This is what your house looks like on climate change: AI-fuelled site predicts the future
What would your neighbourhood look like underwater if a flash flood hit, like the one in Brooklyn in 2013?
What if a fire ripped through your community like one did in Lytton, B.C. this summer?
Sasha Luccioni was working as an applied research scientist two-and-a-half years ago and wanted to put her money where her mouth to fight climate change.
"I quit my job and I convinced Yoshua Bengio, my supervisor, to take me on as a postdoc at Mila, which is the Quebec Research Institute for AI," she said. "The project that he had come up with at the time was using artificial intelligence to visualize the consequences of climate change, the potential impacts of climate change and so I joined on that project and we're working on it to us."
The result is "This Climate Does Not Exist," a website where visitors can input their address, which is transformed by flood, wildfire or smog using a simulator.
The name of the site reflects the team's desire to "emphasize that climate change is having dire consequences all around the world right now, even if you aren’t experiencing it in your own backyard."
Responses to the simulator have ranged from skepticism to excitement at its usefulness, said Luccioni.
"I am here to say, our house is on fire," said Greta Thunberg in 2019. The team at Mila wanted to produce an example of what that might literally look like.
"We're not saying your house is on fire, but the planet is on fire and the thing is, that when these extreme events happen, they're always far away and so, people always ask. Like, it's not a problem but eventually it is going to be," said Luccioni. "When it is going to be (a problem), it's going to be too late, so there's this gap between when we can take action and when we're going to be impacted."
The team is now working with a researcher in psychology that will help assess the psychological impacts of major impacts such as floods and fires. In addition, Mila is investigating what type of actions individuals and organizations are liable to take once a flood happens and what support can be offered.