A website created in Montreal uses AI to describe the impacts of climate change all over the world

Imagine Parliament Hill blanketed in orange skies, floodwaters surging up the sides of BC Place Stadium, or a thick layer of smog clouding the view of Halifax from Citadel Hill.

These are all scenes depicted on a website released Thursday that combines artificial intelligence with geography to show the potential impact of climate change on nearly every address on the planet.

The website, thisclimateddoesnotexist.comwas created by Mila, a Quebec research institute in machine learning and technology founded by Yoshua Benigo, one of the godfathers of AI.

The website can apply filters showing the impacts of floods, wildfires or smog to any address available through Google Street View and is intended to raise awareness of future scenarios that may arise if the global response to climate change continues. to be lacking.

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Victor Schmidt, the project’s lead researcher, said the site isn’t meant to predict climate change, but rather tries to make the issue more personal to people who can’t visualize something that seems distant or something that could have an impact. another community sooner than their own.

“Just because it won’t happen to them doesn’t mean it won’t happen to other people elsewhere or in the future,” Schmidt said.

To stimulate empathy, the website invites people to search for their current or childhood home, places of work, favorite restaurants and travel destinations.

The images the website will return are built around Generative Adversarial Networks, or GANs, a class of machine learning frameworks designed by Mila that allow a computer to create and transform images.

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The site does not adjust water levels or air quality conditions based on an address’s location, so users won’t find completely underwater coastal areas or burnt-out neighbors. more engulfed in dusty skies than less fire-prone regions.

It’s intentional, Schmidt said. Mila didn’t want people to visit the website, discover that their neighborhood was facing less severe climate change impacts than others, and then decide not to care about the issue.

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“It’s about connecting with other people and trying to get closer to common sense,” he said.

“Making climate change more personal will try to help close that gap.”

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Schmidt hopes people will visit the website built with support from the National Geographic Society, Microsoft, BCG Gamma and Borealis AI, and come away more aware of climate change and its effects.

Research on the Canadian Center for Climate Services website shows that climate change has already increased the country’s average annual temperature by 1.7°C between 1948 and 2016, about double the global rate.

In northern Canada alone, the annual average temperature has increased by 2.3°C, about three times the global rate, over the same period.

Almost simultaneously, the area of ​​summer sea ice in northern Canadian waters declined by almost 7% per decade on average between 1968 and 2015.

It is expected to continue to decline to the point where Arctic waters could be nearly ice-free by the 2050s.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Sherry J. Basler