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FYI: What does ChatGPT "think" about Climate Change and what we are doing about it?

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Mark Silverstone's picture
Principal, JMP Services AS

30+ years in Oil & Gas Industry Field of Interest: Environmental issues in general; waste management issues in particular. 

  • Member since 2002
  • 821 items added with 59,577 views
  • Mar 5, 2023

It seems we all have a brand new and very interesting toy: ChatGPT. So, what does AI tell us about climate change? I am sure many Energy Central readers have learned that the answers we get from AI depend to a significant extent on the way and when we ask the question. Also, this AI web site does not provide references. So, there is no indication about where the answers come from.

Here is some more information about ChatGPT.

I asked ChatGPT this question (this is the site):

Here is the answer that the bot spit out (In this post I include unedited and complete questions put to the bot and the complete answers it provided.):

  1. Renewable Energy Sources: Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and biomass are increasingly being adopted globally. Their use has grown exponentially in recent years, and they are becoming increasingly cost-competitive with traditional fossil fuel sources. Renewable energy has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy security, and provide affordable electricity to millions of people.
  2. Energy Storage: One of the main challenges with renewable energy sources is their intermittent nature, which means that energy cannot always be produced when it is needed. Energy storage technologies such as batteries, pumped hydro storage, and thermal energy storage can help overcome this challenge by storing excess energy during periods of high production and releasing it when demand is high. This can improve the reliability and stability of renewable energy systems.
  3. Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS): CCUS technologies aim to capture carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and industrial facilities, transport them to storage sites, and store them underground. These technologies have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel sources and could help bridge the gap to a more sustainable energy system.

  1. Continued Reliance on Fossil Fuels: Despite the growth of renewable energy sources, fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas still account for a significant share of global energy consumption. In many cases, governments and industries continue to invest in and subsidize fossil fuel infrastructure, perpetuating their use and slowing the transition to a low-carbon energy system.
  2. Delayed Action: The urgency of the climate crisis demands rapid and decisive action. However, progress towards decarbonization has been slow in many countries and regions. Delayed action can make it more difficult and costly to meet climate targets and could exacerbate the impacts of climate change.
  3. Political and Economic Challenges: Decarbonizing the energy system requires significant changes in policy, regulation, and investment. However, political and economic challenges, such as resistance from fossil fuel industries, conflicting policy priorities, and limited public funding, can make it difficult to implement effective decarbonization strategies.

What do you think? Was that a fair question and reasonable answer?  As with other computer applications, I assume that with ChatGPT,  the "garbage in, garbage out" principle still applies.  So, climate change skeptics might imagine that the database which the bot "learned" is just full of climate change propaganda.   Still, AI is supposed to do more than just collate the information that is available to it, though I confess that I don´t understand exactly what it does and how it does it. Might there be an alternative AI system that favors alternative Climate Change developments or even deny Climate Change? Is ChatGPT a tool of the "Deep State" to enforce "climate orthodoxy"?

To my surprise,  after I waited a day and asked the exact same question again, I got this significantly different answer:

Most Promising Developments:

  1. Renewable Energy: The growth of renewable energy has been one of the most promising developments in the field of climate change. Solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy sources are becoming increasingly affordable and widespread. Renewable energy is now competitive with fossil fuels and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  2. Energy Storage: Energy storage technology is advancing, making it possible to store energy generated from renewable sources. This is critical for addressing the intermittency of renewable energy sources, allowing for a more stable and reliable grid.

  3. Electric Vehicles: The development of electric vehicles (EVs) is reducing the demand for oil and gas, and improving air quality in cities. The technology is advancing quickly, and the cost of batteries is decreasing rapidly, making EVs more affordable.

  4. Carbon Capture and Storage: Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel power plants. The captured CO2 is stored underground, preventing it from entering the atmosphere.

Most Discouraging Developments:

  1. Continued Fossil Fuel Use: Despite the growth of renewable energy, the use of fossil fuels continues to grow. Many countries are still investing in new coal-fired power plants and oil and gas exploration.

  2. Slow Policy Implementation: Governments around the world have been slow to implement policies to address climate change. There is a lack of political will to make the necessary changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  3. Deforestation: Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, accounting for around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Despite efforts to reduce deforestation, the rate of forest loss remains high.

  4. Methane Emissions: Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with a warming effect 28 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. Methane emissions from agriculture, fossil fuel production, and waste management are increasing, and there is a lack of effective policies to address this issue.

So, I can only conclude that the bot "learned" something, or at least, for whatever reason, it compiled significantly different information, a day later. 

Frankly, I was surprised by at least a few aspects of the answers: CCUS was mentioned as a "promising development".  Also, nuclear was not mentioned.   I agreed with the addition of two "Discouraging Developments" in the second answer: "Deforestation" and "Methane Emissions". So, despite the necessary skepticism, the answer, especially the different answers to the same question on different days,  makes me reconsider my own perspectives and positions.

