Climate Change Impact on ISO 42001

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It is observed that some time in 2023, an idea was adopted by ISO that Standard developers should incorporate and demonstrate their concern for Climate change while arriving at the standards. Accordingly ISO-Guide 84:2020 was also released. It appears that this requirement is being now added mechanically to all standards without justifying its relevance.

Accordingly, a standard like ISO 42001 meant as a Requirement Standard for Artificial Intelligence Management System (AIMS) in clause 4.1 (Understanding the organization and its context) adds a component “The organization shall determine climate change is a relevant issue”.

When a company implementing an AI or developing an AI and looking at this document for guidance and possible certification would wonder what its use of an AI algorithm has to do with “Climate Change”.

While we consider that this clause has crept into the standard following the blind implementation of a norm without considering the proportionality of the impact of such a suggestion, we still open up for debate this requirement in the context of some recent revelations on the climatic impact of the AI systems particularly using LLMs.

LLMs are the first AI systems adopted by most companies and hence the climatic impact of LLMs becomes a relevant case for certification of ISO 42001.

In the context of Crypto Currencies, we have discussed how the energy requirements of Bitcoin/Crypto currency mining could be detrimental to the society (Refer the Article: Mr Piyush Goyal and Mr R K Singh… Do you know how much energy goes into Bitcoins?), a similar concern has now surfaced on the consequential use of scarce water resources in the development of LLMs.

For example it is stated that

“A single LLM interaction may consume as much power as leaving a low-brightness LED lightbulb on for one hour.”—Alex de Vries, VU Amsterdam

If you go through the Business Today article “Every time you talk to ChatGPT it drinks 500ml of water; here’s why” the information is scary. It is stated that Open AI’s Chat GPT consumes 500 ml of water for every 5 to 50 prompts it answers according to researchers.

In India discussions have taken place on water consumption by Companies like Pepsi or Cocacola but the dimension of Water and Energy Consumption by AI systems both for development and usage makes one to sit back and think if there is a need to decelerate the growth of data centers to conserve water and energy resources.

An article published by associated Press recently quoting the 2022 information suggested that Microsoft’s data center water use  increased by 34% from 2021 to 2022. The company slurped up more than 1.7 billion gallons, or 6.4 billion liters, of water in the previous year, which is said to be enough to fill more than 2,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools. It was a similar story with Google, which reported a 20% spike  in its water consumption over the same timeframe. It is anybody’s guess what would be the situation in 2024 with ChaptGPT 4/5 and Bard/Gemini being in use.

A time has come for ISO 42001 auditors (Ed: Audit of ISO 42001 may perhaps be required to be done like ISO 27701 along with ISO 27001) to ask the question to their auditee organizations if it is possible to ignore the climatic impact of use of AI when an AIMS audit is undertaken.

The current discussions on regulation of AI is normally around Job loss, Human brain degradement, Explainability,Accountability, Bias control etc., but not very much on the climate impact or related issues such as carbon foot print. The EU act on AI may require that the “High Risk AI Systems” may be required to report report their energy consumption resource use and other impacts throgh out their systems life cycle.

India has to also incorporate this aspect in its proposed AI regulation. A Yale university report mentions that in Chile and Uruguay, protests have erupted over planned data centers that would tap drinking water reservoirs.

There was a time when Indian Government would run TV ads on “Stop the tap when you are shaving”. Now the new generation ads will be “Dont make a query in Chat GPT if you donot need it”. Probably water conservation should become part of the IT industry’s responsibilities.

We donot know if the recent drinking water shortage in Bengaluru city has any origin in the increased use of AI !

Let us keep this issue on the radar….

Reference Articles:,electricity%20consumed%20by%20its%20calculations.

About Vijayashankar Na

Naavi is a veteran Cyber Law specialist in India and is presently working from Bangalore as an Information Assurance Consultant. Pioneered concepts such as ITA 2008 compliance, Naavi is also the founder of Cyber Law College, a virtual Cyber Law Education institution. He now has been focusing on the projects such as Secure Digital India and Cyber Insurance
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