February 06, 2024

Wyden, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Investigate, Measure Environmental Impacts of Artificial Intelligence

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and Senate colleagues today introduced legislation that would direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop standards to measure and report the full range of artificial intelligence’senvironmental impacts, as well as create a voluntary framework for AI developers to report environmental impacts. 

“AI will continue to grow rapidly across every industry, and the infrastructure required to operate AI systems will have commensurate impacts on the environment,” Wyden said. “Ensuring that there are accurate measurements of these impacts—whether positive or negative—is important to maintain a strong commitment to environmental protection. That’s why I’m proud to cosponsor legislation that would create standards to measure the environmental impacts of AI, helping us understand how this rapidly emerging technology interacts with the natural world for future generations.”

While researchers increasingly highlight that AI can help tackle environmental challenges by accelerating clean energy innovation, providing better weather forecasts and improving cooling efficiency, the rapid growth of AI also comes with environmental harms. For example, increasing AI use could contribute to data center electricity demand doubling by 2026, leading to more carbon emissions.

To address these concerns, the Artificial Intelligence Environmental Impacts Act would:

  1. Require the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a comprehensive study on the environmental impacts of AI within two years.
  2. Require the National Institute of Standards and Technology to convene a consortium on AI’s environmental impacts.
  3. Create a voluntary reporting system for entities developing or operating AI to measure the full range of AI’s environmental impacts. 
  4. Direct a report to Congress detailing the consortium's findings and describing the voluntary reporting system, as well as providing recommendations for further legislative and executive action.

The legislation was led by U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. Alongside Wyden, the bill was cosponsored by U.S. Senators Peter Welch, D-Vt., Alex Padilla, D-Calif., and Cory Booker, D-N.J. U.S. Representatives Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Don Beyer, D-Va., led the legislation in the House.

The Artificial Intelligence Environmental Impacts Act of 2024 is supported by Hugging Face, Data and Society, Climate Change AI, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Greenpeace USA, Center for AI and Digital Policy, and more.

The text of the bill is here.