact on reducing the effects of climate change. All we need to do is work together.


Net Zero: How AI can help accelerate us toward cleaner energy and efficiency 

Guest speakers: Dr. Shahram Farhadi, Chief Technology Officer - Industrial AI at Beyond Limits Dr. Martin Wainstein, Executive Director at Open Earth Foundation Chijioke "CJ" Ejimuda, Founder at TransforMAX Alisa Kreynes, Co-founder at SolarSkyrise

Using Technology to Monitor and Protect Oceans and Coastal Communities

Guest speakers: Dr. Ersin Uzun, General Manager and Vice President at Xerox PARC Jenny Krusoe, Founding Executive Director at AltaSea Yanis Souami, Founder and CEO of Sinay Paul Holthus, Founding President and CEO of the World Ocean Council

About the Speaker

Want to get more involved?

Volunteer or  Donate!