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AI promises to make businesses more efficient than ever. When it comes purely to CO2 emissions, the technology is actually causing additional headaches at Microsoft. Compared to 2020, emissions are up nearly 30 percent at the company.

The uptick is not entirely due to AI, or at least not directly. While GPUs for AI workloads require a lot of power, it is mostly the construction and provisioning of data centers for cloud services (so-called Scope 3 emissions). In its own 2024 Environmental Sustainability Report, Microsoft reiterates that it is doing all it can to reduce consumption.

Good news, too

It’s not all bad news. Data centers tend to consume large amounts of (potable) water for cooling. All new locations, however, don’t need a drop of it. Of all Microsoft’s messages in the report, this is a significant one. Especially considering that ChatGPT chugs through a litre with every 40 outputs, or at least an earlier, less efficient version of it.

On other fronts, Microsoft is trying to do its part against climate change. For example, it says it is on track to reduce direct emissions, recapture carbon and produce as little waste as possible. Ultimately, Microsoft even wants to make a net positive contribution to CO2 reductions by being carbon negative. By 2030, that goal should be achieved.

Also read: Google Cloud uses 19.38 billion liters of drinking water, water neutral by 2030