By Ira Srivastava

1. The staggering resource consumption of artificial intelligence. A new Bloomberg article finds that the number of data centers around the world has nearly doubled from 3,600 completed or under construction in 2015 to over 7,000 today. This boom is largely due to AI, as the computing capacity required to train and run AI models is significantly larger than traditional search engines. The energy consumption of these 7,000 data centres is greater than the total annual energy production of Australia, and only 16 countries in the world consume more electricity. By the mid 2030s, data centre electricity usage is expected to be higher than that of India’s annual consumption. While AI is a powerful tool, its use and implementation does not come without costs. Until renewable energy resources can keep up with the demand, it remains hugely unsustainable and can threaten the climate targets of companies. For example, “Microsoft recently admitted that its AI push is jeopardizing its long-held goal to be carbon neutral by 2030”. As electricity demand is expected to outstrip renewable production, it is crucial that data centres do not syphon off electricity from homes, public services, and commercial spaces to remain operational. 

2. An Austrian minister saves the contentious Nature Restoration Law.  The EU’s landmark Nature Restoration Law has finally passed. The Law calls for EU member states to restore 20% of the EU’s marine and terrestrial ecosystems by 2030 and all degraded ecosystems by 2050, focusing on those natural ecosystems that will store the most carbon and most positively impact biodiversity loss. However, it would have failed to pass without the actions of Austrian Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler. Austria and Belgium were abstaining due to domestic political issues, but one of them needed to support the bill for it to pass. All Austrian regions were opposed to the bill until several weeks ago when Vienna flipped its position. This loss of unanimity meant that Gewessler had to decide the government’s position. Despite the political risks she faced by supporting this bill, she is the reason that the world’s leading biodiversity restoration bill passed.

3. Pakistan swelters under a deadly heat wave. For over a week, a combination of high heat and humidity has made Karachi feel as hot as 49 degrees Celsius. The combination of high heat and high humidity means that people are unable to cool down via sweating as the humidity prevents evaporation. This means that without air conditioning, this heat is life threatening. Karachi’s ambulance service shared that they typically transport about 200 people to the morgue weekly, but in the six days since the heatwave began they have transported nearly 600 bodies. This is not the first heatwave in the country as Sindh reached temperatures of 52 degrees Celsius in May. Across the border, New Delhi has been facing temperatures of nearly 50 degrees Celsius for weeks on end. 

4. How to halt rapid species extinction. According to a study published in Frontiers in Science, “protecting just 1.2% of the Earth’s surface for nature would be enough to prevent the extinction of the world’s most threatened species” and avoid significant species extinctions. 16,825 biodiversity-rich sites around the world were identified by researchers stretching from South America to South East Asia. More than 50% of the sites were located in Brazil, Madagascar, Indonesia, Colombia, and the Philippines. Research has found that many governments are not protecting the areas that need it most, with fewer than 10% of protected areas established from 2018-2023 housing the most threatened species. This paper estimates the cost of protecting 1.2% of the Earth’s surface at US$29-$46 billion. Read the full study here.

5. Deloitte’s 2024 “Well-being at Work” report. Human sustainability at work is defined as “the degree to which an organization creates value for people as human beings, leaving them with greater health and well-being, stronger skills and greater employability, good jobs, opportunities for advancement, progress toward equity, increased belonging, and heightened connection to purpose.” This Deloitte survey of 3,150 executives and employees in Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada found that 90% of executives support linking pay to human sustainability. Executives shared that rapidly evolving skills matrices, burnout, and poor mental health of employees were significant risks. 80% of C-suite respondents also felt that improving human sustainability and employee well-being would lead to better talent retention, higher profits, and appeal to customers.

Ira Srivastava is Competent Boards’ Program Coordinator. Follow Competent Boards on LinkedIn.

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