Energy Transition

Weekend Reads: Funding AI’s future, imperfect environmentalists and Jane Goodall’s lessons on hope

Image: Photo by Robs on Unsplash

Linda Lacina
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
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Energy Transition

  • This weekly roundup brings you top reads for the weekend from Agenda.
  • Top stat: Half the respondents in one survey felt anxiety, anger, powerlessness and even guilt when thinking about tackling climate change
  • And a question to ponder: How does funding shape a tech's future?

Look beyond the headline noise for these thoughtful expert insights and one-of-a-kind features that put the world's biggest changes into fresh context.

This week, we will discuss how public investments could shape AI, why embracing our imperfect environmentalism can scale climate action, and learn lessons on hope from Jane Goodall as she hits a life milestone.

The shift:
How public dollars could shape AI’s future

As big business raises billions—even trillions—for AI tech, the public sector is also keeping pace. India recently approved the equivalent of $1.2 billion to develop a special AI ecosystem for research, development, and more. Saudi Arabia has its own $40 billion AI initiative, and the United Kingdom (UK) is spending £900 million on a supercomputer to harness AI (to build, in part, a “BritGPT”).

As writer John Letzing explained in a piece for Agenda this week, such public investments are top of mind for government leaders as no country wants to fall behind or risk not having a hand in developing such a far reaching technology. While the jury is out on the effectiveness of such industrial policy efforts, funding commitments can provide clues to how AI is taking shape and where.

The Stat:

New life for ageing oil and gas platforms

12,000. That’s the number of offshore oil and gas platforms globally – many decades old and many on course to be decommissioned.

The stat is a simple reminder that the energy transition will require substantial existing infrastructure to be eliminated, rethought or transformed.

Such transformations are already taking place. Some oil and gas platforms are being used as habitats for marine life or repurposed as man-made reefs for fishing and diving. Some others are even being turned into green energy hubs, used for applications like offshore carbon capture and storage.

Read more: What to do with ageing oil and gas platforms – and why it matters

Offshore rigs and pipelines can be repurposed as green energy hubs.
Offshore rigs and pipelines can be repurposed as green energy hubs. Image: Ofgem

The take
Embracing the imperfect environmentalist

Climate anxiety is growing. In fact, half the participants in one recent survey felt sadness, anxiety, anger, powerlessness and even guilt when thinking about tackling climate change. 75% said they found the future frightening.

Enter the imperfect environmentalist. As non-profit founder Sheila M Morovati from Habits of Waste explained on Agenda this week, imperfect environmentalism is a movement where micro and macro actions can fight the dual threats of climate change and climate action. This approach can shift mindsets by inspiring millions of small moves to protect the planet, helping to scale change.

Read more: How imperfect environmentalists can drive action on climate change

The opportunity
A life's worth of lessons

World-famous primatologist Jane Goodall turned 90 this week. To mark this great milestone, we surfaced a special panel from this year’s Annual Meeting in Davos.

Goodall is a prolific speaker whose talks often focus on an overlooked tool for tackling climate change: hope. In this year’s Davos panel, Earth’s Wisdom keepers, she stressed the power of hope in action once more: how passion can lead to transformation, that nature’s very resilience can drive home our potential to make an impact and the need to dream first to make room for action later. The result is a lifetime worth of applying hope to practical change.

Read more: 4 lessons from Jane Goodall as the renowned primatologist turns 90

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Energy TransitionClimate ActionNature and BiodiversityEmerging Technologies
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