Google blames AI over 48% emission increase

The US tech behemoth greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions grew by almost half from 2019 to 2024. Google says reducing emissions in the age of AI will be “challenging.”

Google’s GHG emissions last year accounted for 14.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e), a 48% increase from what the company threw out in the atmosphere in 2019.

For comparison, the CO2 emissions of Lithuania, an EU and NATO member, accounted for 12.67 million tonnes of CO2.

According to Google’s 2024 Environmental Report, the company’s emissions rose primarily due to an increase in data center energy consumption and supply chain emissions.

“As we further integrate AI into our products, reducing emissions may be challenging due to increasing energy demands from the greater intensity of AI compute,” reads the report.

The results don’t bode well for Google’s target to reach zero emissions by 2030.

The increased use of big data, machine learning, and AI has ballooned power consumption around the world, prompting experts to caution against unrestricted growth. For example, a single data center can consume as much energy as 50,000 homes.

The Technology Review revealed that training just one AI model emits more than 626 pounds of carbon dioxide—nearly five times the lifetime emissions of an average American car.

Google’s own researchers discovered that AI accounted for 10-15% of the tech company’s overall electricity consumption.

Because the latter was measured at 18.3 terawatt hours in 2021, that would imply that Google’s AI uses around 2.3 terawatt hours of energy yearly, assuming a mean average of 12.5% taken from the above range.

That is comparable to the electricity used by all the residences in Singapore, where almost six million people live.