So, I asked it this:

The answer:

Yes, climate change is real. There is a wealth of scientific evidence showing that the Earth's climate is changing, and that these changes are largely driven by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. This evidence includes rising temperatures, melting glaciers and ice caps, changes in precipitation patterns, and shifts in plant and animal ranges and behaviors.

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that human-caused climate change is occurring and that urgent action is needed to mitigate its effects. Many governments, businesses, and individuals are taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, and transition to renewable energy sources to address the threat of climate change.

So what? Please tell me what you think.  Were the questions appropriately put? Did the answers make you reconsider your own opinions?  They certainly affected mine. What might you ask? I warn you, it is a bit addictive, and a little scary.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Mar 5, 2023

Please allow a response to the notion of "intelligence."

Over 40 years ago, working in the "Laboratory for Biophysical Chemistry" at the U of MN. that connected protein/enzymes to their water environment, I cooked up a theory of biological "intelligence" based on solid state physics and biochemistry. First, water is a semiconductor, acids and bases are proton donors and acceptors, exactly like crystal silicon with electron donors and acceptors. Second, proteins are structured depositions of acids and bases with large conductive circuits embedded in non-conductive protein. Control Data Corp. dubbed this "Protein as Dynamically Reconfigurable Liquid Crystal Microprocessor." And it might have helped contribute to kicking off the internet, very different TV screens, nanotechnology. I often point out how babies are full of water and old codgers are shriveled, so "garbage in -> garbage out" applies.

Problem at the U of MN. was that none of the old professors knew up from down about combining then modern physics with modern biochemistry. Trained toys and "intelligence" are very different things.

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Mar 6, 2023

Thanks for your comment.  I´m not sure if this is what you asked. I put it to ChatGPT:

While I cannot disagree with that definition, I find it kind of missing the point, i.e. to define how to decide if a machine can be "intelligent".

So I tried this:

I think the answer is pretty much in line with current notions of intelligence.

You are probably aware of Alan Turing´s "test" of intelligence which includes this:

"The Turing test, originally called the imitation game by Alan Turing in 1950,[2] is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Turing proposed that a human evaluator would judge natural language conversations between a human and a machine designed to generate human-like responses."

I think it is pretty much agreed that ChatGPT easily passes Turing´s test of "intelligence".

But, I think you were on to something at U of MN.

The relatively new field of "synthetic biology" as described in this paper, might be more related to what you were exploring in your Biophysical Chemistry Lab:


I also can´t help but think about what I would have done if I had had access to some of the tools that are available today, e.g. DNA sequencing hardware.  On the other hand, I also remember how stressful it was many years ago to keep up with new developments. It must be very much more stressful to be working on the cutting edge of these fields today!

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Mar 6, 2023

Automated vague "chat" (as above) is a threat to science innovation, when masquerading as intelligence. Another experience put forth was automated medical testing via "Homogeneous Rationmetric Chemiluminescent Immunoassay" to compare with then current tedious "RadioIsotope Immunoassay" when global AIDS was a concern. Luckily, leading global entities saw the merit in the goal or we would have been up a creek during this COVID pandemic. (many more like that)

So it is with your cheap reference to "deforestation" without mentioning wildfire management. You can now get a web site to help you say nothing, forever.

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Mar 7, 2023

Odd. I would have thought that deforestation is one of the results of wildfire.  Good wildfire and forest management is, therefore, one of the solutions to deforestation caused by forest and wildfire mismanagement.

One potential and likely issue is that the web site and the technology behind it will take away the function, and therefore, the jobs, of some people.  It will certainly change the focus of many people´s jobs, as does the availability of Google searches, but more so.  Imperfect, but it is an inevitable result.  But, perhaps it can be more precise, with less of an agenda.  On the other hand,  there is the danger that if a law can be made to "don´t say "gay"",  the bot can be made to not say "gay".

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Mar 7, 2023

You are very kind with me, Mark. Thanks. I'm just trying to say I've been around long enough to have my own perspective, and don't need yet another expert (now an "intelligent" computer) telling me what is what.

Regarding computers, I wish I had time and brains to learn LinuxCNC. A beautiful software/hardware system intended for controlling electric motors and more. A huge improvement from earlier days, and now very successful on the Raspberry Pi. A little imagination, learning, and hobby electronics parts and perhaps some kid would have a solar tracker, etc.

Regarding the "deforestation" declaration, I wish I could share my need to wisely protect the nature around me. Soon, the robins will return when the ground thaws and worms emerge. Wild strawberries are early bloomers. Until fall when monarch butterflies, etc. head south. Too many around here see land as a great place to park junk cars or plow or build a parking lot. Poor kids that will never see dragonflies.

All this and more takes involvement that I don't see or hear about anymore. I'll stick with "solar biofuels" because they fit my agenda of keeping nature healthy..

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Mar 8, 2023

Understood. Thanks!

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 6, 2023

Great idea, Mark. I've been having fun reading the neat tools and ideas people have been playing with ChatGPT about, but I love turning it to climate. I thought the answers it gave to this question were pretty good:


Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Mar 6, 2023

Good question. And a useful answer. Thanks!

Mark Silverstone's picture
Thank Mark for the Post!
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