Power hungry datacenters needed to power artificial intelligence are making it more challenging for tech giant's to meet goals of curbing greenhouse gas emissions from their operations

San Francisco (AFP) - Google, despite its goal of achieving net-zero emissions, is pumping out more greenhouse gas than before as it powers data centers needed to support artificial intelligence, the company said.

Google’s climate-changing emissions have increased 48 percent in the past five years, at odds with a touted goal of becoming carbon neutral for the sake of the planet, according to an annual environmental report released on Tuesday.

Total greenhouse gas emissions in 2023 were 13 percent higher than they were the prior year, primarily driven by increased data center energy consumption and its supply chain, the report stated.

The increase came even though Google has been ramping up use of solar and wind generated clean energy.

“In spite of the progress we’re making, we face significant challenges that we’re actively working through,” chief sustainability officer Kate Brandt and senior vice president Benedict Gomes said in the report.

“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, and the emissions associated with the expected increases in our technical infrastructure investment.”

Google is not alone in facing the challenge of feeding power-hungry AI data centers, while trying to curb creation of climate-changing greenhouse gas.

Microsoft said in its recent sustainability report that its greenhouse gas emissions last year were up 29 percent from 2020 as it continues “to invest in the infrastructure needed to advance new technologies.”

Microsoft and Google have been front runners in an AI race since OpenAI released ChatGPT in late 2022.

AI has been a theme for the rivals in blockbuster earnings performances quarter after quarter.

Meanwhile, Google and Microsoft have each pledged to be carbon neutral by the end of this decade.

Microsoft has an added goal of being carbon-negative, taking climate-harming gas out of the air, by 2050.

Amazon, also an AI contender with its AWS cloud computing division, has said it is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2040.

“A sustainable future requires systems-level change, strong government policies, and new technologies,” Google said in its report.

“We’re committed to collaboration and playing our part, every step of the way.”